Light those candles and come with us as we take a walk safely down memory lane and revisit the grandest of graves past in this ghost tour review.
When I signed up for the Creepy Tales of World War II and Cemetery Tour, all I expected to get out of the experience was a mosquito bite or two, at worst, and some scary stories for this ghost tour review at best. I certainly did not expect to learn so much about the sobering history of our nation, or of the hardship that befell our forefathers — all of whom worked hard to secure the peace and prosperity that we get to enjoy today.
At this point, I’d like to add that I’m not here to convince you about what is and is not real. This ghost tour review is simply based on what I experienced and what I managed to pen down along the way.
Ready? Okay, let’s get spooky.
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Rolling Back in Time
We boarded the tour bus at Adams Road Hawker Centre just as the sun was beginning to set. A smiling lady named Jasmine stood tall and confident at the front of the little white school bus, her portable headset projecting her joyous greetings as we shimmied our way through the narrow aisle and onto our seats. Wasting no light, the bus bumbled its way down the famed 99 bends before bringing us safely to our first destination: Kent Ridge Park.
Described by NParks as a landmark that’s steeped in rich history as well as biodiversity, Kent Ridge is where one of the last battles for Singapore was fought during World War II. It was also to be part one of our paranormal extravaganza — likened by our tour guide to an appetizer in this ‘three course dinner’.
Decked out in a forest green polo tee with an upturned collar and a name-brand belt that occasionally glistened when it caught the light of the lamp posts speckled around the quiet park, Stanley stood in the middle of a pavilion, all smiles as we gathered around him in a circle.
He wasn’t at all what I had expected a ghost tour guide to look like. If anything, I had envisioned someone rugged like Indiana Jones or intense like Nicholas Cage’s character in National Treasure. However, Stanley was young, bright-eyed — and patient enough to wait for us to pipe down and find our seats before speaking.
“How many of you are here to see ghosts tonight?”
His introductory question received a moment of hushed silence before 90% of the hands went up. Stanley sighed. He clearly was not expecting that. I looked around the circle. Four pairs and a straggler — it was pretty obvious that the group was made up of inquisitive sceptics. I immediately felt bad for Stanley, it was going to be a long night for him.
Poppy pins were given to us at the start as a sign of respect for the fallen soldiers (and also to ward off evil, in typical Nian-monster fashion).
Setting the Stage: Bukit Chanu
With soldiers as young as 16 and as old as 68, we were doomed for failure. Especially since Winston Churchill had previously declared Singapore to be an impregnable fortress, the Japanese commander was extra wary when planning their invasion. He finally came up with a sneaky diversion. He sent 400 soldiers to Pulau Ubin with one order: to make as much noise as possible. Of course, unaware that this was a trick, the General of Singapore immediately released the best of his soldiers to the east. It was then that the bulk of the Japanese soldiers descended upon our island — from the west.
After that brief introduction, we began our hike into the park — skirting groves of Tembusu, Adinandras and Dillenias trees. Birds laughed and we allowed the rhythmic hum of insects to lure us deeper along the elevated boardwalk till we came to a shelter that sat perched opposite a partially hidden condominium. We had arrived at Bukit Chanu.
Kent Ridge Park: Poor Unrested Souls
A tale was told of Anand Sadhi, a local commander, whose quick wit exposed a Japanese ploy to drop another sneak attack with men dressed as Punjabi soldiers. Fortunately, he knew that all Punjabi soldiers, Singapore’s allies, moved in threes — but there seemed to be four men approaching their camp.
Of course, the Japanese were pissed that he had uncovered their scheme. Thus, when trouble befell them on 14 Feb 1942, the Japanese made sure to capture Anand Sadhi alive. They hung him on a tree, upside down, and used bayonets to hit him before torching him alive.
Needless to say, he died. However, because the Japanese knew their enemies would try and retrieve his body — they buried him in an unknown location out of spite so his body would never be found.
Legend has it that his body is still here in Kent ridge park, yet to experience a proper burial. According to the security guard at the nearby condominium, residents can still hear loud Japanese shouts and Japanese music coming from the park in the middle of the night. Some have even seen Japanese soldiers marching up and down a slope near the Canopy Walk. Creepy.
