Singapore’s Very Own Urban Legends

31 Oct 2017

Heard of the story of Kuchisake-Onna, also known as the slit-mouthed woman? This vengeful character roams the streets of Japan donning a surgical mask. She preys on children and asks them this question, “Am I beautiful?” Before you can even reply, she whips off her mask to reveal her grotesquely deformed face – an enormous slit mouth that extends across the width of her face.

What about the American myth of Bloody Mary? Legend has it that if you stand in a bathroom with a single lit candle and recite the name “Bloody Mary” into the mirror three times in succession, you will invoke the ghost of this witch who lived more than a hundred years ago. Apparently, she was put to death for dabbling in sorcery. Once she is summoned, a host of dire consequences cold befall you – you could be driven insane, she could gouge your eyes out or yank you into the mirror together with her so that your soul will be ensnared there for eternity.

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

What is an Urban Legend?

Urban legends have become a key part of popular culture. They are essentially fictional stories that are relayed from person to person until they become so pervasive that people actually believe them to be true.

The origins of urban legends cannot often be traced. Most of them also seem to be cautionary in nature, warning people about potential hazards. This accounts for their popularity as most people will feel compelled to alert their family and friends and thus end up disseminating these stories to a wider audience.

Urban legends can in fact provide a glimpse into a particular society’s fears and concerns. Thus, urban legends differ from country to country, reflecting the unique issues that different societies are disquieted by.

Singapore’s Very Own Incredible Tales

Here are three well-known urban legends that have become ingrained in our national psyche. Read on, if you dare! Just make sure you are not alone in the room when you are doing so…


During the seventh lunar month or the Hungry Ghost Festival, superstitions and warnings abound. The old folks would warn: “Don’t step on the ashes!”, “Don’t kick the bowls of food!”, “Be careful that you don’t tread on the joss sticks!” These exhortations are meant to protect you from the wrath of the spirits that are released from “The Gates of Hell” and roam the earth during this period.

According to people in the know, people who flout those rules have been known to develop a fever, fall inexplicably sick or encounter financial troubles in the aftermath. In more serious cases, victims can even find themselves possessed by a spirit. It seems that a simple “sorry” is not enough to appease the angry spirits. It might be in your best interest to see a temple medium immediately if you do not want to bear the brunt of a spirit’s vengeance.

To ward off such ill fortune, it is best to steer clear of the sites where those offerings are made. When walking past them, refrain from uttering thoughtless remarks and even looking at them.

Offerings of paper money during the seventh lunar month


The next time you watch a movie at a certain cinema near Dhoby Ghaut, keep your ears pricked and your eyes peeled. Listen out for the crazed giggles of a little girl emanating from the front row, or see if you find a clutch of toys left behind when the lights come on at the end of the movie.

Rumour has it that cinema-goers have seen a little girl seated in the front row of cinema halls 7 and 10 during the first and last screenings of the day. Her features cannot be made out in the darkness and she will invariably leave behind her toys.

As the story goes, gynaecology and paediatric clinics used to occupy the area where the cinema halls now stand. Abortions were said to have been carried out in these clinics and the wandering child ghost is the spirit of one such aborted child.

I want mummy…


Just ask your dad or uncle. Chances are, if he had served a stint in the army on Pulau Tekong he would have been acquainted with the eerie tale of a recruit from Charlie Company who went missing during a route march. Despite an extensive search, the recruit’s body was only found the next day along the route march trail. It was a grisly find that awaited those who located the corpse. It had been disembowelled and the entrails were laid out next to the body alongside the dead recruit’s full pack and rifle.

Following his death, there have apparently been sightings of the dead soldier’s ghost beside the bed he used to occupy. He can also be heard calling for Charlie Company to fall in.

This tale has caught the imagination of so many that it has been resurrected in an episode of local television series “The Incredible Tales” in 2004 and the horror movie “23:59”, a Malaysian-Singaporean venture which was screened in 2011.

Apparently, this urban legend has its roots in an actual incident in 1983 where a recruit was found dead from a ruptured stomach the day after he was reported missing.

Someone’s been sleeping in MY bed!


Intrigued to know more about our local urban myths and legends? You can borrow an excellent compilation of such stories entitled “Singapore Urban Legends Myths & Mysteries” from the library. Do check for its availability as this book written by Singapore Press Holdings journalists can only be found in selected community libraries. You can also refer to this site for a list of the 10 Most Popular Singapore Urban Legends.

Warning: Some of these urban legends can be really spooky so make sure you read them in the comfort of broad daylight!