In this modern day and age, accounts of supernatural activities in schools are very much alive and well. Sightings of apparitions and unexplained occurences are popular topics of conversations. Current and former students share some of their eerie experiences.
LAST month, StarEducation sent a callout asking students to write in their personal accounts of mysterious happenings in their schools or universities.
Inspired by the stories sent in on hauntings, this week we take a look at the creepy tales doing the rounds in our local learning institutions.
Colonial era schools such as this one in Kuala Lumpur tend to have more than their fair share of creepy stories.
Invented or real histories of schools are a common starting ground for terrifying tales.
At the more historic schools around the country, it would seem that some of the troops who arrived in Malaya during the Japanese Occupation of the early 1940s have never left.
Tales of schools being former Japanese torture camps are a particularly popular explanation for apparitions of headless corpses and sounds of marching soldiers in the dead of night.
Perhaps the strangest tale in circulation at the moment are sightings of beheaded nuns in a well-known girls’ school in Kuala Lumpur.
While the school canteen may be the focal point for students during recess, it can at other times, turn out to be an eerie place where one can hear mysterious sounds and witness strange happenings.
Although the brutalities committed during that era cannot be denied, conclusive proof of all the exact spots where the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police) murdered their victims is hard to find.
Consultant Mavindren Naidu however, believes that his former school in Ipoh is a hotbed of paranormal activity.
“From 1943 till the end of the war, the Japanese government did have their headquarters in Perak.
“It’s not surprising then if some of the locations in my school were previously used as execution spots by the army,” he says.
Mavindren claims that his former schoolmates have seen silhouettes of bodies hanging from trees, and screams echoing down empty hallways.
“I’ve experienced the screams myself once, while waiting for my father to pick me up after co-curricular activities.
“Maybe it was a classmate pulling my leg, but there were no other students around and it didn’t sound human...” he says.
Many a student will swear to spirits lurking in empty classrooms.
Declaring himself to be a sceptic, Tan Seng Hong says a misunderstanding of history can easily cause rumours to spread.
“Some say that my school was a prison, or that it was built on an ancient tribal burial ground,” says the secondary school student.
“But my school is fairly new, and this area has always been a commercial one!
“Of course, if I believed the stories to be true, I too would feel scared or see things that aren’t really there.”
As they tend to be located in isolated surroundings, boarding schools are rife with supernatural anecdotes.
One of the most infamous yarns is that of the boy who wakes up in the middle of the night at his dormitory room.
Upon seeing dark shadows hovering along the beds of his fellow students, the boy pulls up his covers and pretends to be asleep.
The abandoned Shih Chung school in Penang is supposedly haunted and the abode of different types of ghosts.
The terrified boy then hears a disembodied voice singing: “The rest are asleep, but one is awake.”
Civil servant Shazliza Ramli thinks that such tales are a way of keeping students in check.
“You can be sure that once a student hears a story like that, he is bound to keep to his bedtime,” she laughs.
Shazliza adds that another common “happening” at her former residential school in Kelantan is the doppelganger effect.
“One story I can account for is when a friend of mine had to go home for the weekend due to an injury.
“But the night warden claimed to have seen my friend wandering around the corridors late at night, and thought she was rude for not answering the warden’s calls.
Sightings of apparitions are often spotted along empty corridors and at disrepaired stairwells in schools.
“Upon learning the truth, the warden subesequently refused to do the night shift again; but I think it was an effective caution for the girls, because after that, none of us loittered around at night!” she says.
Residential school student Azfar Masom meanwhile, thinks that his seniors just take sadistic pleasure in scaring the wits out of younger students.
“This is especially true when we have overnight leadership-building or camping events,” says Azfar.
“The students would do things like sneaking up on unsuspecting individuals who dared venture out to answer the call of nature.
“The teachers have more subtle techniques — when doing the head count at the end of the day, they would add an extra person to make it look like we had an unexpected ‘guest’ sharing our tent for the night.”
At higher education institutions that are built around dense jungle areas, the old wives’ tale goes that empty buses were sent from the proposed site to the middle of nowhere.
It is said that this was so that bus drivers could transport unwanted spirits to their new “home”, away from the university.
While the sprawling campuses of some local universities appear spacious in broad daylight, taking a nightly stroll in them can be an unnerving experience for even the bravest of souls.
Economics student Sandra Ooi claims that sightings of a lone woman in white are common at her campus in Selangor.
“When my boyfriend came to pick me up one night, he said he saw a girl dressed in white in the distance.
“Thinking it was a student looking for a lift, he slowed down his car — but as he got closer, she disappeared.
“Several of my male classmates have seen this girl while walking back to their dorms,” she says.
In similar vein, Wong Li Ping is certain that she has personally experienced the urban legend of her former private higher education institution in the Klang Valley.
“I saw a person standing on one of the balconies of the hostel block facing mine,” says the sales executive.
“Suddenly the figure leapt down; I thought I had just witnessed a suicide.
“I immediately started to dial the emergency number, but when I glanced up again, I saw the figure standing there as before.”
Li Peng adds that the scene repeated twice, before the figure completely vanished.
Although there is no concrete validity to the relations above, they do reflect the Malaysian appetite for the supernatural.
As this writer went through numerous interviewees for this article, it seems that most people had a spine-chilling tale that happened to a friend of a friend of a friend.
Whether you are a believer or not, the very least these stories do is plant a small seed of doubt when walking down a lonely corridor.