HOW far would some Singaporeans go to try and strike it rich at the next lottery draw?
Very far, it appears. Even to the extent of seeking help from the dead.
For some unscrupulous punters here, the Choa Chu Kang cemetery is not just a final resting place for the dead.
They see it as a place which can help fulfill their dreams of becoming millionaires.
The New Paper on Sunday learnt from undertakers and regular punters that the hunger for big money has driven some fanatical punters to organise ‘night tours’ by the lorry load to the cemetery.
Their mission: Praying to the dead for ‘lucky’ 4-D numbers for the next draw.
This desperation to win has led to some punters to return to the cemetery week after week.
They give hong bao, ranging from $300 to $500 each, to the mediums or priests who accompany them on these trips.
While offerings of food, joss sticks and incense paper for the dead are a necessity, these punters may also bring along newspapers as ‘reference material’. These are the editions with obituaries or reports of deaths of people due to violent crimes.
They know they risk being arrested for offences such as vandalism if they desecrate the graves. But their desire for a lottery win is stronger.
They are also aware of the superstition that those who offend the dead can be hexed and even face death. But they don’t care.
We spoke to a few 4-D fanatics who have been on such tours.
Mr Chen Xiao Shen, 46, a worksite supervisor, said he’d tagged along ‘night tours’ a couple of times ‘out of curiosity’ and to see what they did.
Those who joined these groups wanted to ask for help in changing their luck and also to win in the 4-D draws.
And some of the methods shocked him. Mr Chen said: ‘I once saw a medium dig up the graves of those who were recently buried.
‘By doing so, the punters believe that it will bring them more luck in the lottery draws.
‘Sometimes they will drive sticks into the graves just to enhance their chances.
‘But these are very drastic measures and don’t happen regularly – usually they’ll just pray at a random spot to the wandering spirits for luck.’
The grave-diggers however would put the soil back to the graves after they are done so they wouldn’t get into trouble.
There are rules to be observed during such ‘tours’.
Participants are not to call each other by names to avoid being identified and ‘possessed by spirits’.
Instead they address each other as ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’.
Lights are strictly forbidden, so torchlights have to be turned off when the medium is chanting prayers.
Mr Chen said: ‘The most important thing is not to talk loudly or you’ll disturb the spirits, which is a big no-no.’
A punter, who identified himself as Ah Tee, said he had seen such tours when he was at the cemetery with two other friends praying for luck and 4-D numbers.
He said: ‘To drive a stick into the grave or its surrounding is the worst possible thing you can do to the dead.
‘It’s an act of driving the stick into the spirit’s heart to force him or her to give you the numbers.
‘Not many people will do it because the consequences can be very serious. I don’t want to risk my life doing it.’
When our news team visited the cemetery on Thursday afternoon and Friday night, we saw the handiwork that was left by the tours.
About six makeshift altars lined a circular clearing, alongside piles of ashes, discarded empty plastic and styrofoam containers left behind from previous visits.
The clearing, about the size of a badminton court, has a commanding view of the cemetery, which makes it a prime spot to pray for luck.
The entrance to the cemetery which led to the altars was found lined with long rows of joss sticks and unburnt incense paper or scattered ‘road money’ (a practice that passers-by have to abide by in order to have a safe trip to and from the cemetery).
Mr Tan, a cemetery worker, explained the significance of this ritual: ‘The moment the punters set foot at the entrance, they will light their joss sticks and start to pray.
‘They believe that they have to light up the path to attract the attention of the spirits, besides getting the medium to perform the rituals.’
At about 11pm on Friday, we saw two groups of people praying at an altar and by the entrance. One of the groups even had children among them.
When asked, they denied they were there to pray for 4-D winnings.
‘We are just praying for good health and good luck in general,’ one of them claimed, even though they were spotted burning incense at the entrance of the cemetery.
We also saw one medium who was dressed as a ‘hell deity’ performing rituals at the clearing in the dark.
His temple assistants claimed they were not responsible for any of the night tours and that they did not practise rituals which had to do with unearthing graves.
A spokesman for the National Environment Agency, which maintains the general cleanliness of cemetery grounds, said: ‘Cemeteries are final resting places for the dead.
‘Just as we respect the living, similar respect should also be accorded to the dead. We would like to appeal to the public to refrain from activities, including littering cemetery grounds, that may be deemed disrespectful to the dead.’
‘More violent the death, more luck’
ASK any punter what’s the best time to pray for 4-D numbers and the invariable answer is: Midnight.
They regard it as the ‘most auspicious hour’, and this is also when ‘tours’ to the Choa Chu Kang cemetery most often take place.
A worker at the cemetery, who lives nearby, told The New Paper on Sunday that he has seen lorries carrying as many as 20 people, mostly middle-aged, arriving at the cemetery.
The worker said: ‘They usually come on Friday nights because they hope to get numbers in time for the 4-D draws over the weekends.’
Women also venture on such group tours.
The hong bao they give mediums or priests accompanying them are for chanting prayers and performing rituals which usually take up to two hours.
RETURN THE FAVOURS
He said: ‘The medium will ask the spirits for winning lottery numbers and promise that those who strike it rich will return the favour by acceding to the spirits’ requests.’
For the bolder few who may ask the medium to drive a bamboo stick into the grave to ‘force’ the spirit to give the winning numbers, the risk is high.
The worker at the cemetery claimed: ‘If the person succeeds in driving the stick in the right spot, they will get the winning lottery numbers without any problems.
‘But if they fail, they will rouse the spirit and it may be angered enough to bring harm or even death to the person who instructed the medium to do so.’
While punters do not mind praying to wandering spirits, there are certain deaths, such as those from violent suicides, which they prefer to pay attention to.
Such information will be available ‘through the grapevine’, or from newspaper reports.
Ah Tee, a punter, claimed: ‘The more violent the death, the more accurate the numbers will be.
‘Some also believe that people who committed suicide by hanging themselves will also bring luck to the punters.
‘There are also those who will look out for freshly-dug graves, as they believe that the spirit is more likely to grant their wishes in return for offerings.’
Armed with offerings of chicken, duck, roast pork and tea leaves – some of the must-haves – these punters go about their tasks in a practised, orderly manner.
Some are responsible for keeping the candles lit, others will concentrate on burning incense paper.
Ah Tee said: ‘Punters are very superstitious people and will watch out for the most minor things which may be out of sync with the norm.
‘For instance, if they see the spirits which have been summoned by the mediums or priests, they know that they are down on their luck because only those who are unlucky can see them.’