Hungry Ghost Festival: 9 questions with a paranormal investigator on haunted houses and what homeowners can do – AsiaOne

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Since it’s the Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore, or the Seventh Month, (Aug 8 – Sept 6, 2021) with the peak Ghost Day falling on Aug 22 (where the religious Chinese believe the Gates of Hell open), 99.co thought it would be interesting to speak to someone familiar with the subject.

In the day, Eugene Tay, who is in his early 40s, makes his living designing tech solutions but after office hours, he runs a platform called Supernatural Confessions, where Singapore residents who had supernatural experiences can share them and find comfort in like-minded individuals.

He’s been doing this since 2012 and appears on web specials with hosts like former radio DJ Rozz, local playwright/director Jonathan Lim and Viddsee’s Letters to God series.

99.co asked Tay some questions related to bizarre stories and experiences he’s seen or heard in relation to hauntings in homes and what homeowners can do about them.

1. Let’s start with a simple question. What are the dos and don’ts during the Hungry Ghost Festival?

First, in the Seventh Month, it’s often ‘pantang’ (taboo in Malay) to renovate or move into your new home during this month. In fact, interior designers (IDs) and contractors will usually stop doing jobs during this month (and continue after).

I was about to move into my own BTO and my ID promised to finish all design contract work before the 7th Month.

Second, if you have wind chimes at home, it’s best to remove them during this month. As they ring like bells, some believe they invite spirits into your homes.

Third, and this is something old folks usually say, don’t come home late and don’t bring your shoes into the house. For the Malays, some might say it’s an invitation for malevolent spirits like djinns to enter the house.

For the superstitious Chinese, it’s possible that you may have stepped on say, burned incense paper outdoors, thus, unwittingly luring these spirits home.

Four, don’t step on or touch prayer items meant for ghosts. I get a lot of email confessions, from people who initially didn’t believe in the Seventh Month but fell severely ill or had a swollen leg after stepping on incense paper ashes or criticising others for burning them.

Finally, if you’re burning incense or joss paper during this month, just be mindful of where the ashes fly into. When they are blown into someone else’s house, you may potentially be inviting spirits into their house (besides dirtying their homes).

2. In a typical year, how often do you get queries or requests from homeowners to visit their homes to conduct an ‘investigation’?

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On average we have about once a month, not necessarily during the Seventh Month. We do get quite a few in December, right after Christmas as well.

ALSO READ: Pre-schools, condominiums, MRT stations: Here are 8 ‘normal’ places in Singapore that have a sinister past

3. What sort of encounters have you had with homeowners about unexplainable phenomena in their houses?

A high number of cases are usually poltergeist cases. Things move around when they shouldn’t or they’re too heavy to move. Babies, children or spouses seeing things like shadowy figures or doors opening/closing on their own.

When we visit homes due to these sightings, homeowners usually tell us they suffer from consistent recurring nightmares and sleep paralysis.

A few disturbing ones are full-on possessions. We usually advise the resident to do an evaluation with IMH because the victim is violent and suicidal. By the time we get a call to go down, it’s already urgent.

Also, they are not scams as they are calls from parents with legitimate worries.

4. Any significant ones that you can share with us?

I was called down to a house at 3am once. It was a Catholic family. They said, “My house is haunted.” So I went down to the house, also as a way to collect evidence, I asked, “Is there any spirit around here, please show yourself.”

The Mother Mary figure toppled from the altar. I initially figured it could be just the wind or the air-con. So I asked again and the rosary beads burst and fell all over the floor.

Another one I remember is at a former residential building in Spottiswoode Park. The resident claimed that there was an angry spirit in the house. We went down to investigate and at one point, the glass ashtray flew across from the kitchen to the living room and smashed against the wall.

I should emphasise that these families and residents usually live in fear and they need help. When it comes to these happenings in a house, some level of respect is necessary.

5. Based on your experience, are they usually more psychological, scientifically explainable or spiritual?

Most people don’t want to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is a haunting. If you go home and your door slams by itself, the TV starts without prompting or the water tap runs when it’s off, a rational person will usually rubbish it off.

You may say it’s a technical error, plumbing issue or blame exhaustion.

