Some abandoned properties get a bad rap – if someone died, by suicide or grisly murder, chances are that property gets labelled as haunted and nobody will want to live there ever again.
New year is right around the corner, so it seemed only appropriate that we at StarProperty grab our ghost-hunting gear (our electromagnetic force readers, full-spectrum cameras, and various tokens of superstition) to go looking into haunted properties around Malaysia.
This is a breakdown of our mission to discover, firstly, if there is such a thing as a haunted house, and secondly, to see how these properties fared after being left to the elements.
Taman Tenaga, Puchong
An excerpt from Best@ Puchong "Chasing shadows in the hills of Taman Tenaga" by Viktor Chong
Isolated on a hill, this three-storey bungalow was supposedly abandoned when the owner experienced a string of supernatural disturbances – other accounts stated that the previous occupants committed suicide en mass to avoid loan sharks from hounding them.
The bungalow is now an inadvertent landmark in Puchong, drawing the attention of daredevils and adventurers alike. Despite the whispered rumours painting a macabre shade about the place, one cannot help but feel a sense of peace and tranquillity here.
The sounds of urban life permeating the atmosphere of Kuala Lumpur seems muted here. As for the property itself, solemn apertures mark where windows once were and highlight the gloom that festers within.
Nature has been slowly reclaiming the land. Shrubs and trees sprout from the courtyards on the ground floor and crawl to the balconies above. A spiral staircase leads up to the second floor, which features empty, and occasionally vandalised, rooms.
Visitors to the house have claimed to have seen splotches of red candle wax on the steps – an apparent sign of occult practices. Despite the signs of supernatural entities and black magic, delinquents and vagrants do periodically seek shelter at this bungalow.
Somehow, they seem to fear the prospect of not having a roof on their heads more than phantoms. In an era where house prices are soaring, it is a real shame that such a spacious landed property remains abandoned.
Villa Nabila, Johor Bahru
The tale of this mansion overlooking Danga Bay in Johor is a muddled amalgamation of rumours involving murder and carnage stemming from rage, greed, or jealousy – and even in this age, a shroud of uncertainty still surrounds this untouched corner of Johor Bahru.
Apparently named after one of the young victims, Villa Nabila went from local legend to the subject of a movie in 2013 – and around the time of the film’s nationwide release, there were some reports of children going missing.
The most perplexing aspect of this mansion’s story is likely its unknown origin, no one seems to have a firm idea of who it belongs to, or when it was first built – the few scant details that can be found put the age of the structure between 40 and 70 years.
Myth and conjecture aside, the enigma of Villa Nabila is perhaps deepened by the nature of the structure itself. The mansion is a unique blend of architectural styles: the front is dominated by a porte-cochère held aloft by Roman-Tuscan pillars that have been heavily bleached by coastal winds and the mansion stands on stilts in a manner reminiscent of traditional rumah panggung.
While decidedly run-down and overgrown from decades of neglect, the rear of the structure, comprising tropical wooden slats and a high pitched roof of European influence, remains largely intact and is still visible through dense foliage from the third mile out of Johor Bahru, along the Iskandar Coastal Highway.
Hauntings are commonly understood to be rooted in tragic events – with the depth and scale of the tragedy evidently having an amplifying effect on the paranormal consequences that follow. Given the relatively recent occurrence of the Highland Towers collapse in Taman Hillview, there is an abundance of details that add to the supernatural weight of this tragedy.
Built on the slopes of Ulu Kelang in the late 1970s, the three blocks of the Highland Towers apartment complex were already aged structures pushed into more precarious circumstances when the hilltop higher up was cleared for further construction beginning in 1989.
Without the benefit of trees and foliage holding the slopes together, and after almost a fortnight of continuous rain, a hundred thousand square meters of viscous soil gave way and snapped the foundations of the oldest block (Block 1) on 11th December 1993.
The structure folded over at the middle, the ground floor rose up and flipped over – 48 people perished, though some say more. Some disappeared into the ground, some fell out of windows, and an unknown number spent up to a week buried, starving to death, as rescuers combed through the rubble above.
The other two blocks were declared unsafe and evacuated, and while eerily beautiful with foliage streaming out of their balconies, the site is now a known haven for vagrants. With a graveyard situated just over a kilometre away and sporadic deaths continuing to occur in the area, the supernatural reputation of the site and the surrounding forested stretch of Ulu Kelang persists.
Shih Chung Branch School
The further back in time a building’s story goes, the less about it can be known for certain and the more room there is for speculation. This is definitely the case for this former school, which began as a testament of one Penangnite’s wealth in the late nineteenth century.
