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Disturbed By The Spirits


The 10-storey apartment block in Queenstown, Singapore has been our family home for over 50 years. It was among the very first government flats built by the Housing Development Board (HDB) during Singapore's fledgling years in the 1960s. We were fortunate enough to have a corner unit on the 7th floor, which meant that my parents were able to cordon off the end of the corridor with an outer security gate and gain some extra space for us.

Entry to the flat is via the outer gate from the corridor and then past the collapsible, accordion-like inner gate, through the front door and straight into the living/dining area. The two bedrooms are situated on the left, leading off from the living room. Past the bedrooms and living area are the narrow gallery kitchen/laundry and the bathroom/toilet. Wide windows spanned the entire back of the kitchen area. On laundry day, Mum would roll up the bamboo blinds and lean out the windows to hang the wet clothing or bed linen on long bamboo poles. The pieces of laundry would flap and 'snap' in the wind like many irregular-shaped flags.

This particular incident happened when I was about 4 or 5 years old, before I started kindergarten. I remember it was during the day, possibly afternoon as my older sister wasn't home yet from school. I was playing by myself out the back in the kitchen of our flat. It was the coolest part of the flat for that time of day, when the sultry heat of the sun was fading. The blinds were up to let in the afternoon breezes to freshen up the place.

All at once, I felt the nape of my neck prickling as if unfriendly eyes were on me. This was strange as I was sitting on a low 'kiddie' stool on the kitchen floor. The flats are positioned a fair distance apart, separated by tall trees, a small playground, playing field or car park. From that angle near the kitchen floor, I should not be in anyone's line of sight, nor would anyone be close enough to fix a hostile stare on me from beyond the kitchen window.

I became panicky for no discernible reason. My heart was pounding, I felt close to tears and the feeling of being threatened was very palpable. One moment I was playing happily, the next I was quite hysterical, pelting out of the kitchen and into the living area. Mum came out of her bedroom to see what was wrong. I kept babbling in Cantonese that I was very scared, very scared. Of what, I couldn't tell her. I just had this weird, overwhelming fear.

Mum managed to settle me down after a while. When Dad came home from work later, he called me to him after dinner. He had lit a terracotta incense burner (I think it held frankincense - the pebbles were light yellow-grey) and fanned the fragrant smoke with his hand over my head. He said it was to ward off ill health as I was quite a sickly child, the only one of my sisters to suffer from chronic asthma.

When Mum's older sister, heard about the incident, she thought Mum might have inadvertently offended the spirits. The wife of one of my uncles had died recently and Mum had gone to a temple to light an incense offering for her. My aunt's theory was that as Mum was not a proper worshiper, this gesture might have been deemed as insincere and disrespectful. The spirits may have picked on me as I was the youngest at the time and the most vulnerable in the family. Their intention perhaps was to send a warning to my Mum for her transgression.

It did seem patently unfair that the spirits would penalize an 'innocent' for the action of another. I found that reasoning rather hard to swallow. But then again...Mum's side of the family still follow a little ancestral worship and other rituals of Taoist origins that comprise nature spirits, earth gods etc.

Interestingly enough some years later, Mum told me she had heard that the HDB flats in our area were built over old Muslim or Hindu burial sites. I wonder if the land had been properly cleansed and blessed by the relevant religious authorities before the building projects commenced. After how I reacted that day, Mum went and asked for a temple priest to bless the flat. When I was in my late teens, after Grandma passed away, she had a 'feng-shui' master (geomancer) pay us a visit to recommend certain auspicious changes to the place - just in case.

To this day, I'm not really sure what made me 'flip' like that. Still, that was the only time it happened. Maybe all Mum's precautions were effective; if anything, they at least helped to preserve our peace of mind.

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The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, Jubeele, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments and participate in the discussion.

Jubeele (26 stories) (897 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-10)
Thanks Fergie for the info on the types of fragrant incense. Can we use aromatherapy oils for the same purpose, I wonder? I've also put sprigs of lavender or rosemary in the linen drawer.

Haha, the Bear Rabble. I think there must be now over a 100 of those assorted furry layabouts at my place. I've written a few funny teddy bear adventures based on them for my nephew and niece when they were little. They've all got stories to tell, but I don't think YGS is the right forum. These days, my bears make themselves useful modelling the jumpers and bags I knit for them. 😁
Fergie (40 stories) (1159 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-10)
Jubeele, "Of all of the five senses which we humans are blessed with, the sense of smell is perhaps the most spontaneous. It is also the most strongly connected of the senses to the areas of the brain that process memory, meaning that even the smallest whiff of a smell that you had previously connected to a certain place can bring you back to that place in mere moments. The sense of smell is directly wired to your brain, unlike the other senses, meaning that the link between smells and brain response is very rapid and quite ancient and primordial in nature." Just a small excerpt from Mr Google.

"Frankincense - Frankincense promotes calm and peace. It's commonly used to relieve stress and anxiety. However it is also useful in ending conflicts and arguments, reestablishing a friendship that has ended due to conflicts (as opposed to neglect), bringing peace and resolution to enemies, and bringing peace and resolution to warring factions. It also alleviates the tension of a tense situation. In all instances, the purpose of frankincense is to end any conflict or tension and bring about a state of peace and calm. Because of its nature frankincense is often used as both a general incense for religious rituals and as an aid for meditation. Frankincense is also believed to have many healing properties, and these are related to relieving conflicts and stresses within ones body which lead to illness.
Rose - Rose is associative with love, sex, and desire. It's a good incense to burn to deities that are associated with love, like Venus and Aphrodite. It's also a good incense for love spells, spells concerned with inciting desire like lures and glamours, and spells that are meant to bring forth your desires.