So by the time I receive a call to go down to investigate, you can be assured that the resident and his/her family have already gone through the entire gamut of rational thinking.

While it’s always hard to prove anything within the first few minutes I’m there, the few experiences I’ve previously shared are exceptions.

What’s more important is the belief of the family living in the house. Whether you believe them or not, it doesn’t matter.

If they’re asking you for help, it is critical to understand where they’re coming from, at least from the perspective of their mental well-being and respecting them for being honest with you.

6. Can you share why only some houses experience these phenomena (and not other adjacent units or blocks)?

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There are three common reasons why a particular home is haunted.

First, it could be a former resident who dabbled in the occult, did not remove everything, or kept something like a Kuman Thong relic or something. So it’s good to always check on the past history of the place.

Second, if there was no prior haunting but suddenly there’s one, we usually suspect it could be someone putting a curse on the homeowner. The alternative is if the resident brought something back unwittingly.

Third, it could be the feng shui of the place. This happened at Bedok Reservoir where a new building with a steeple roof drove a lot of bad luck into a resident’s home. So all the homeowner had to do was to put a mirror to reflect the bad energy.

7. What do you normally advise the homeowners on what they can do to ward off these terrible mishaps or occurrences?

I usually advise homeowners to use salt, prayers and blessings – which are common enough and usually sufficient. Bathing in flower water, Kemayan smoke cleansing around the house every Thursday, singing bowls and crystals work too.

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If it gets too serious, such as a case of poltergeist or haunting, it is advisable to call a spiritual practitioner to negotiate. My role as an investigator is more to document the whole process to protect the homeowners and practitioners.

There’s no union or courts to go to, so this recorded evidence help once all rational avenues are exhausted – such as seeing the doctor or getting evaluated at IMH.

Getting a spiritual practitioner isn’t something that’s done lightly. Most times, spiritual practitioners are hesitant – when things go right, they may not get a thank you or just a pat on the back, but when it goes south, they get blamed.

Most times, they bear the burden of the curse during the cleansing.

8. There are homeowners who invite their religious leaders to bless their houses before they move in. Can you explain the differences among these different prior move-in practices?

One common practice is to roll a pineapple into a new home. It’s to represent good luck rolling into the house. When I moved into my BTO flat, I saw a lot of discarded pineapples downstairs.

Feng shui and hauntings have correlations. If you believe that hauntings are negative energy sources and feng shui is the movement of energy, then bad feng shui should facilitate hauntings like the Bedok Reservoir example I shared.

A “clean” house can also have bad feng shui, resulting in bad luck in money, health and career, leading you to think that you’re spiritually attacked.

9. Are there any haunted houses in Singapore that remain unsold or abandoned which you’ve documented or monitored?

I’ve monitored a few and documented them on my channel. There’s a house in Marine Parade which is unsold and unrented out even till today. The residential building at Spottiswoode Park I shared was empty for a long while and has since been torn down.

A shop on the fifth floor at Golden Mile Complex, which is known to be haunted, where we brought spiritual practitioners before, is now rented. I went and spoke to the new tenant, who admitted that he’s seen spirits but play Buddhist mantra chants so they do not disturb him.

When is the Hungry Ghost Festival or Lunar 7th Month in 2021?

The Hungry Ghost Festival, or the Seventh Month, falls between Aug 8 and Sept 6, 2021, with the peak Ghost Day falling on Aug 22, 2021 (Sunday).

Why is the Hungry Ghost Month so significant to homeowners?

It’s often ‘pantang’ (taboo in Malay) to renovate or move into your new home during this month. In fact, interior designers (IDs) and contractors will usually stop doing jobs during this month (and continue after).

For the superstitious Chinese, it’s possible that you may have stepped on say, burned incense paper outdoors, thus, unwittingly luring these spirits home.

When unusual phenomena happens at home, what are they usually caused by?

Most people don’t want to acknowledge that what they’re experiencing is a haunting. If you go home and your door slams by itself, the TV starts without prompting or the water tap runs when it’s off, a rational person will usually rubbish it off.

You may say it’s a technical error, plumbing issue or blame exhaustion.

ALSO READ: How you can celebrate the hungry ghost festival with kids

This article was first published in 99.co.

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