Below are some of the most popular urban legends that charmed Singapore in the past few decades (not in any order).
With the progress of our society and improving level of knowledge, some urban legends died off over the years; a few, however, remains unsolved.
1. Kidnapping of Kids for Bridges
In the late seventies, during the construction of the great Benjamin Sheares Bridge, rumours of children being kidnapped for their heads to be served as the foundation of the bridge spread like wild fire.
The rumours might be due to frequent kidnappings in Singapore in the sixties/seventies, and people did not believe such a huge bridge could be built without any issues. The rumours even went to an extent that a dog-headed kidnapper was roaming in the neighbourhood looking for wandering kids at night.
There was no basis in the rumours but it was enough to stop the parents from allowing their children from going out after dark.
2. Underwater Tunnel to Sentosa
One of the biggest unsolved mysteries of Singapore: Is there a 600m underwater tunnel linking Labrador Park to Fort Siloso of Sentosa?
It is rumoured that when the British built the Labrador Battery in 1939, they also constructed a tunnel for easy access to Fort Siloso. However, the bunkers of Labrador was sealed in the fifties, while the interior of the tunnel has collapsed. The sealed entrance can still be found, but whether it is the door to the tunnel remains to be seen.
3. $1 Bagua & Road Tax Labels
It is said that when Singapore was building the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) in the mid-eighties, the then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew consulted the highly respectable Venerable Hong Chuan about the plan. The latter warned that the tunnelings would severely damage the excellent fengshui of the island, and the only solution was to ensure all Singaporeans carry a bagua (octagon diagram) with them.
But this was impossible among the different races and religions, so PM Lee thought of an excellent idea: to design the new $1 coin with the shape of a bagua, so that it would be carried by all Singaporeans.
This urban legend was made believable due to the coincidence of the timings: The new $1 coin was launched in September 1987, just two months before MRT began its first operation. A further addition to the rumour was the road tax label, also in the shape of an octagon, which means every car on the roads of Singapore would be carrying a bagua too.
4. Satay Addiction
Forget about the dirty surroundings and endless touting, the old Satay Club at Esplanade used to offer delicious chicken, mutton and beef satay that lured customers return for more. The club had moved from Hoi How Road (Beach Road) to Esplanade in 1970, and the makan place of about 21 satay stalls was so popular that a rumour, out of nowhere, started to spread around, claiming that the hawkers put something “special” in their satay gravy so that the customers would be addicted. That “special” ingredients were soiled sanitary napkins.
However, after an operation of 25 years till 1995 when it was closed down, no one really found the evidence at the old Satay Club, not even the frequent spot checks conducted by the National Environment Agency (NEA). After the closure, the stall owners moved their businesses to Lau Pa Sat, Clarke Quay, Pasir Panjang and Sembawang, and satay remains one of the favourite food for Singaporeans.
5. Hidden Treasure in MacRitchie
During the Japanese Occupation, it was rumoured that the Imperial Japanese Army hid an enormous amount of gold and treasure in the thick jungles of MacRitchie Reservoir. The treasure were looted and transported here from other countries in Southeast Asia, and its hidden location was marked by the Shinto Shrine of Syonan (Japanese name for Singapore, which means The Light of the South).
The Japanese did not move the treasure back to Japan when they retreated at the end of WWII, so that they can reclaim both the island and the treasure in possible future invasions.
The rumours prompted treasure hunting in the reservoir, but they were never found by eager treasure hunters; perhaps it never existed in the first place.
6. Marble-Playing Sounds in Flats
Many Singaporeans living in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats claim that they have somehow heard irritating marble dropping sounds above their units at night. When they try to investigate, it always turns out that their neighbours above have no children, or it is an empty unit, or simply children nowadays do not play marbles anymore.
Many try to come out with “scientific” explanations about this phenomenon; echoing sounds from the pipes, or sounds of expansion/contraction of the steels in the ceilings, but some will rather believe it is a young ghost dropping its marbles around, creating the tok tok tok sounds.
Another sound commonly heard is the dragging of furniture at the unit above.
7. The Sad and Smiley Face of $1 Coin
There are circulating emails that claim our $1 coins minted in 1990 had the Singapore crests’ banners, with the words “Majulah Singapura”, curved downwards, giving an impression of a sad face. Due to the Asian Currency Crisis in 1997, the banners were redesigned to curve upwards after fengshui experts were consulted. In this way, the coins present smiley faces.
Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has rebutted this urban legend by stating the crest on newer coins is the actual one. The older ones were minted in that way due to the limitations of minting technology, where the 3D effect of the crest could not be displayed easily. The changes was made in 1992 instead of 1997, when the new minting method was introduced.
8. Restless Spirits of Bishan and Novena
When Bishan MRT Station was opened in November 1987, haunted stories were rife due to the underground station being built at a former cemetery called Pek San Teng. Sightings of headless figures and phantom passengers were reported, although none were confirmed. There were also rumours that some maintenance personnel, while doing their duties in the tunnels at night, were terrified by ghastly images of coffin bearers on the tracks.
Novena MRT Station, opened a month later than Bishan, also experienced the same rumours as it was also built at a former graveyard.
Today, the trains get so crowded that probably even the ghosts don’t feel like squeezing with the passengers.
9. Pointing Finger at the Moon
The older generations used to warn children not to point finger at the moon, or else their ears would be cut off. Offering little explanation, most obedient children heeded the advice anyway, whereas a few naughty ones still had their ears intact despite disobeying their mothers.
This urban legend somehow died off in the early nineties.
There is, however, a Buddhist teaching about pointing finger to the moon, where the moon is the truth and the finger represents words. Words and language are symbols that express the truth, just like the finger that points to the moon is not the moon itself.
10. Haunted Teletubby Dolls
The cute-but-weird-looking humanoid beings, created by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the late nineties, gained widespread popularity in the world, including Singapore. The talking dolls were snapped up like hot cakes, especially among the local students.
However, stories about how the teletubby dolls started to speak in the middle of the night soon emerged from nowhere; others claimed the dolls were satanic, evil and possessed.
The rumours ended after just a couple of years when the dolls were no longer popular.
Published: 05 July 2011
Other urban legends in Singapore…
Singaporeans are not concerned about the ministers’ high salaries
There are no poor people in Singapore
People can get on the MRT trains, it is whether they want to or not…
The list goes on…hahah
and one more…
the famous “white horse” system in NS
truth or urban legend? :X
anyone heard of the infamous blue taxi on Upper Thomson Road after midnight?
apparently no one can catch up with the taxi at any speed, and if anyone tries to do that, it will lead him to a horrific accident
another urban legend from local taxi drivers is that they encounter many “dirty” things on Punggol Road that leads to Punggol jetty.
Driven along Punggol Road countless times. Nope, nothing here.
Me like your reply. 😉
I love this website!
White horse is actual. A close friend of mine who was working as a doctor at one of the army camps in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and once while seeing a patient an image of a white horse was present on part of the screen. He asked a colleague about the horse and was informed his patient was a son of a high ranking army official. The database no longer throws up that image due to the negative connotation it now has.
White Horse is true, I have seen medical docket with the letters ‘WH’ printed on the right top corner and my medic friend told me it is abbreviation for White Horse. The normal medical dockets do not have such printed letter.
Once upon a time, there were more NS boys than there were positions in the then SAF. To counter the potential for the excess to go to children of high ranking folks (not just SAF officers), the kids were so designated to ensure that they would all get posted to proper units and not get a free lobo ride …
I am past 48 yrs. I have experienced and gone thru most of the things highlighted by you here! Really interesting. Bring back some of the forgotten memories. I would have forgotten if not for your bringing them up again here. Thks.
About the pointing finger to the moon, when my sister was young, she had point her finger at the moon and true enough the next day, there is a small slit at the back of one of her ear. Though its not deep and serious, its enough to cause her pain. Whether the legend is indeed true or this happens coincidentally, it is for you to judge. =)
Till today, I still can’t understand why the elderly forbade us from pointing to the moon 😉
because they don’t want us to point finger…
I’ve been pointing at the moon for my whole life esp when they look impossibly big or orange… No cuts all these decades but lately hair is sprouting out of my ears 😀
Maybe your nose will grow longer.
Happened in my family when we were young too. the cut behind the ears varies.
Happened to my friend too! She pointed at the moon against her mother’s advice and had a cut at the back of her ear.
I pointed once, and it left a small cut at the bottom part of the ear. It healed after a month or so, but it was pretty freaky.
I actually caught my mother cutting my ears with a small knife while I was asleep. I think this is a self propagating myth like the tooth fairy putting a coin under the pillow.
You must be dreaming cos’ you’re asleep.
