When it comes to the term ‘haunted flat’, an aged, off-white building instantly comes to mind. With vandalised entrances that have been haphazardly boarded up, corridors sprawling with overgrown weeds and the ominous creaking of rusty door hinges. Woodlands block 852, however, is absent of such standard Hollywood clichés.
Tucked in a sleepy Woodlands estate, the block blends in with the rest of its unassuming surroundings. With its relatively fresh coat of red and blue paint and sleepy heartland facade, complete with a readers’ corner and kindergarten at its void deck, it is certainly a place that is more quaint than creepy.
That being said, expectant haunted house hunters need not be too disappointed in its un-intimidating exterior. Unbeknownst to the casual passer-by, the pasty walls of the building shroud chilling tales from the past.
There are varying theories regarding the origin of its infamy, but the public’s morbid interest in the building began as early as 2003. Local internet forums are littered with threads documenting its history as a quarantine facility during the SARS period. While the flat was also said to have been subsequently converted into a rent-only hostel for construction workers, there are stories that it was a hideout for drug addicts.
“From what I heard, the flat used to be rented out to the Bangladeshi workers, and there were also a lot of drug addicts there. They would sneak into the block and use it as a gathering place to get high,” said Romawati Rahim, a 25-year-old who works at the church opposite the block.
The most famous theory, however, has to do with an incident that happened in March, 2009. A 51-year-old mother, who was reported to be mentally unstable, stabbed and killed her teenage daughter. Following the incident, stories have emerged of how the spirits of the pair still haunt the block.
“I’ve heard about a Malay family seeing a female ghost on the 5th floor. But I have not seen it for myself,’’said Lawrence Douglas, a 75-year-old who lives on the 6th floor of block 852.
A similar account is also mirrored in greater detail by 60-year-old Yan Mei Ling, a resident on the 10th floor.
“I heard that late one night, when a man was taking the lift down to the 1st floor of the block; he saw a mother and her daughter in same lift. He asked the mother why she was taking her daughter down at such a late hour, but she kept silent. When the lift reached the first floor and he looked back to allow the pair to alight, he found that they had vanished and there was no one else in the lift apart for him,” said Mdm Yan.
Despite the bulk of the ‘evidence’ being unverifiable, third-person anecdotes, the paranormal mystique of block 852 continues to be maintained. Of those interviewed, almost all of them said that they harbour some belief in the supernatural origin of such incidents and would ‘rather be safe than sorry’.
When asked about whether he genuinely believed in the presence of apparitions, an 8th floor resident, 44-year-old Jared Lam, replied: “We are Asians after all, that’s all I have to say.”Alluding to the superstitious nature of Asian cultures and their respect for the occult.
However, not all are convinced of the presence of apparitions in the block. 26-year-old Ong Wei Xiang, who walks past the block daily as he commutes to and from work, prefers to ignore hearsay and puts trust in his own senses instead.
“I have heard of these stories from people around the area, but I think it is merely word of mouth, things they have heard from their families and friends that cannot be proven. Personally, if I cannot tangibly sense the presence of the spirits myself, I will remain skeptical about their existence.”