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Home > Horror News > Eastern Horror News > Ghosts Of Penang Museum
Ghosts Of Penang Museum
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THE fort lay lost in the jungle for some 57 years. Few locals dared to visit the site as it was reputed to be haunted, in fact they called it Bukit Hantu (“Ghost Hill”). Then along came Johari Shafie. This enterprising man from Kedah rediscovered the site and transformed it into a living war museum.

Next time you are in Penang, make sure you visit the outdoor Living War Museum at Bukit Batu Maung. It is an educational step back in time and is a unique concept, situated in the grounds of this apparently haunted fort. During its heyday in the 1930′s this mighty fortress protected the island from its enemies. It was built by the British and was two times the size of Singapore’s fort. Then during the Japanese era it was used as a detention centre for POW’s. After the war ended in August 1945 the fort was abandoned and slowly the jungle covered the site. The locals had no interest in the site and it lay lost and ignored until 1993 when Johari found it.

Johari had actually played around its base of the hill as a child, but it wasn’t until many years later that he went up to the summit, and found the fort. He developed an idea to turn the fortress into a living war museum. Accompanied by his wife Jenny, they travelled overseas to some 28 countries visiting war museums and doing research, returning to Malaysia in 1995. Johari submitted a paper to the government for permission to open the site as an outdoor museum and got the go ahead in March 2002. The next six months were spent clearing the site. They cleared and restored the artifacts, adding some extra ones. The area was exorcised to remove the spirits and they returned the buildings to their original state.

The result is quite amazing. This mighty fortress has been returned to its former glory. Signposted trails lead around the site and information boards are placed at each of the relics. You can get an idea of how the soldiers lived, see their barracks and cookhouses, even an infirmary. Go into the underground communication rooms and stores, and the more adventurous can explore the narrow dark tunnels. As you walk around and see the pillboxes and canon firing areas you really begin to get a feel that you have stepped back in time. There are some 60 relics to see.

The fortress was designed by Royal British Engineers, and built by convicts who had a death warrant; they were shipped here from overseas, from places such as Gibraltar and India. The barracks were designed according to rank. There was one set for the British officers, others for the British Other Ranks and also the Indian Other Ranks, and one for the Malays. They each had their own cookhouse according to their religion, although the Brits had rations sent in from outside. You can really get a feel of how the men lived in wartime as you walk around their quarters. Their toilet consisted of a bucket secluded in a walled cubicle, with a basic washroom next to it. Underground pipes supplied water from a well.

When the Japanese invaded in August 1941 the site became a prisoner of war camp. From here the prisoners were sent to Kanchanaburi or Singapore, according to their fitness and skills. The fortress became a torture centre. The Japanese tortured many of the local Chinese people, as the latter supported the Chinese who were massacred by the Japanese during the invasion of Nanking in 1937.

The famous executioner Suzuki beheaded people without a blindfold. He would drip blood from the knife into a bottle of brandy and drink it. This was to scare the locals against the Japanese. The locals then ran away to the jungle. Some bodies were dumped, others were taken to the British or Japanese cemetery. Some men had to dig their own grave. You can see the guillotine site as well as the gallows. When the site was cleared a grave was found, and the area was burnt to settle the spirits.

I was fascinated by the underground areas. There are offices and halls, logistic and intelligence centres, ammunition stores, all with ventilation shafts supplying fresh air. The military tunnels are worth exploring if you are not claustrophobic. But be cautioned, they are rather small. Some are body sized, in others you have to crawl, and one is now inhabited by bats. It can be a bit unnerving to be in a small tunnel with bats flying close to you but they soon get out of your way. There is no lighting here, but you can borrow a torch from the ticket office.

An explosives dump was situated 4 storeys underground. There was a pulley to bring up the heavy loads, but the men had to use metal stairs to go up and down to the tunnels. They also had an escape hatch for times of emergency. You can see mortar shells on display at one of the canon firing bays. The six-inch breech guns were used to fire on enemies approaching from the sea. From the site the officers could communicate directly with the Cabinet War Room in London. There is even a submarine-landing bay.

As you walk around, you begin to get some idea of how the largest military complex in Malaysia was run. There are lots of notice boards giving the history of World War II followed by the Japanese invasion in this area. You can imagine how the people lived, trained and fought here. Listen carefully and you can almost imagine the screams of soldiers being tortured or executed here. Many people describe the place as creepy.

The site has been left in its natural state as much as possible, so you walk back in time in a natural environment. There is even a chance of seeing small mammals and birds, maybe even lizards and perhaps a snake. You can enjoy the fresh air and the peaceful surroundings whilst immersing yourself in history.

Whether you are a local or a foreigner, you will be captivated by the adventure of reliving the times gone by.

But watch out for the ghosts.

The Brunei Times

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