About the moon, me too. When i was Primary 3 years ago, my mother told me this rumour when i excitedly pointed at the moon. I told my friend Ethan about it in school the next day. He doesn’t believe me and he pointed at the moon right in front of me. (btw, the school bus arrives at school way before the sun rises, so therefore we chatted under the moon until then.) A few days later, he came to school with a bandage behind his ear. I asked him about it and apparently he got it in a school bus accident. The bus crashed and he got a cut behind the ear by a shard of glass or something. There were no other casulties fortunately but WOW. Coincidence?
Ps. A school bus i took once crashed into a stop sign and puntured a tire… so yea, such accidents are common enough to not be featured on the news.
it happened to me before when i was young.
the slit was at the back of my ears, it was so itchy and there are pus-like fluid. and during that period, i was so upset that i dare not tie up ponytail as it would be obvious to the people walking/standing behind me.
been to doctors, doc diagnosed it as sensitive skin and gave me cream to apply. however, it can only make the itchiness subside for awhile, never make it recovered.
miraculously, its only after i turned 18, my ears then recovered.
though only 5years has passed since recovery, i have almost forgotten about this myth!!
i will definitely warn my children not to point the moon.
I like the part where the mrts are so crowded that even the ghosts don’t want to squeeze with the people. Hehe. At least we managed to achieve something good with the overcrowded mrts. Thanks for informing. (smile)
I wish they would squeeze in so the mrt is not so crowded.
Other than the innane pointing at moon, get your ears cut off
Ghosts walk in walls at night. So keep away from walls and don’t prop your feet up on the walls (while laying down).
Gotta talk to a tree, excuse yourself and ask for ‘permission to pee’ if you were going to pee down its roots in an emergency toilet break. WTF. But nothing mentioned about plucking leaves for fun, breaking branches at whim and fancy, nor suka suka stealing fruits from trees.
If you don’t finish your food…… the ‘next time’ you will somehow end up as a hungry refugee, usually in Africa.
Picking up a coin or other valuables, you gotta put it under your legs, circling that object with your leg or under your pelvis three times before you can keep it. Nothing mentioned about honesty or attempting to look for owner (of valuables).
No jingling of coins or bells at night while walking, because the sounds may attract ghosts, vampires, etc.
All these are just stupid shit. Never should have been even passed to any children.
Non Chinese would just laugh at the senselessness of it all.
Please be respectful to others’ beliefs…
Another urban legend is that many people can’t believe it that the SG government held meetings to approve a $1 Million grant for helping the elderly, sick, destitute, special needs groups, Yellow Ribbon Project (former inmates), and the disabled…. while giving out $50 Million to ‘help’ Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam grow. Many can’t believe that
such a full of shitGovernment that only taxes locals and looks after foreigners should still be relevant.
and watch out for the frangipani smell when one passes Mt vernon cemetary area – hearsay pontianak around the corner….
What?? I am from Maris Stella High School, right beside the cemetary and so far nothing had happened. My class and others also ran pass the cemetary for our 2.4 km rum!
Not really, I’m still studying in MSHS. I heard from my friends the CO room, or the old Band room, is haunted with music instruments playing at night, as well as the toilets. Most of the ghost were spotted by NPCC, NCC(sea), SJAB, ODAC and Band.
Try running there at the stroke of midnight.
I heard that if you felt that a ghost was behind you, not to look over your shoulder as your breath would blow out your life candle that sat on your shoulder
My late grandma told me never to point at the moon, stubborn as I am, I pointed and the next day I felt a slit on my ear.
One evening, I jogged with my cousin along punggol road close to Metilda’s house. Both my cousin and I felt goosebump all over. During the night I had bad nightmare and I can’t sleep. I asked my cousin the next day, and she saw a black shadow in her room. Freaking scary!
Regarding the treasure looted by Imperial Japanese Army, also known as Yamashita’s Gold, it is also an urban legend in the Philippines, luring hundreds of treasure hunters to look for it in the past 50 years
Have there been any official actions to search for Japanese treasure? As we Russians say, there is no smoke without fire 🙂
About the marble dropping thing… its really true. Every once in a while, especially in the late afternoon, or at night, I would hear the marbles. Tok-tok-tok-tok-tok. It would fade and disappear. The dragging of furniture… I would also sometimes hear it. It sounds like someone dragging a sofa on the floor.
Yes! me too. The marble dropping happen during afternoon and the furniture dragging sounds at night when i sleep.
