WARNING: This article is not for the faint-hearted. As the title suggests, we’re going to show you a side of the Bukit Timah Campus (BTC) that you may have never seen before… or have you? Are you able to stomach a horror flick with a steady, regular heartbeat? Are you accustomed to emerging from the Land of White Walls late at night, and taking long walks of solitude down the hill, with nary a fear in your heart? Well, read on ahead, and we sincerely hope that this article would not inspire you to quit Law School.
For most of us students in Singapore, October strikes fear in our hearts because of the impending exams. However, in many other parts of the world (mostly our Western counterparts), people celebrate Halloween! While we may not have the luxury of time to do trick-or-treating, apple bobbing or costume-partying, we decided to forego the commercialism of Halloween (for fancy-dress rental businesses at least) and bring back the true spirit of this spooky festival to you by conducting a little investigation of our beloved BTC’s little… haunts. In the spirit of journalism, we mustered up our courage to unearth some of the many secrets, tales, and fables that BTC holds. Fact, or fiction? We’ll leave it to you to decide for yourselves.
We started our spook-search by approaching our fellow batch-mate, Vernon Chong (Year 2). He is able to sense the presence of ghostly spirits, and has been through nights of supernatural happenings, both at home and outdoors. He tells us that this supernatural gift is part of his DNA, since his brother also has the ability to perceive what many of us can’t as well.
When asked about whether he knew of any spirits residing in BTC, Vernon started to tell us about his experiences with the Phantom of Level 5. You’ll stand a good chance of meeting it if you head up to the extreme ends of level 5 (ie: near MR 5-1, or the lockers that lie beyond the vending machines) late in the night.
“This happened last year, near the examinations period (October/November 2010), and it was about 2-3am in the morning. I used to study in either MR 5-1 or 5-2, and sometimes, I would see a shadow lurking around along the corridors. Furthermore, you could always feel a deep unnerving chill as you walk past those areas! In your head, you knew that it wasn’t just an overactive air-con! It couldn’t have been a security guard or any other person, because the shadow had no defined shape. I’m not sure if it’s out to harm people, but it left me alone. This story has also been verified by some of the seniors!”
(You must be thinking: “3am in the morning???” — looks like Vernon also has supernatural powers of mugging.) We asked Vernon whether he had any advice for those of us who are eager to avoid such encounters —
“If you see ghosts, please don’t panic. Not every ghost is the ‘murderous’ type — and you will be able to feel a certain kind of ominous aura if the ghost is really out to get you!”
“And if you think there’s a spirit behind you, don’t turn around. But if you really can’t control your inquisitive side, turn fully. Don’t half-turn (and it’s not because you might sprain your back doing it!).”
We talked about random other spooky places around school — and we all agreed that walking out of school alone via the narrow sloping pathway to Botanic Gardens is really scary…
“But it’s nothing much, really,” Vernon quipped, “unless it’s 3am…”
Next, we approached the janitor’s store-room on level 1 of Block B. Janitors, being the people who stay in BTC much longer than the vast majority of us (maybe excluding the likes of Vernon), would have seen their larger than fair share of spooky sightings.
Once we brought the subject up, there was an exchange of nervous glances between the two janitors. They hemmed and hawed about how these supernatural entities Really Do Exist in BTC but did not say anything concrete. Even though they did not divulge any of their personal experiences to us (“I’m superstitious… and we must respect them, you know?”), they did direct us to this signage on the Upper Quad outside Federal…
How many of us knew about the existence of this nondescript sign at the upper quad?
According to The Star newspaper (yes, even a Malaysian newspaper reported hauntings here at BTC), this signboard was put up by NUS after frequent reports of a headless woman ghost wandering around the Upper Quad). The link to the website is here:
(well, with Japanese soldiers and torture rituals during WW2, you kinda get the headless ghost thing right?)
Our story led us to a janitor, Aunty Indra (and her fellow co-worker friend)….
She gave us a whole list of spooky encounters, experienced by both herself and her colleagues. Here is a sample of them:
- The lights at the Federal block being switched on and off by themselves.
- The female toilet on level 3 of the Oei Tiong Ham block — a woman dressed in blue has made the area her regular haunt. This encounter has been experienced by numerous janitors! The unsuspecting janitor would arrive at the toilet, wanting to wash it. He or she would notice strange sounds coming from the inside of an occupied cubicle. The janitor would call out and ask the woman to leave so that cleaning can be done. Cue Painfully Long Silence. The janitor would then proceed to stay just outside of the toilet to wait for this woman to emerge from the toilet. Upon re-entering after some time, the janitor would find that the woman in blue had vanished… Why blue, you may ask? Aunty Indra said that one particularly brave janitor had noticed that this “woman” would have a long, flowy, blue skirt that would peek out of the cubicle and remain visible from outside of the cubicle!
