Halloween tour planner: 10 of the most haunted places in Southeast Asia
An airport, public parks, a hotel, a former hospital, a castle – there’s no shortage of ghostly haunts in a region rife with superstition. What are you waiting for?
Superstition runs strong in many Asian cultures. Tales of the supernatural feature heavily in myths and folklore, and the region is dotted with spots believed to be haunted. Halloween is the perfect excuse to go ghost-hunting and explore the haunted houses and hotels, jinxed film locations and abandoned buildings believed to be inhabited by the dead. Here are some of the top places to delve into East Asia’s dark side.
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok: built on a former graveyard, the airport is said to be inhabited by a ghost called Poo Ming.
Airport workers claim a string of sightings of Ming – the cemetery’s former caretaker – and other unworldly beings wandering throughout the terminals. Soon after the airport opened in 2006, a nine-week exorcism involving 99 monks took place, with shrines strategically placed to keep malign spirits at bay. They are still there today.
Mae Nak Shrine, Bangkok: the legend of Mae Nak is one of Thailand’s most famous. The hair-raising tale is believed to have originated in the 19th century, and spawned Phi Mak Phra Khanong (2013), the highest grossing Thai film in history.
Soon after young lovers Nak and Mak wed, he is conscripted, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Nak dies in labour and is buried with their unborn child. Mak arrives home to what he believes is his family, but is really Nak’s unappeased spirit returned to Earth with her son. Upon discovering the truth, he flees, with Nak’s ghost following and killing everyone in her path. Mak finds refuge in the Mhabautr Temple, where his deceased wife’s spirit is captured in a vase and tossed into a nearby canal.
Getting there: the Mae Nak shrine (Sukhumvit 77, Khwaeng Suan Luang) can be found at the edge of Wat Mhabautr, where offerings are commonly left. Learn more about the story with the Love Beyond Death of Mae Nak Phra Khanong ghost tour.
Old Changi Hospital: this is considered Singapore’s most haunted spot, with a host of ghosts reported wandering through its abandoned wards. Built in 1935 for the British Royal Air Force, the hospital was taken over by the Japanese during their occupation from 1942 to 1945. It doubled up as a torture ground for the secret police.
After the war, it served again as a hospital until it closed in 1997. Visitors commonly report hearing screams, and some claim to have seen soldiers, and a nurse carrying a young boy.
Getting there: Several buses run from Singapore centre to Loyang Avenue, a short walk from the hospital (31 Hendon Road, Changi).
The Yellow Tower: East Coast Park is one of Singapore’s most treasured outdoor spots. In May 1990, two young lovers were on a romantic stroll there when they were attacked and stabbed by a gang. The female died, while her boyfriend suffered severe injuries but survived.
Since then, passers-by have claimed they saw a female figure standing near the tower. Screams for help have been reported. In an episode of local TV show Singapore Haunted, paranormal investigators visited the site in 2012 and claimed they spent more than an hour communicating with the spirit. They visited the park for another episode in 2014.
Getting there: learn more about the dark side of the park (East Coast Park Service Road) on one of The Supernatural Group’s (facebook.com/thesupernaturalgroup) haunted walking tours of Singapore.
Ghost House, Kampong Chhnang: any superstitious Cambodian will stop to pray or make an offering when they pass the “ghost house” on National Road 5 in Kampong Chhnang. According to legend, in 1993, a young couple moved into their newly built home and dreamt that a spirit offered them US$3,000 in gold for the house. They agreed to the deal and woke to find the gold. However, they refused to move out, angering the spirit. One morning, they woke up in a nearby field surrounded by their belongings. The house has remained empty ever since, with locals reporting not a speck of dust inside.
The myth was the focus of Khmer-language horror film The Haunted House (2005), which was shot on-site. Monks were called in before filming commenced to conduct an exorcism.
Getting there: National Road 5 connects Phnom Penh with Poipet on the border with Thailand via Battambang. A taxi or bus to Battambang is the best way to get to the house.
Independence Hotel, Sihanoukville: built in 1964, this coastal hotel was popular with the country’s elite. It became a base for Khmer Rouge forces during the rule of the fanatical Maoists under Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979 – when an estimated one in three Cambodians perished.
It is rumoured mass executions were held at the hotel and its swimming pool was used to hold prisoners. The hotel reopened in 1982, since when many guests claim to have seen ghosts during their stay.
Getting there: now an upmarket property called the Independence Hotel by DARA (Street 2 Thnou), it is about 15 minutes by tuk tuk from Sihanoukville International Airport.
Kellie’s Castle, Batu Gajah: considered one of Malaysia’s most haunted places, this is a popular stamping ground for paranormal investigators. Building work began in 1915, but was halted in 1926 when the castle’s creator, Scotsman William Kellie Smith, died of pneumonia during a trip to Europe. The estate was sold to a trading company and fell into disrepair.
Spooky sightings are frequently recorded in its grounds, where occupying Japanese soldiers are said to have tortured and executed prisoners during the second world war. Some claim to have seen a girl wearing a white blouse – presumed to be Smith’s daughter – in her bedroom. His spirit is believed to haunt the second floor.
Getting there: Kellie’s Castle (31000 Batu Gajah) is about 25 minutes from Sultan Azian Shah Airport. Kellie Castle Night Tour @ Halloween runs every Friday and Saturday in October, from 8pm to midnight.
Aeroplane Bungalow: the former home of witch doctor Mona Fandey, Aeroplane Bungalow was the scene of one of Malaysia’s most notorious killings. Fandey used black magic to help politicians climb the ladders of power. In 2001 she was sentenced to death for the murder of a politician, Mazlan Idris, eight years earlier in a ceremony during which she and her husband partially skinned Idris before chopping up his body.
Before being executed, Fandey’s last words were “Saya tidak akan mati”, which translates as, “I will never die”. She kept her promise – supernatural occurrences, such as stifled shrieks and screams, are regularly reported at the bungalow.
Getting there: Kuala Lumpur International Airport is the closest airport. Travel to Batu Gajah Station by train from the city centre, and take a short taxi ride to the bungalow (Seksyen 12 Shah Alam Selangor).
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts: opened in 1934, the museum served as the home and business headquarters of real estate tycoon Hui Bi Hua. His daughter contracted leprosy when an epidemic swept the city, was quarantined in an upstairs room for years and eventually committed suicide. Locals believe the grounds are possessed by her tortured soul, with a ghostly girl figure seen strolling the corridors, and screams heard at night.
Getting there: the museum (97A Phó Đức Chính, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bìn) is in the central Ben Thanh district of Ho Chi Minh.
Tao Dan Park: a young male ghost allegedly roams the park, considered one of Vietnam’s most haunted spots. According to one tale, a couple were enjoying a picnic more than a decade ago when they were attacked. The woman escaped, but her partner was killed. Locals believe his spirit roams the park in search of his lover. According to another version of events, a man called Tuan was selling a motorbike with the help of a friend when the latter turned on him, murdered him and took the bike for himself.
There are frequent reported sightings of a young male wandering the park at dusk and mysteriously vanishing.
Getting there: The park (Trương Định, Phường Bến Thành) is a short walk from the museum of fine arts. Tiger Tours’ Saigon Ghost Tour (mytigertour.com) takes in some of the city’s most haunted sights by motorbike.