I live in Pearl Bank Apartments and have been hearing the furniture for sure!! For the last year!! This is the first time i’ve ever heard that other people could hear the furniture – there’s got to be a scientific reason for this to do with the climate!
LoL yea it happens to me alot of time, and its always the same period of the year, same timing. most of the time afternoon, and 11pm -1am like this. its causing me so much nuisance i had to keep a sleep journal to mark my sleep pattern, which is why i had details of such. and for me its only like 2-3 marbles dropping and dragging of furniture.
Those leaving the train at Woodsville Station are ghosts from Bidadari. There is always a mist and you cannot see their legs.
Reblogged this on What Say Vee? and commented:
E marble n draggin of furniture ij e flat above urs is very very true. Im 12 n hv been livin in my house since I wad born (FYI imma true blue Singaporean). Above my house every nite confirm w/o fail gt e tok-tok-tok sound tt would fade away n continue n e draggin of furniture. From 11:59pm – 3:30am (i usually don slp 1. Study mah! PSLE comin loh! I mati 1 lah). Weird rite? E moon thingy oso. Bb gotta gt bak 2 hw -.-‘ -.-” -~-
Oh ya gt nobody stay tt house……..CREEPY!!!!
As an engineer, I believe the marbles sound come as a result of 2 phase flows in pipes. (when there’s both liquid and gaseous flows) We usually call it ‘knocking’. Spoils equipment and should be avoided really.
How do you explain the bouncing sound, then followed by the rolling sounds then?
This is the first time I am hearing these kind of stuff. Really interesting. Any more to share???
I believe in the Labrador Park tunnel and the bagua stories. Most coins are round, so it’s strange for us to have an octagon-shaped $1 coin. Also, I heard from my father who used to volunteer for Venerable Hong Chuan that back in the old days, LKY frequently came to consult the venerable for various issues.
the mables thingy is damn creepy it happens to me too ehh..
Yes i once used to take objects i picked up from the ground and circle it 3 times around my thigh. Also my mom also told me not to point at the moon when i was young.
No wonnder bukit brown mrt stop on the ccl closed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
With regards to the marbles in the HDB. The story I heard was that in any HDB, there will be ‘spirits’. Therefore, in order for them not to disturb the people living inside, the contractors will always ‘implant’ marbles into the concrete so to let ‘spirits’ ‘play’ and not disturb the HDB owners..
True or not i don’t know..
lucky,man i live in condo
wow reading all this at night is scary and dude hi 5. i also took psle in 2012 and i heard those exact sounds.. ugh…. CREEPY TO THE MAX… i think i have heard these stories and even though i am not singaporean, i do believe in some of these stories 😀
Hey so many ppl PSLE 2012 me 2 *brofist* I think the stories here are soooooooooo cool but could you have more stories like these it gets a bit old after a while
firstly even in condo got the furniture and marbles sounds like. . Yishun,Emerald /Sapphire/Selataris@Gambas ave,
also in flats in JW,Yis and CCK .
pointing at the moon also went thru,
you also have stray dogs at pulau tekong camp 3 that Will follow the sentries and then rush ahead barking at something. . .
we are ordered not to harm the dogs. .
they would always escort the battalion at march pass to the jetty
there’s also the underground tunnel under Alexander hospital!
and tons of ghostly incident in government offices, building and chalets
another urban ruse and maybe forgotten
pregnant ladies are not allowed to leave after sunset or they get miscarriage!
and singles going out at night must either bring something sharp or charcoal in their hands
and if someone call you from behind
even your friends and family
Don’t look behind but if
you have to see, bend down and see them thru your legs or ask them to come in front of u!
Your website brings back alot of memories. Thanks alot for the effort and contents.
Well, I’m not sure of some of the legends mentioned here. But for me, personally I experience the ‘marbles rolling sounds’ and the ‘no pointing to the moon’.
For a long time when I was young, I always though the marbles rolling sound were just something make by my neighbours upstairs, but during one occasion that got us trapped in a lift, with other residents. I brought up the marbles sound to create some conversation topics. They mentioned that they do not have children living with them, and they have also hear those rolling sound of the marbles through the day and nights and it was coming from above their floor. But our units are on the top floor and second top floor. Then the husband mentioned that it was a common things as his colleague and superior staying in other HDB and condominium also experience hearing those sound. Initially they also though were piping issues, went and renovate and changed all piping. So concussion, we had were to ignore it.
