Sunday 31 May 2009

I slept in 'haunted' Tekong bunk with third door and survived

I don't believe in ghosts.

(Or Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, the new movie starring Matthew McConaughey, because, well, it stars Matthew McConaughey, but I digress.)

Two weeks ago, an army recruit reportedly became “delirious” on the ferry leaving Pulau Tekong and died hours later in hospital.

A male colleague heard the news and suggested that the Tekong ghost had struck again.

“What Tekong ghost?” a female colleague asked.

How could any Singaporean not know about the ghost of Pulau Tekong? Didn’t she see that episode of Incredible Tales on TV?

It’s one of our young nation’s most cherished urban legends, along with why an octagon is engraved on our dollar coin and the myth of the Singaporean with an opinion.

There are a few variations to the tale, all set in Pulau Tekong where generations of young Singaporean males are sent for basic military training.

Decades ago, a recruit from Charlie Company went missing after a long route march. He was later found in the woods, dead from an apparent stomach rupture, but somehow the story became he was found disemboweled with his intestines neatly laid out in front of him.

Anyway, after that, there were reports of “hauntings” in the bunk he had slept in. So an exorcist was called in. The bunk had two doors. The ghostbuster recommended building another door to let the ghost out.

Of course, I do not know how true any of this is, except for one thing – the third door exists.

I was from Charlie Company and I stayed in that bunk for the three months of my full-time national service. When I was there, the third door was padlocked and never opened.

But I was an extremely “blur” recruit – and not just “acting blur” as my instructors and platoon mates accused me of doing. I was so blur that I assumed it was perfectly normal for a bunk to have three doors and thought nothing of it at the time.

The only thing I was haunted by beeing called a "chee-bye brain" by my sergeant after I misunderstood some instructions at the range. I lost my innocence that day.

After deciding I had been sufficiently verbally abused in the army, I managed to get myself posted to the navy, where I was attached to the big ships known as LSTs or landing ship tanks (which have since been replaced).

Then I was told that those old LSTs were bought from the American navy who used them to ferry dead soldiers during World War II and wouldn’t you know it, the ships were haunted too!

Maybe Matthew McConaughey isn’t so bad after all.

- Published in The New Paper, 31 May 2009

UPDATE: Why I ain’t afraid of no ghost on Pulau Tekong

The Sunday Times: Charlie, we may have company