Ghosts of the Tortured

Choon Siong Tan, 20, Male

Student, Malaysian-Chinese

Los Angeles, CA

I approached Choon one evening and asked if he has heard of any interesting ghost story. Since both of us are Malaysians, I thought asking him for a local ghost story would be a great idea. So we talked about the ghost story after dinner that evening:

So this story took place in my primary school, a school beside a mountain. It’s in my hometown, Kemaman. In Terengganu. It must begin with some history… the time when the Japanese occupied our country. So, the Japanese army and our own army had a huge war and they killed a lot of people, and they just threw them into the mountain. They dug a huge hole, and threw all the bodies into the hole. Basically, people believe that the souls of the dead people are restless and that they are seeking for revenge. And it’s like… after the war, people started to hear ghost stories that happened in the school. Some said they heard the Japanese army marching at night, they heard the sound, but they didn’t see them. School children always have camping activities nearby and that’s what they said… they heard people marching. And one famous story is about the ghost woman in the toilet. This happened to two girls… they were camping, too, with a group of students. One of them went out of the toilet first, and the other one was still in there… and when she wanted to go out, the door was locked, no, not locked… she couldn’t open the door. She thought her friend was pulling a prank on her. So she said to the friend, “Hey, stop playing”. But in the end, she saw two fingers under the door pulling the door from outside… so she tried very hard to open the door and after a while she managed to open it. She went out and scolded the friend for frightening her… but the friend said “I have always been out here, waiting for you”. The ghost was not seen, only the two fingers… but it was convincing enough, don’t you think? It all happened in the same school!

I then asked Choon what exactly happened in the building during the Japanese occupation:

They keep hostages… hold them captive. They kill people… but most of the time they use two ways. They rape and kill the girls… decent-looking girls. And for guys… they just behead them, or if they want to torture, they will pump water into the stomach… or force them to drink a lot of water, until the stomach is about to burst… and they will kick and press the stomach. So this is how they kill people. They can’t escape so they will end up dying. They only catch Chinese, most of them, because of the war between China and Japan. So when they see Chinese in Malaysia, they want to take revenge on them.

I then asked Choon if he thinks this story is a scary one, and he responded by saying that it is not scary if a person listens to it, but it will be really scary if it happens to the person at the exact place.

This story makes a good ghost story because it constitutes the two sensory evidence as depicted in Elizabeth Tucker’s Haunted Halls, which are sight, sound. It also envelopes the theme of revenge, which leads to occurrences of hauntings in the school compound. The spirits lingered in that particular “zone” because it was the last place they had been before they were brutally murdered. A possible reason for their continuous dwellings is that they are waiting to take revenge on the murderers. Many versions of this very story were told over time, but all are congruent in terms of the kind of ghosts they see and hear (wailing females) or the eerie presence they feel when they are in the building. The appearance of the female ghost suggest that she had been mistreated (raped and killed) and did not manage to live a fulfilling life (died young and unmarried), and thus her soul lingers in the living world. Male ghost hauntings are rare probably because the men who were killed died a dignified death, as compared to women who were raped, tortured and then murdered.

The spirits of the dead are unable to rest due to improper burial. As told by Choon, the dead bodies were discarded into the hole in the mountain. No ritual ceremonies where carried out and no prayers were said to the dead. The Inuit tradition mentioned that if bodies were not properly wrapped and buried, the soul of the dead will not be able to rest and bad things will happen to the village. Although it is not known whether or not the brutal Japanese soldiers experience any unfortunate circumstance after, but improper burial can certainly explain the hauntings occurred in areas close to the mountain.

Patsy Teoh, 20, Female

Student, Malaysian-Chinese

Los Angeles, CA