As for the ‘moon’, I had more than 1 cuts from it, as I was not a believers, and in dialect saying ‘ti-kee’. So I treat it as an experiment and keep doing it. Always after pointing at the moon, the next day, there will be a cut behind my ear.
The scientific explanation for the marble sounds is that in the later part of the day when the heat subsides the building contracts after basking the hot sun the whole day. That is where you get the marble dropping sounds.
Hi there, I’m wondering about the Tunnel from Labrador to Sentosa. It written that the tunnel collapsed during construction. May I know where it was referenced from?
Azyure D. Hikari
Urban Explorers of Singapore
Other urban legend worth a mention:
1. Leaving nail clippings around will attract rats that will grow to become your doppelganger.
2. Local children kidnapped, have their hands cut off and sent to Thailand as beggars.
3. Charlie bunk third door because of haunting from dead recruit who died during route march.
4. BMT recruit killed officers and then committed suicide during live range. Plenty of blood and haunting after that.
5. Commando recruits having fun with transvestites at Hendon camp through the fence at night.
6. Throw used underwear and tampons to chase off ghosts!
7. Never whistle at night or you will attract wandering ghosts.
8. Never step on burnt offerings.
9. PM Lee double slapped Temasek chairman Dhanabalan after being insulted.
10. Ho Ching is a man. Really?
11. Always ask for permission or apologise before peeing under a tree or it will bleed there.
12. HIV tainted needles thrown on seats in cinemas.
13. Never leave your umbrella under a tree!
14. Escaped animals are living in the forests near Mandai zoo.
15. Rich tycoons and politicians have frequent blood transfusions in Singapore as rejuvenation therapy.
Number 6: I wont only scare off ghosts, it will scare off everybody.
1. Never open umbrellas indoors
2. Snap your fingers to raise your “life light” again if someome taps your shoulder
I also had the “point at the moon” thing happen to me…
Reblogged this on Helter Skelter and commented:
Recently I attended a graffiti workshop sponsored by Converse – The Cons Project the first session was run by Ink & Clog. Two infamous street artist from the Singapore scene. During their workshop they mentioned on what inspires them, to create their new characters. Local myths and legends were a topic which they mentioned seemed the most intriguing. Many of us Singaporeans grow up learning about these myths and legends and talk about during our primary school era, but sooner or later it just become a passing cloud. Today, I had this random though to do a little research on the local myths and legends. Little did I know there was much more to it.. This following blog post was an eye opener to me. Truly an inspiration for some new art pieces. Thank you Ink&Clog and Remember Singapore .
Anyone remember the legend of Koom Koom? In the late 1980s, there was a story of a witch called Koom Koom and she’ll catch children and eat them. I was a very impressionable primary school kid then and actually believe in it.
It was said that when she knocks on your door, the knocking sounds like “koom koom” and when you open the door, you won’t find anyone there. She’ll have turned herself invisible and enter the house and you’ll find her behind you when you close the door. And she’ll eat you.
Some of the nonsense newspapers (tabloids) actually publish the story and perpetuate the myth.
It was many years later when I read about the case of the serial killer Adrian Lim that i think the Koom Koom is not real and the children disappearance were due to the serial killer.
The version of this “koom koom” witch that I heard was that it was an old lady who wants to say assalamualaikum, but unable to pronounce properly due to missing teeth. Thus she could only say the last word which was “kum”. About the eating of children is the same across both versions of the tale.
It’s correctly spelled “Kumkum”. That tabloid newspaper was The New Paper. The headline is “Blood-sucking vampire woman” or something close. This is just a silly hoax turned to a widespread panic within the Malay community, similar to what happen with the recent Makcik Keropok. The occurrence examplifies preference of fear over bravery in terms of belief, as well as fictions over facts in term of knowledge.
maybe the gold con be found at the exact spot where the first light from the south appears first during the day or the exact spot where the first light of the moon appears during the night
I know this is an old post but I can’t help but to give thumbs up!! Thank you for summarising everything!
Excellent article, thank you for a very good read, I appreciate the knowledge.
Reblogged this on Truth Troubles: Why people hate the truths' of the real world and commented:
In my humble opinion this is a very good article, please give them a few moments of your time to see if you agree.
Wow I’ve only moved into this flat for a day and I’ve heard the marble sounds twice! But the flat above seems to be empty…… Also, about the moon-pointing thingy… haven’t tried it before ’cause I don’t believe in the stuff and don’t want to… do y’all want me to try it?😀