My supernatural encounter started when my son brought back a painting from a play that he had performed in. Cast and crew were allowed to take a piece of the set or a prop from the stage as keepsake. He chose to keep the vintage portrait of a lady. The stage manager bought it from a garage sale from an expat family who were moving back to their home country. The painting, held in place by a simple wooden frame, depicted a Peranakan styled woman staring blankly in front without smiling. The history of the painting and the identity of the woman remained a mystery. Whoever painted it, took effort, you can tell. This wasn't just one of the mass printed art piece.
According to my son, some crew members reported seeing an old lady wandering the stage during setup when there should be no one, other then the workers, around. Cast members would complain that the air-con was too cold in the room even though the air-con was off. Some said they can see shadows moving from the corner of their eyes or just an overall unnerving feeling of being watched.
My son didn’t believe in ghosts or other superstitious things. He said that there’s always some ghost stories floating around in theaters and that it was “normal” for people to react in such ways. He himself wasn’t affected by any of these stories, he said.
The first day the painting entered my house, I didn’t like it already. It was almost as if my sixth sense was trying to warn me. My son tried hanging it in his room but for some reason the 3M hook wasn’t strong enough to hold it up. It would fall in the middle of the night. This happened consistently over the next few nights at exactly 4.44 a.m. My son suggested drilling a screw into the wall but since we didn’t own any drill, we just left the painting in the storeroom in the interim until we found a neighbour with a drill we could borrow. As this wasn't a priority, life got on as usual and the painting got left in the storeroom.
Everyday for the next two weeks since the painting arrived, I had nightmares. I dreamt of an angry old lady standing outside my room door trying to get in. She would try the doorknob, and failing to budge, she would then hover towards the storeroom and disappear. The nightmare would replay itself night after night at around the 4 a.m. hour.
My husband would sometimes sit out in the living room to watch football till late. He would get this sense that someone was standing behind the couch and watching him. It would affect his mood and agitate him. Generally the whole house felt very “hot”. I remember the family arguing a lot during that month but I can’t recall what we argued about. Everyone was just very irritable.
Being the more superstitious one in the house, I decided to remove the painting from our home and see if it made any difference. I had half a mind to dispose of it but I felt that might just anger my son and bring the already strained relationship to another level. So I found one afternoon when my husband and son was out of the house, I removed the painting from the frame, rolled it up in newspaper and left it by potted plants outside. Just as I closed the door behind me and had taken a few steps in, I heard knocking on the door.
I turned around and waited. I didn’t see anyone outside just moments ago, how can there be anyone knocking on my door now? Then the knocks came again. More urgent this time. I looked at the peep hole and saw an old woman outside staring back at me.
I ran to my bedroom and prayed. The knocks came a few more times but eventually just stopped.
That night my son’s girlfriend came by to stay the night. She does this occasionally so it was nothing out of the ordinary. What was strange though was that she came in with the wrapped painting and said, “I think you left this outside.”
I asked why she brought it in but she just shrugged and said that while she was standing at the door she heard a voice telling her that I had left this wrapped item outside. So instinctively she just picked it up.
That night, I finally broke down and told my husband about the experiences I had. I thought he would debunk whatever I said but instead he listened intently and shared what he had experienced too. It was clear that there was something in the house with us and the painting was the trigger. That night my husband and I took the painting out, drove to a nearby park and left it under the tree. We didn’t know what else to do. We just hoped that we dump it far enough so that it won’t come back to us. We thought about burning it or throwing into the dustbin but I was afraid that that might just anger the spirit and cause it to harm us even more.
Now after all these years when I retell the story, my husband would joke that the knock on the door I heard might actually be a live old lady asking for help or one of the PA community members making their rounds and I just scared myself unnecessarily. I really want to believe that is true but somehow in my mind I still can’t shake out the feeling that what I saw was the spirit of the woman in the painting. These days I still do wonder who might have found the painting and if the new owner is haunted by it.
Confessed by Sally Y
SC's Note: And that is why you should never pick up things left under trees. It's quite a common reaction for people to buang (throw) cursed items under trees in public area. We are trying to trace the location of the painting now - so if you or anyone you know who is haunted by a vintage painting please reach out to us with your confessions.
About Painting of Oei Hui Lan (the woman in the cover pic above)
She is the beloved daughter of the famous sugar businessman from Semarang, Oei Tiong Ham whose wealth is well known throughout Asia to Europe. Oei Hui Lan is married to Wellington Koo, one of the Chinese ambassadors and sociable with European noble families ranging from Queen Victoria to Queen Belgium. Oei Hui Lan died in 1992 at the age of 93. Before she died, Oei Hui Lan had written and published a book titled No Feast Last Forever which recounts the journey of her extraordinary life. One of the relics of Oei Hui Lan is this painting which is located in Hotel Tugu, Malang. No one knows who the painter is, but clearly the appearance of Oei Hui Lan in this painting is pretty creepy.
Confession Journal is a collection of stories and reviews submitted by the public.