In 2000, I went to Penang with another teacher and two students for the annual Trilingual Speech Competition of the Chinese Independent Schools. We were put in a hotel along Penang Road.

There was no room for me with the others for the first night as I was a late registrant, so the hotel put me in the old wing. It was almost 10.30pm when I got the key to my room. A room all to myself. How lucky to sleep alone. Nobody to disturb me!

As soon as I walked inside, I could sense something odd.

It didn’t take me long to realize certain physical facts. The window faced the lift shaft. It was an old wing, and they built the new wing on the other side of the lift shaft. The windows had been painted black. No sunlight ever came in! Bad. All the time, you could hear the lifts going up and down on the other side of the window.

Two beds. As always, I take the one nearer the door. Quick exit if necessary.

Almost immediately, I sensed another presence, something roundish, even fat. A woman! Er, a female hantu. I couldn’t see it but I could sense its presence.

By the way, I can FEEL the shape of most hantus I’ve ever met. Tested this odd skill with a good friend who can SEE them.  He waits for me to tell where a hantu is, and then tells me if I am right or wrong. I may describe the shape, and he’ll confirm if it’s correct. Proven right every time. (Incidentally, this friend came to spend a night in Ipoh and I booked him into a hotel. He called me at about midnight and said, “Thanks, haven’t had a haunted room for so long.” Huh? Yea, I had got him a room on the 4th floor. That hotel is haunted on the 4th floor but it had slipped my mind.)

Back to this Penang hotel room ghost. It sat right beside me when I sat on the bed. This was weird but the part of the bed where she sat seemed to sink down, so heavy she was! She exuded COLD! Immediately, I said in a loud but controlled voice, “Don’t sit here! Sit on the other bed. I like to be alone.” She moved over to the other bed.

Not a good idea, I realized. Too near. But what else could I do? She was INSIDE when I came in, so she was probably the resident ghost! HER room. I was only the guest.

Well, I had to shower, change and get ready for bed. I left the bathroom door open afterwards, bathroom light on. I left the little light on the far wall on as well. (I NEVER EVER sleep in a completely dark hotel room.)

Tired, I slept almost at once.

Wheeze, it was SO COLD! I awoke with a rude shock that the female ghost had lain herself down beside me!


Immediately, she left. Phew, what a relief! But what if I had to go to the bathroom? No, no way, not going there. If I had to urinate, I would do it in a bottle!

How wonderful it was when morning came! No sense of anything untoward around.

At 6.30am, I got up, showered, packed up and left.

“The room’s yours again!” were my parting words.


“Uncle,” the Malay woman said, as I shut the apartment door, “place your shoes at odd angles.”

“Thanks,” I replied.

What was she talking about? The Malay cleaning lady was kind enough to remind me that, in case there was a hantu (ghost) around, she would likely step into my shoes and then, go with me everywhere I went. Not only at night but also in the day.

I did not laugh after she had left. I did not dismiss her words as mere superstition.Having slept in quite a number of hotel rooms and apartments, I accepted that suggestion with gratitude.

I am a believer in Jesus Christ, western educated with 5 degrees including in Sociology, Philosophy and Theology. I am as rational as anyone else, probably more so. I am NOT superstitious.

I am a pragmatist.

I don’t go through life ruling out the supernatural. Unlike some people, I don’t say that there are no ghosts.

Nor do I see a ghost whenever a book falls off the shelf or someone close to me gets terribly sick.

Sometimes, I have had to say, “No, no ghost here.” At other times, rare enough for me to still be mildly taken aback, I have said, “That is a hantu.”


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