- The whole of the Tower Block is a spooky place — with doors opening and closing by themselves, and furniture rearranging themselves on certain occasions. Apparently Tower Block has quite a history of being a haunted place when BTC was still the University of Singapore.
- The corridors along the upper quad — sometimes, there would be marching sounds coming from the darker corners of the corridors… a “woman” was once said to be standing in the middle of one of these corridors near midnight, remaining still for hours… Furthermore, there were also stories about a mother and son ghost playing around on the Upper Quad field as well!
- Our very own Block B — the Malay Uncle on duty to wash the toilets on level 4 would sometimes experience supernatural activities whilst doing his job at night. This includes the calling of his name while he’s alone in the toilet, flushing sounds coming from cubicles other than the one he was in, taps turning on by themselves, and so on…
- Aunty Indra also told us that at these particularly “dirty” areas of the school, the management has made it a point to have more than one cleaner on duty at any one point in time.
(There are no words to describe how intrigued and freaked out we were after hearing all of that.)
Saving the best for the last, we decided to head to the Security Post, hoping that the guards would be able to shed some light on whether there had been ghost sightings. After all, the security cameras placed all around campus might have been able to capture footage of Paranormal Activities…
Upon entering the room, we found ourselves facing a few guards looking rather curiously at us. We told them about our mission, and then we were greeted by Uncle Rahman. He’s been the head security guard for about 4 years. He is also The Man to speak to about ghostly encounters around BTC, and said repeatedly “I know a lot about such things; I have to because I am in charge of my guards’ safety. However, the only thing I’ve ever experienced was being tapped on the shoulder, and turning around to find no one near me… I really want to experience something supernatural for myself!”
We’re not quite sure that we feel the same.
Uncle Rahman was extremely friendly and told us a whole variety of spooky stories and tales. The first thing he did was to verify the truth behind the aforementioned signage at the upper quad:
“It’s all true… Sometimes, my guards would hear marching sounds, or see headless, floating bodies around the upper quad. The field is also the home of a mother and a child… They would be holding hands and playing with each other after midnight… Quite a few of my guards have seen them, but I just tell the guards to leave the two alone.”
He also told us a little bit about the large tree in the lower quad. Apparently, the tree was once on the verge of death, and it was believed that it was due to evil spirits attacking the tree. The management of that time then decided to consult experts of such matters, and they had set up four “Harmony Poles” around the tree. These charcoal poles were several meters long, and it was believed that they would chase away the bad spirits. After a period of time, the tree got visibly better!
The poles started to get infested by termites and other creepy crawlies, so the school management (Uncle Rahman was involved as well) decided to remove them early last year.
Furthermore, the huge trees that are seen all over BTC (one in front of Black Angus) are supposed to be 300+ years old, and that they also contain various kinds of spirits!
Fact or fiction? Is the tree we see today the result of these Harmony Poles?
Uncle Rahman also verified some of the stories that Aunty Indra had told us. On top of those tales, he also added that the Graduate Lounge on level 1 of Block B is a hot spot for strange movements of furniture at night…
“Eh, actually, I think I have a few video tapes of these strange things happening…. But I need to go and look for them… Do the both of you want to watch them?”
Our eyes widened. But in the end, we politely declined because we didn’t want to bother him.
“Most of the scarier things happen at other blocks, but don’t assume that you law students are safe in Block B hahahaha… There are a lot of odd shadows captured on film… and a lot of furniture movements as well.. But I think the Eu Tong Sen Block is quite scary because sometimes, the doors would open and close by themselves, despite there being no window or door open…”
We asked him what advice he had for us, and he left us with these wise words of wisdom:
“Actually, they just want to make their presence known. So just give them the respect and acknowledgement they want, but don’t do anything more. Don’t irritate them, and don’t promise them anything. When you just go about doing your own things, they won’t disturb you. They are actually quite harmless lah.”
Another fact that you might not know (which was confirmed by one of the janitors) was that this area was previously a cemetery. Buried within the lush greenery between BTC and Jacob Ballas carpark area, there remains the remnants of various tombstones that are still visible to this day!
(We do not recommend that you go searching for these tombstones within the deep bush, for both your physical and emotion well-being!)
If you are still interested, you might want to google ‘ghosts at Bukit Timah Campus’ and find out all the posts about our campus on various blogs online. Furthermore, you might be interested to know that Bukit Timah Campus was covered in ‘Incredible Tales’ on local TV a few years back!
And that concludes our mission to uncover stories of the supernatural in BTC. It’s fine if you don’t believe in any of the things that have been mentioned in this article, but we do hope that you’ll just continue to study and mind your own business, as opposed to conducting experiments and staying back in BTC till late to test out these theories…
On the other hand, we hope that we won’t be giving you any nightmares tonight. Oops.
Article contributed by: Kristy Teo (Law 2) and Jon Low (Law 2)
Photography by: Jon Low (Law 2)