Welcome to Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG – our commitment to showing you the best of what's going on in the city this week. Every Monday, a guest writer who's "in" with the scene shares a recommendation on what to see, eat, do or buy in the city. In Singapore, buildings almost touch the sky, electric cars are zooming on our expressways, cashless payments are the norm now and you can buy pizzas from a vending machine. But despite being a modern little city, we’re also quite the suckers for ghost stories, and when it comes to that, there’s no one who tells it better than Russell Lee. With 25 books under his popular series, True Singapore Ghost Stories (TSGS) he’s experienced enough to tell us about the spooky things that excite him Singapore.
Hi Russell! What gets you excited about Singapore?
Singapore's multicultural society is unusual. It has provided a unique canvas like nothing else in the world for my stories. Also, Singapore's rapid development — from kampungs to metropolis — has changed our behaviour, feelings and outlook. There are dislocations, cracks and stresses. But all of this is rich material for the TSGS. I view the tension between the material and the spiritual, the here-and-now and the eternal, as critical for balance in life.
Why do you think Singaporeans love ghost stories so much?
I have news for you — Singaporeans are discerning readers and are as fussy about their ghost stories as they are about food. They don't read just any "ghost stories"; they love authentic Singapore and Malaysian-flavoured stories, they love the real deal.
Anything spooky ever happened to you?
Spooky is a feature of daily life for me. Many folks falsely think that spirits only linger in certain "haunted" places. You couldn't be further from the truth. As you read this, you can be sure that there are spiritual forces reading your thoughts and trying to influence you. But there are also good spirits doing their best to help you. This entire world is a battleground for the spirits. Their prize is your soul. Besides buildings and other locations, evil spirits seek for residence in live animals. However, their favourite residence is the human body. Who or what resides in your body?
Beyond the supernatural, what are some scary things about Singapore?
People. They can be even more frightening than evil spirits. A lot of folks are worshipping the god of money. And these rich folks think that the spirit world is for the superstitious and the uninformed. They are wrong on so many counts. They trust in their riches and don't care for anyone. That is exactly the kind of thinking evil forces want us to have. However, know this: You cannot have a balanced view of life without reckoning with the truth of the hereafter. Society has always been better off when it has had a strong moral foundation.
What's next for you?
I live one day at a time. I can't believe that I have been doing this for almost three decades now! I don't know how many more books are left in me but I will keep going for as long as I can. The challenge is to make the latest book the best in the series. One day, however, I will have to take off my mask, put down my pen, get out of the Russell Lee regulation black outfit, and finally call it a day. Till then, I'll soldier on and tell stories of the titanic battle between good and evil, of hope and despair, of angels and demons, and the hope we all cherish to come out victors in this battle.