The five-storey Anglo-Chinese style building was sold to another wealthy merchant at the start of the twentieth century, and it is rumoured that the proceeds from this sale went on to finance the Xinhai revolution – the series of uprisings that eventually brought down China’s last imperial dynasty.
The intrigue continues with the building having been turned into a Chinese Consulate, and subsequently, five different hotels in strangely rapid succession. Following its mysteriously short stint of commercial use, the building became the Pi Joo Girls’ School for a brief period. It was then turned into an English school after some tweaks were made to education legislation in the 1920s, before finally becoming known as the Shih Chung Branch School in 1938.
The building changed hands from the British to the Imperial Japanese during the Second World War. It reverted back to the British after the conflict. It was during the Japanese Occupation when grisly rumours began circulating that the basement became a site of imprisonment, torture, and summary executions.
The building reverted to being the Shih Chung Branch School over a decade later, but it eventually fell out of use and was abandoned in 1993. Despite numerous proposals for redevelopment, and perhaps due in large part to Penang’s protectiveness of heritage sites, the building remains abandoned and an open-air car park now encroaches onto the grounds.
The former Shih Chung Branch School is now bursting with foliage and is a well-known landmark, but locals avoid it as the place takes on a dreadful and foreboding atmosphere at night.
99 Door Mansion
The story of the 99 Door Mansion has all the ingredients for a particularly bone-chilling tale – a majestic mansion born out of obscene wealth, tragic death, supernatural practitioners, portals to phantom realms, and a curse of haunted sleep for anyone who defiles the structure with vandalism.
Located in the middle of an oil palm plantation, about four kilometres from the coast and one kilometre from the banks of the Kerian River in Nibong Tebal (Penang), this ornate ten-room homestead once known as Caledonia House literally contains 99 doors – or at least it did, before the collapse of one wing.
The mansion was originally built by the Ramsdens, a wealthy British family with rumoured links to the East India Company, to administer a sugarcane plantation sometime in the 1840s – although visitors to the site have noted the year 1917 stamped at the top of an arch in the entryway.
At some point in its history, the failing sugarcane plantation was replanted with rubber trees, and this is where the story of the 99 Door Mansion begins to unravel. No one seems to know for certain what misfortune befell the Ramsden family and caused the mansion to be abandoned.
Some say the Ramsdens simply left due to declining fortunes following the 1929 Wall Street Crash; some have said their departure was induced with the untimely death by illness of the Ramsden family patriarch, Sir John Frecheville Ramsden; others suggest he was murdered by Communist guerillas, or that the entire family was massacred by Imperial Japanese troops during the Second World War.
Yet another account suggests that the Ramsden family was doomed when the young scion, John St. Maur Ramsden, was shot in the head and his corpse was left on the steps of the mansion. The perpetrator and motive, perhaps a vengeful competitor, or a broken heart, have since faded into the fog of history.
Following the abandonment, accounts of paranormal activity graduated from hauntings to witch-doctors (bomohs), to spiritual realms accessed via a disappearing 100th door, and finally, to spirits that would haunt the dreams of vandals.
Ownership of the property eventually fell to Ng Swee Ching, a former Bukit Tambun assemblyman, and subsequently to an unknown party from Perak in the 1970s. Plans to declare the 99 Door Mansion a heritage site have been stalled, apparently because the current property owner has not been found – or simply because the spirits that dwell here are not welcoming of any earthly intervention.
Mona Fandey's Bungalow
One of the most grisly criminal cases in recent memory has to be that involving Maznah Ismail (popularly known by her stage name, Mona Fandey), her husband Mohamad Nor Affandi Abdul Rahman, their assistant Juraimi Hassan, and the murder of Mazlan Idris in 1993.
Mazlan, an ambitious state assemblyman for Batu Talam (Pahang) consulted Mona, a former pop singer-turned-shaman, in an attempt to further his political career. With her days of stardom far behind her, Mona had built a reputation for attending to the extra-spiritual needs of the upper crust of society.
Instead of gleaning advice from the spiritual realm to meet Mazlan’s political ambitions, for reasons known only to Mona and her accomplices, she proceeded to behead, dismember, and skin her victim as he lay in anticipation of what he thought was going to be a decidedly non-fatal occult ritual on the floor of her home in Pahang.
Court documents state that the crime occurred in Mona’s home located somewhere in a coconut plantation near Kampung Peruas in Raub (Pahang) and that the body parts were stashed beneath a separate structure beside the bungalow.
The high-profile nature of this case has resulted in the exact location of the house being unavailable to the public, and speculation has led to some seemingly unrelated, albeit still creepy looking, properties (variously cited as being located in Shah Alam or Cheras) being pictured to accompany the story of Mona Fandey.