It was then time to move off and head over to our next stop: the notorious hotbed of paranormal activity, Labrador Park.
Labrador Nature Reserve’s Hidden Tunnels by Candlelight
It was at this point, as we were about to descend into the pitch-black darkness of Labrador park, that we were handed candles (to light our way) and ghost-sensing devices. Better known as the Safe Range EMF, the remote control-sized gadget measures the strength of surrounding electromagnetic fields with its bright LED lights that range from green to red.
Equipped with our ‘weapons’, we boldly trekked into the lush forest — but not before a friendly heads-up that we would be walking past a clearing in the woods where a young lady has been said to appear every once in a while. Stanley warned us quite strictly that we must not acknowledge the entity even if we were to see someone seated at the said spot. None of us did.
As we journeyed towards the now-unhidden tunnels of Fort Pasir Panjang, Stanley began part two of Singapore’s history.
Fort Pasir Panjang, located in Labrador Nature Reserve, was one of the 11 coastal artillery forts built by the British to prevent pirates and other foreign naval threats from slipping into Keppel Harbour. It also played a small but vital role in defending the Malay Regiments against the Japanese at Bukit Chandu. There, underneath the fort and gun emplacements were tunnels. Once hidden, they served as walkways that led to ammunition storerooms.
We crowded outside the famous gates of the tunnels of Fort Pasir Panjang, candles lit and devices fluctuating from green to red to green again.
Here’s how it looks when you snake your hand past the gate. The mood was tense and I was trying not to think about the possibility of a jump scare happening a la 28 Days Later.
In hushed tones, as we placed our lights on the ground in true campfire fashion, he told us that legend has it (again) that the Japanese had massacred quite many people in this area. Hence hauntings were not uncommon in these parts.
Later on when we were on the bus he asked if anyone had spotted a figure loitering just a few metres away from the ground when we were gathered. No one did.
Final Destination: Singapore’s Surrender and Forefathers
By the time we got to Bukit Brown Cemetery, we were exhausted. And so was the Governor of Singapore, just seven days into the war.
With broken telecommunication and misleading local news, he had pretty much given up. In fact, when his men went up to the then-headquarters, Fullerton Hotel, they found him playing pool. The consensus was common — they had no choice but to surrender.
When the leader of the Japanese army, who was just done setting up camp at Fort Factory, received the message from Singapore’s Governor, he couldn’t believe his ears. Surely it couldn’t be that easy to overthrow Churchill’s impregnable fortress?
Thus, as a sign of sincerity, Yamasita asked the Governor to hang the Japanese flag as a sign of surrender on the tallest building in Singapore — the 14-storied Cathay Cineplex. That was the 15th of February.
It was here that the tour ended and we paid respect to the forefathers of Singapore — as well as the Punjabi guards, that the rich built to protect their graves, even in death.
Before parting ways back at Adams Road Hawker Centre, they gave out Punjabi guard bookmarks as souvenirs which I thought was pretty cool. While we didn’t really see anything supernatural, we definitely did learn a lot from Stanley and Jasmine.
Creepy Tales of World War II and Cemetery Ghost Tour Review: Worth the Walk?
I must give Stanley and Jasmine props for their tour guiding abilities. While they might look a little like off-duty bankers, they surprised us by being knowledgeable, respectful and above all — natural storytellers.
Stanley’s ability to hold back portions of creepy tales to keep us intrigued (even when we were pestering him for more details while getting from point to point), as well as the appropriately-timed intonations he would freckle his speech with, made the entire experience quite engaging.
While lighting candles and exploring hidden tunnels with real ghost detection devices was fun, what I took home was a deeper understanding about my island home.
You’re here for the history, the exercise and the occasional chill down your spine — not because of any supernatural happenings, but because you’ll realise just how cruel humans can be. So I say, come for the tour and have a nice stroll, even if you don’t quite believe in ghouls and the afterlife.
And if you do happen to see anything, best to keep it to yourself.
Duration: 3 Hours
Price: From S$105 per pax (Eligible for SingapoRediscovers Vouchers)
Note: Creepy Tales of World War II and Cemetery Tour is still ongoing, and extensive COVID-19 precautions have been put in place as required by Phase Two Heightened Alert measures.
Sign up for the Creepy Tales of World War II and Cemetery Tour here.