SINGAPORE (Reuters) – With a torch in one hand and an electromagnetic meter in the other, paranormal investigator Charles Goh scours some shrub land in suburban Singapore, looking for hidden graves that could give clues to a ghostly encounter he had three decades ago.
Goh’s investigations have led him to the residential neighbourhood of Yishun, an area little visited by tourists that has developed a reputation for criminal, strange and sometimes supernatural events in one of the world’s safest cities.
In recent years, Yishun has seen buses spontaneously combust, cats strangled, peculiar murders, giant caterpillars and supposed ghost sightings – spawning reams of satirical sites, online memes and local media coverage.
Even Netflix, the world’s largest streaming service, has poked fun at the town’s unfortunate reputation to promote the supernatural mystery series ‘Stranger Things’ and other horror content to local audiences. One blogger coined the ring road that circles the town “the devil’s ring”.
Local politicians say there are rational explanations for these events and statistics show crime rates are not unusual.
But Goh, a safety manager for a construction firm, has a theory that ancient burial sites disturbed during the town’s rapid development could have been behind the spooky encounter he had at a military camp in Yishun thirty years ago.
“In the day time I look out for the living, in the night time I look out for the dead,” said Goh, who went on to form the Asia Paranormal Investigators society in 2005.
Others who have investigated Yishun’s “weird and sometimes dangerous” reputation, like Japanese YouTuber Ghib Ojisan have come to less exciting conclusions.
“I discovered that it is just a nice neighbourhood,” said Ojisan, who started making videos about Yishun last year.
But the normalcy of his encounters with friendly locals, tasty food and neat parks haven’t dampened interest for his videos, attracting tens of thousands of views.
He says part of the fascination for his mainly Japanese audience is that Singapore is seen as an uneventful place. It was ranked as the second safest city globally last year, behind Tokyo, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Safe Cities Index.
Local MP Louis Ng said that Yishun’s reputation can be put down to the fact that “bad news sells faster than good news” and that it is a safe town with a strong sense of community.
As for paranormal encounters, Ng quipped: “We have got a lot of temples around in Yishun, so hopefully that will help to curb this curse and the supernatural powers that are at play.”
(Reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)