To this day, only the individuals directly involved in the case know where exactly, in the vicinity of Kampung Peruas, the home is located. Mona, despite claiming to be immortal, would be unable to share that information, as she and her accomplices were found guilty in Malaysia’s last-ever jury trial and executed by hanging in 2001.
Anyone who has visited Bukit Tunku can attest to this hill’s eerie atmosphere. Perhaps it is the dense foliage and vast gardens between the old homes that enabled corpses to remain undiscovered, or maybe the dark and winding roads that were conducive to phantasmal apparitions and fatal collisions.
Even before being popularly referred to as the Beverly Hills of Malaysia, there have been a number of homes on Bukit Tunku that seemed to emit a miasma of other-worldly influence. The few that remain are likely scheduled to be demolished in the near future to make way for newer structures.
In an earlier and simpler time, a long, winding driveway began where Jalan Tunku and Jalan Tun Ismail formed an intersection. It led past a gloomy abandoned home on the corner, through a tunnel of foliage that grew away from the path after being repeatedly brushed by vehicles.
At the end of this now non-existent driveway, there was once an old colonial bungalow that sat on five acres on the eastern slope of Bukit Tunku, overlooking Jalan Tun Ismail. Apparently, the English playwright William Somerset Maugham once stayed there as a guest.
This was one of a handful of homes grouped together in close proximity, with dense pockets of foliage surrounding them. These mini forests were dark even in the afternoons and seemed to harbour their own secrets, but it was typically inside these stately homes where human dramas unfolded and resulted in bodies hitting the ground. All over the hill, there are stories of suicides and murders born of sadness and rage.
Someone drowned in a pool there, lured into the water and debilitating comfort, either by pre-existing spirits or the stark awareness of her relatively mediocre circumstances juxtaposed against the majesty of the home where she was employed.
At the turn of the millennium, this group of homes off Jalan Tun Ismail were demolished, along with their prized architecture and decades of history, to make way for a structure that only stood briefly to house employees of the previous Sultan of Brunei. In the case of Bukit Tunku, the various tragedies of lives ended too soon are seemingly compounded by the loss of heritage.
An excerpt from 6 Iconic and beautiful colonial buildings in Malaysia by Sharil Tarmize
Located in Batu Gajah (Perak), Kellie's Castle is an enigmatic ruined mansion that was abandoned following the untimely death of its owner, a Scotsman by the name of William Kellie Smith.
Combining Mughal, Indo-Saracenic, Moorish Revival, and Colonial British architectural influences, the convergent design of Kellie’s Castle is uniquely representative of the regional architecture in the early 20th century. The brick and marble masonry were largely imported from India and were purportedly worked by skilled craftsmen from Madras – the descendants of whom can still be found living in the vicinity of the mansion today.
Aside from its unique design and composition, the mansion’s earliest claim to fame was the planned inclusion of the country’s first mechanical elevator in its 6-storey tower and extravagant design considerations such as an indoor tennis court and a rooftop courtyard.
Kellie’s Castle is now perhaps better known for the tragedy that befell its owner, William Kellie Smith – a Scottish estate owner and tin mining entrepreneur – who died during a trip to Europe to acquire the elevator. Smith’s sudden death from pneumonia while en route to Lisbon left the mansion unfinished – where it would have been lost to time, if not for the continuing efforts of the Tourism Ministry, Perak’s Public Works Department, and a RM5mil upgrade earmarked under the 10th Malaysian Plan in 2010.
Even after the construction of a tourist centre, the restoration of the mansion’s interior, and a revival of the grounds in the style of English landscapes by the botanist Dr Francis Ng, the fog of mystery surrounding Kellie’s Castle still persists. Three secret tunnels were recently discovered – and more are believed to be hidden within the mansion’s grounds. There have even been rumours that the Scotsman’s spirit still roams the upper floors of the mansion.
Jalan Turi Bungalow
A detour, well-known to residents of Bangsar seeking to bypass the rush-hour congestion at Pusat Bandar Damansara, leads through an affluent neighbourhood and past a now empty lot on Jalan Turi, where a tragedy unfolded in the evening of 23rd April 1992.
The bodies of two young boys, aged 7 and 11 years, along with that of a 30-year-old domestic helper, were found in a pile at the bottom of a 15-foot deep septic tank behind the house. While the motive remains unclear, the brutal murders were soon found to be committed by a relief security guard serving at the home.
The parents were out that evening, dining at a neighbour’s home. The father, a director for a large multinational corporation, had just departed on a flight to London at the time – leaving his wife and his host to discover the carnage and narrowly escape with minor injuries.
The house was demolished sometime after 2010 – but at the time of this writing, it is not known if the septic tank remains intact.