Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In Search of ...

The National Museum in Stamford Road is an imposing building. More than 120 years old - she's certainly the grand old dame of Singapore.

Reopened again in 2006 after extensive renovations - the innards of the museum reflect Modern Singapore - new, sleek, high-tech but it also seems to have lost part of its soul - that old charm that made it special.

Back in the "olden days" for me that was the 70s, a trip to the museum (all our schools were within walking distance from the museum and entry was free) was actually a codeword for "let's go look for ghosts" and a great excuse for some mega goofing off. Nevermind it was 1.30 in the afternoon (when school was over). The National Museum was always dark and ethereal-looking at any time of the day. And it didn't hurt that there were corpses everywhere.

You see the old museum was very into "natural history" so there were lots of stuffed animals and birds in dusty showcases. Hell there was even the skeleton of a whale suspended from the ceiling. And so with death already in the air, what better setting could one ask for when doing a spot of ghost hunting!

Now bear in mind that none of us ever saw anything remotely spooky, no disembodied voices or headless corpses floating by. It really didn't matter. We were there to manufacture our own kind of fun. So when there were no visible ghosts to be had, all you are left with is the imagination. And being kids, ours were always locked into overdrive.

We questioned things that we did not know and since there was never anyone around to tell us different, the more ghostly the answer the better.

I remember there was one of these old winding staircases that leads up to the attic I guess. The entrance was always blocked off. That makes sense - today - you didn't want a bunch of nosey kids trooping all over your attic looking for ghosts. But to us, the reasons were always more X-File-ish, always more sinister - "It's blocked off because someone died there... kids went up and never came down ... a coffin was found there with a body inside. Any reason we had to speculate, must have a some ghoulish explanation. So it was fun making up stories as we went along.

If memory serves me correctly, there was a room filled with body parts stuffed in those bottles you find in science labs. One contained a human fetus floating in some yellowish liquid - probably formaldehyde - Okay maybe it wasn't actually a human fetus - it could have been an animal.

But to an eight-year-old ... wow ... think of the possible stories. Does the baby cry at night when no one was about? Does it climb out of its bottle looking for little children to take its place? You would drive yourself silly thinking up stuff like this and that was exactly what we did - exactly the whole point of the outing.

So is or was the National Museum ever haunted? .... Nah but I would like to think that the spirits of some innocent kids out on an adventure, still live on somewhere within those hallowed halls ...

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