Abstract: My mother is 94 years old this year. She has a sharp mind and an excellent memory. She has lots of stories to share with me. I have video-taped a good part of them.
This was one of those ghost stories she narrated to me. It was not the scary part of the story that made your hairs stood and the intriguing and suspenseful tale that followed. It was the last part of her comments on the ghost story that was worth everything.
She said, sagely “It is not wise to expose other people in public outrightly, it may harm you in the end.”
Those folks in mid-50s or 60s from Ipoh would have heard of this ghost story before. It was said that this ghost story was an authentic account.
I was born and bred in Ipoh, then a sizeable town to the north of Kuala Lumpur, with Chinese as the predominant residents. Tin mining had made a few Chinese families very rich, and a lot of Chinese men/women folks found work as indentured labourers and coolies at tin mines.
There were two main artery roads that cut through the centre of Ipoh. These two busy thoroughfares bored the British imperial street names of Brewster Road and Hugh Low Street.
A Ghost Story From Ipoh
Odeon cinema was one of the famous cinemas along Brewster Road. It was rumoured that a woman vampire ghost haunted this cinema.
For two consecutive movie sessions in the evening, a woman ticketing clerk found out that there were 2 hell-bank currency notes in her collection. In the Chinese tradition, ghosts used these hell-bank currency notes in the ether world. So, she was short by 2 ticket sales of that amount in her cash tally.
The cinema manager did not believe her. He suspected that the ticketing clerk was making it up, to switch it for real cash. Those days, the same movie would run for more than a week or two. Nobody would watch the same movie for two consecutive nights.
On the third evening, the cinema manager said that he would stand behind the ticket booth to observe. If he or she ever turned up again, the ticketing clerk was to point out the person to him.
Yes, that evening the woman patron came to watch the movie again. She queued up to buy her cinema ticket. The ticketing clerk immediately recognized that this was the same person who appeared for the past two consecutive nights.
There was one patron in front of her in the queue. The ticketing clerk promptly pointed her out to the cinema manager.
At that moment, the woman patron revealed her true form once she was exposed by the ticketing clerk. It was rumoured that the ghost was the jumping vampire ghost from the era of the Qing Dynasty in China, who may have been brought to Ipoh in a small Chinese traditional wine jar by a wayward Taoist monk.
The ticketing clerk got the fright of her life and fainted. Meanwhile, the cinema manager saw nothing that was unusual, except that the woman ticketing clerk had collapsed. She did not feign it.
The ticketing clerk was admitted to the hospital a few days later. She never recovered and died soon after.
Later, people attributed that the cinema manager was lucky as his ‘spiritual joss’ was high. He had some form of Taoist ‘yang’ amulet in his wallet to protect himself before he stood behind the ticketing clerk. He was not about to take any chances of encountering a ghost.
And so, this blood curdling tale got carried far and wide. The death of the clerk lent more credence to the hearsay that the cinema was haunted. The Odean cinema became infamous.
In the seventh month of the lunar year, few would patronize Odeon cinema for evening shows. However, the show would still go on even if there was one patron. Perhaps the cinema manager thought they had to appease the ghost, or she may have some new friends by now, as they would like to watch the movie show repeatedly.
The seventh month on the Chinese Lunar calendar was deemed to be the Hungry Ghosts Festival, where the ‘Hell-Gate” would be opened for ghosts from the ether world to roam freely on the human plane. These hungry ghosts were looking for food, hell-bank currency notes and other earthly luxuries they were enjoying while still alive or denied to them while they were still earthbound.
These luxuries were paper construct of replicas of mansions, cars, furniture, TV sets and effigies of servants and maids to serve the departed. These would then be set on a bonfire so that their deceased relatives would receive them when they go back to where they belonged.
Ipoh became a town where a lot of spooky and supernatural tales were told and retold by Chinese immigrants or Chinese who were born true to Malaysia. Each time as the tales spun, there would get darker, more sinister, and scarier.
And did you hear about the enormous mansion along Hugh Low St where it had been abandoned by a wealthy Chinese family whose fortune in tin mining was in ruins? It was said that the old master raped the young maidservant, and feeling ashamed, she took her own life. As an act of vengeance, the young maid placed several Blackmagic paraphernalia secretly in the mansion to cast some black spells on the family.
She nailed and embedded 7 pieces of 3-inch size carved wooden coffins on top of the horizontal beam at the threshold of the main tall, imposing timber door. Before she hung herself, she placed a curse on this wealthy family for 7 generations.
Well, that would be another story for another post…
Footnote: Video of my mother was done in July 2021.
Credits: chingchailah.blogspot.com, Kinta Tin Mining Museum, video grab of a Hong Kong movie starring Sammo Hung, photos from google and bing.