Sandalwood - Sandalwood is fire and water associative along with being seen as the divine wood. Because of this Sandalwood is a good incense to burn for any deity, and it's also a good incense to use to purify or sanctify an area.

Vanilla - Vanilla is air associative, and it's a good general incense to burn to represent the element of air. Specifically vanilla associates with mental thought, intelligence, and all abilities conferred by these things. The incense is a good choice to burn for deities that are typically looked upon as being concerned with intelligence, like Hermes or Thoth.

Dragon's Blood - Dragon's blood is used for banishing, protection, sexuality, love, and in healing spells involving bleeding."

Dragon's Blood is the one I used to keep at the ready when Shenay had the feeling of being watched by something scary. It worked!

What? No more Teddy bears? Is your army that large? 😉
Jubeele (26 stories) (897 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-09)
Fergie, that's an interesting point about the incense. Isn't smell one of the earliest senses we develop as babies? Our sense of smell influences our appetites through our tastebuds. They can also affect our emotions, e.g. I find lavender relaxing, so I use it in my soaps and lotions. Evocative scents, when paired with the power of belief, could be what makes incense effective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I shall also check out the scents you mentioned the next time I'm at the shops.

My husband has imposed a ban on me collecting more teddy bears for now. He says the Bear Rabble union has begun to make demands for more TV rights!
Fergie (40 stories) (1159 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-09)
Jubeele, little wonder you associate frankincense with your father's protection. I often wonder if it is the incense that protects us, or the *power* we give it.
I use vanilla, sandalwood, dragon blood, sage or frankincense, depending on my intent, or 'severity' of the case in hand. Sometimes I just burn white rose, to welcome visitors.

Lol, your 'library days' stood you in good stead. I am sure our local librarian got sick of me too - she even greeted me by name. I was an only child for many years, and books were my only friends.

Thanks you for your kind comment on my posts. It warms my hearth to know that you enjoyed them. I do seem to have gone through a whole gamut of emotions, don't I?
Thank you for reading them.

Aah! But teddy bears are your 'thing', aren't they? ❤

Thanks for the welcome back!
Jubeele (26 stories) (897 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-08)
Fergie, I never felt quite "at home" again in the flat after that. It's often the everyday-turned-scary scenarios I find the most frightening. To this day, I associate the scent of frankincense with my father's protection. What type of incense do you use? I also use sandalwood at home on occasion.

Thank you for your kind compliment on my English. I've always loved reading and have an interest in a wide variety of subjects. My parents couldn't understand why I wasn't content to just read my school textbooks. In my teens, I must have spent more time at the local library than the shopping mall. It was time well-spent.

I really enjoyed reading about your family and your experiences. You made me laugh, cry, shiver and smile. The one with the white teddy bear is one of my favorites. Thank you for taking the time to read my accounts. Welcome back! ❤
Fergie (40 stories) (1159 posts)
6 years ago (2017-12-08)
Oh wow, Jubeele! That must have been super scary - in your own home, your supposed 'safe place'.

I'm so glad your father knew what to do to appease you, and protect you.

I also keep incense in the house for when my granddaughter has felt fearful of unseen (by me) things. I discovered the power of incense a few years ago. I was never brought up with it.

I find it fascinating to read of other beliefs and cultures, especially written in such fluent English as yours.

Thanks so much for sharing.
Jubeele (26 stories) (897 posts)
7 years ago (2017-09-28)
Hi babygoatpuller

I'm happy you enjoyed my simple story. My older sister did confirm that there used be cemeteries in the area, so I did some further research and found this excerpt:

"Queenstown was formerly a swampy valley with two hills named Hong Lim and Hong Yin. The Hong Lim hill was a cemetery for over 100, 000 Chinese graves, while Hong Yin hill was covered with orchards and rubber plantations. A village called Bo Beh Kang, literally "No Tail River" in Hokkien, was settled by mainly Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka dialect groups. The area also housed a British military camp, known as Buller Camp, at Alexandra Road. The swamp, cemeteries, farm land and camp site were eventually cleared to make way for the development of Queenstown housing estate."

Kwek, L. Y. & Lee, J. (2015). My Queenstown heritage trail. [s.n.], pp. 35 - 36. (Call no.: RSING 915. 95704 KWE-[TRA]); Urban Redevelopment Authority. (n.d.). Queenstown. Retrieved 2016, July 13 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website:

Chinese cemeteries... Maybe the temple priest's blessing did the job after all <happy chills>. 😲
babygoatpuller (4 stories) (432 posts)
7 years ago (2017-09-28)
This was a good read Jubeele. Surely you "flipped" like that because your young little gut told you something was not right and I always say, "go with your gut"!

Your mum and dad had the good sense to immediately do something about it and provided the protection you needed. So many parents just brush these things off and that's just sad.

Were you able to find out any more info about the land use before the HBD built the apartments?

Thanks for sharing.

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