Review by Eugene Tay
The Deceased is a speakeasy bar that is not for the faint of heart. Typhoid Mary greets guests from a wheelchair at the base of a long flight of stairs, and depending on how diligent the bar owner is in lighting up a kemenyan* that day, Typhoid Mary can be an unwitting host to wandering spirits. On my second visit as I was walking up the stairs, I swear honest to goodness, the wheelchair creaked as if the mannequin moved under its own weight. I sensed something in the narrow staircase with me that wasn’t there the day before.
*Kemenyan are incense cups that are burnt as offerings after sunset to appease spirits. Kemenyan incense is not the same as the "yang" incense that is used as offerings to deities of higher realm. The kemenyan is more suitable to appease beings from the "yin" world.
I dashed up the stairs in dim light and hoped that unlike in horror movies nothing will reach out to grab my leg. I made it to the door safely and stepped into the bar where I’m safe amongst the living. I told the owner Steve about what I had encountered and he said he knew about it and that the stairs, a place constantly shrouded in darkness, is a popular spot for spirits to linger. The bar was crowded that evening and he hadn’t had the time to light a kemenyan yet.
The deco of the bar has an asian horror theme, complete with funeral regalia, paper dolls, and hanging heads. The back of the bar is an authentic floor-to-ceiling wooden chinese medicine cabinet that was once used to store herbs. Steve put the furniture together from pieces of old wood he salvaged from the original place; some were almost a hundred years old. The place had been a disused upper floor unit in a colonial era building that was too dilapidated for normal businesses but perfect for an establishment like The Deceased. Rent is cheap, which allowed the establishment to operate profitably even with the limited seating capacity and niche customer base.
“Some nights, especially weekends, it can get crazy packed,” said Steve, the founder and the creative brain behind the signature cocktails. “Large crowd can ruin the ambiance so we rather keep the numbers low so that customers can enjoy the place.”
The drinks were named after Asian occult practices and popular legends. The first drink I had was the Pontianak which came with a horrifying face mask and a straw sticking out of her mouth. Supposedly, the drink has a frangipani scent but I couldn’t taste or smell any of it. I finished the drink in a single drag and felt rather underwhelmed. The next cocktail I tried was the Da Xiao Ren, one of the bar’s popular drink with the working crowd.
Office ladies would come here after work to order this drink because it’s their way of letting off steam and getting back at someone in office who had pissed them off,” said Steve.
The Da Xiao Ren is a popular Chinese occult belief that you can hurt your enemies by casting a spell on a straw effigy and hitting it with a wooden slipper. This practice was popular in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore from the old days up to the 90's.
While it is unlikely that buying the drink and hitting the straw effigy will have any effect on anyone, it does provide a good outlet for one’s imagination. The Da Xiao Ren was a much more refreshing drink compared to the Pontianak. It’s slightly sour and bubbly with a hint of gin. This one hit the spot for me.
The next day I went back to the bar again and this time I gave the bartender the creative freedom to make me a drink that's off the menu. He made a modified Billionaire served in a skull shaped glass lit eerily from the bottom. That was some strong shit!
Somewhere between my first drink and last, were a series of shots. There was one special drink served in a tiny metallic cup that looked like a miniature joss-stick urn. After taking of shot of that drink I had to chase a line of white powdery substance with a straw that looked suspiciously illicit. My fear of ending the night like Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction was pleasantly dashed when I learned it was only lime powder.
My overall experience at The Deceased has been out of this world. The staff working behind the bar and on the floor were very friendly. In just two nights, we forged a friendship that felt like a lifetime. I guess people who believe in the supernatural are more appreciative of life and the living.
I had a great time exchanging stories with Steve. He told me about the haunted places he visited but till date he hasn’t seen any ghosts with his own eyes.
“What about this bar? Is this place haunted?” I asked.
“There are spirits here. If you are sensitive you can feel them. But they never harm anyone or tried to chase us away,” Steve said.
“Even Typhoid Mary?”
“She’s just lonely. If you are respectful of her, she won’t disturb you.”
“I think she doesn’t like me very much.”
“Later on your way out you try talking to her lah,” Steve laughed.
As I made my way out of the bar and down the stairs, even in my near drunkard state I could feel the presence from Typhoid Mary radiating; she was in her wheelchair waiting for me.
I squeezed past her, trying my best to put as much space between us, and pressed the door release button, but for some reason the door wouldn’t budge. The wheelchair started creaking again. I tried the button over and over but the damned door wouldn’t unlock. The hair on the back of my neck stood as I imagined the mannequin slowly getting out of the wheelchair.
“Mary, Mary, please ah don’t disturb me, maybe next time I take you home, tonight is no good for me,” I muttered under my breath.
Thankfully the door buzzed open and I stumbled out into the streets, momentarily blinded by the bright lights. The metal door clicked shut behind me and I thought I heard a woman’s voice whispered, “see you.”
See more pictures, get the address, make a reservation via The Deceased Facebook page.
Confession Journal is a collection of stories and reviews submitted by the public.