Welcome to hell this Halloween, in Singapore’s ‘Hell Museum’

  • Young Post writer Doris Wai has recently visited the Hell Museum in Singapore
  • The 10 Courts of Hell attraction in the museum explains in details the punishment in the afterlife for those sent there
Doris Wai |

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The Hell Museum in Singapore is not for the faint of heart. Photo: Doris Wai

For Halloween this year, hell is open to anyone who dares to visit.

To see firsthand what it might be like to be in hell, I visited the 10 Courts of Hell attraction in Singapore’s Hell Museum, located in the popular Haw Par Villa.

The 10 Courts of Hell attraction explains in detail the punishments in the afterlife for those who were sent there.

Haw Par Villa’s entrance. The park reopened on July 1, after a nine-month closure for upgrading works. Photo: Doris Wai

I remembered visiting the place many years ago when I was a high school student, and it scared the living daylights out of me. But now that I am an adult, surely I would be immune to the horror, right?

With the beckoning bright-red sign at the entrance and the ticketing booth with the words “Tickets to Hell”, there was no question about where I was heading with my guide for the day.

As I stepped into the museum, I was immediately drawn to the optical illusion “heaven and hell” wall by the entrance, which only serves to remind me I was about to embark on a journey down the otherworldly realm.

The optical “heaven and hell” wall where visitors step into the otherworldly realms of Heaven and Hell. Photo: Journeys Pte Ltd

Divided into two main sections, the first part of the museum was surprisingly way less creepy than I had imagined. Rather, I was fascinated by the various interpretations of death and dying across religions.

And while my guide explained the origins of Catholicism, I couldn’t help but wonder how two cultures which couldn’t be more different had such striking similarities when it comes to honoring the deceased. I inspected the offerings decorating an altar for the Day of the Dead, and those laid out on an altar used during the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival.

Just as I was about to take a closer look at some prayers and verses printed on the gallery’s wall, we were ushered to the second part of the museum – the sculpture garden.

Entrance of the 10 Courts of Hell. Guarding the entrance are Ox Head and Horse Face, who are responsible for escorting souls through the 10 courts for punishments to be meted out. Photo: Doris Wai

And it was right then when I gulped as I stared at the miniature bloodied heads sticking out from a brown stony surface, which looked right back in my face. This was it. We were approaching the 10 Courts of Hell.

After a brief introduction to the guardians of the Netherworld, we were led into the ominous-looking “tunnel”, and greeted by a scene of a soul kneeling in front of King Qinguang, who rules over the first court of hell.

Here in the first court, King Qinguang is deciding the fate of a recently deceased soul. Photo: Doris Wai

In here, King Qinguang conducts a trial for each dead person. He judges them by how they have behaved when they were alive. We were told those who accumulated enough good deeds could escape the remaining nine courts, and cross the golden and silver bridges instead.

And as I was fervently summing up my life (and having a déjà vu moment of myself doing the exact same thing the last time I was here) to figure whether I still have a chance of crossing either bridge, we were brought to the other nine courts, where brutal sentences were meted out to various punishments.

Those who have done enough good deeds may cross these bridges to become deities or be reborn as humans blessed with good lives. Photo: Doris Wai

These included being grounded by a large stone for not obeying one’s older siblings and lacking filial piety, and to having one’s body sawn in half for wasting food.

While each torturous punishment was every bit as disturbing as I had remembered, I also have a newfound appreciation for these exhibits. Their purpose is not to scare unsuspecting visitors out of their wits. Rather, these gory depictions have prompted me to think about how I ought to live a less wasteful lifestyle (no more throwing out of those leftovers in the fridge) and be more considerate of others – lest I receive the stone treatment.

The words “The sea of bitterness has no bounds, turn your head to see the shore.” etched on a stone leading to the 10 Courts of Hell. It reminds visitors that it’s never too late to repent. Photo: Doris Wai

And strangely enough, I found myself wanting to see more of the dreadful underworld when the tour ended.

Be it whether I’ve really gotten braver over the years, one thing’s for sure: the trip to the Hell’s Museum has changed my perception of life, death, and the afterlife.

The museum is open to the public Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm. Bookings have to be made in advance.

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