When I saw a group of paranormal enthusiasts on TikTok venture into Block 26 Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A — a freshly vacated block of public housing flats — I thought, "Why not?"
"I would also like to check out the space. For fun."
Abandoned buildings rare in Singapore
It is not every day you get to find an abandoned building in Singapore that is still publicly accessible.
And based on what was shown on video, it looked like it was worth a trip just to take in the sights, sounds, and smells — and emptiness.
I wasn't thinking so much about the scare factor, or to characterise the space as some freaky paranormal hotspot.
I just wanted to see what happens when a building is left to rot before its demolition.
After all, Sin Ming is in the Bishan-Thomson area — prime real estate region — and the building previously housed so many people who built a community together and formed core memories of neighbourliness.
How scary is that?
Background about Block 26
Some background: Block 26 is a standalone block of flats that was home to 300 residents, including 130 low-income elderly residents.
Residents in the block started moving out from July 2022, and fully vacated the premises by September 2023.
The move is part of HDB’s Relocation Exercise and the area is slated for redevelopment.
Essentially, some residents had stayed in the block for as long as 40 years.
Saying someone's house or safe space is now "haunted" or "scary" does sound a bit rude.
I'd be the first to admit that I'm not the most "sensitive" person around.
I don't see ghosts and I can't say for certain I believe they exist, even though I consider myself to be fairly open-minded to the possibility that there are realms we can't access with our five senses.
Or six senses, if you are into that sort of thing.
In other words, I can be as dense as a rock sometimes, and I just don't "feel" stuff.
The plan, therefore, should have been simple: Show up at Block 26 one evening, not too late, say 10pm, and do a walkthrough for 30 minutes or so.
I decided to wear my running shoes, because at the most basic level, if anything goes south, I reassured myself I can run very far before I gas out.
It's a security blanket measure, if anything.
Not as if ghosts can't follow you if you get sweaty and far.
But as most plans go, they don't go according to plan.
So, I ended up rounding up four other colleagues, one of whom was supposedly way more "sensitive" than the rest of us combined.
Moreover, he is a trained engineer, which means he should be rational, and yet he has always had "encounters" since young, which he knew were out of the ordinary.
And this was where things got more interesting.
Block 26 was less secluded than we imagined.
There were members of the public milling about as some of them used the road by the block to get to other parts of the estate.
There was an elderly man sitting shirtless on the ground at the void deck.
He appeared to have made himself comfortable enough to stay overnight.
A quick scan of the premises revealed that the lifts in the block were working and the staircases were not sealed.
We decided to take the stairs.
Because imagine the lift stalling and us inside going: "?!"
Sights and smells
Old buildings always have a smell.
A building, which has been lived in for so long by so many people and then abandoned, has many smells.
That's the most striking feature of the place.
The second assessment of the area was that it was no longer "alive".
It's a funny thing to say about an inorganic building, but it's a feeling that's hard to avoid because everything was in a state of disarray.
Stickers on walls, accoutrements left behind, and furniture overturned.
It really is a case of people upping sticks one final time and never coming back.
The lack of warm bodies did not make the place any cooler.
Walking around on a humid weekday night was not ideal.
As the block was designed with its units facing each other, the corridor was long, stuffy and humid.
But surprisingly, there were areas that felt well-ventilated and much cooler.
The most unsettling aspect though was the wet spots, as well as unidentified substances on the ground on some floors.
Some parts of the stairs and corridors had shallow puddles of water with no indication how liquid even got there on a day it didn't rain.
An abandoned building still has leaks for sure.
But water in the middle of a corridor?
Also on the ground were feathers and a black substance that looked like glue trap.
I wasn't touching any of that post-pandemic.
We tested some of the gates of the units, which were a bit grimy, and they were bolted shut or secured with cable tie.
Some doors were left ajar.
That provided a peek inside.
Whoever's unit this was previously, we're really sorry for intruding.
The only option after a horizontal tour was to venture higher.
Via the lift this time, having been acquainted with the place.
The 12th floor
In the video featuring the "After Midnight" TikTokers, one of the hosts said: "So, after this we will be going to level 12, because that's where a lot of people said that, that's the most, erm, a lot of things is happening at level 12."
Scanning through the Facebook responses about the article on the TikTokers' excursion, at least one commenter claimed they used to live in the block and it was not always hunky-dory.As they explained, economic hardship and the stresses of daily life did take their toll on people there.
Such experiences are not limited to any socioeconomic class, for sure.
Fact: I grew up in this area back in the 1990s, and I vaguely remember this part of Sin Ming as pretty quiet, but a rougher part of the neighbourhood.
The less rough part was Shunfu.
But that comment stuck.
Sounds of footsteps, gate closing
So, did we encounter anything remotely weird?
The short answer would be, yes.
But it is not a definitive "yes".
While going up the stairs from the 11th to 12th floor, at least three of us heard footsteps or feet shuffling, followed by chatter and metal clanging, as if a gate was being closed.
The sounds lasted 3 seconds and they were distinct enough to be recognisable.
The first thought was that we were not alone in the block as there were other people, given that the building was still open to all and sundry.
But when we climbed to the 12th floor, there was no sign of anyone having been there just seconds prior.
Based on the layout of the building, it was highly improbable that anyone could scoot off to either end and duck by the stairs that quickly for us to miss them.
It is at such times when you truly doubt yourself and your senses.
Was it really audible because not everyone in the group of five heard it?
Did it really come from upstairs?
If those were sounds, who made them?
We left shortly after when there was apparently nothing much else left to see.
According to the sole person in our group who has "heightened abilities", he said after our little adventure that he did at some point catch glimpses of shadows from the corner of his eye.
One shadow was darting down the stairs.
When probed about what he meant, he said they were split-second figures.
He couldn't make out the gender of the entity or see a face.
But the appearance of the shadow was accompanied by an uneasy feeling that our group wasn't alone anymore at the higher floors.
The other four of us, needless to say, felt nothing, and being told post-tour that there was "something", was jarring.
The sounds we heard were something, according to him, but they were harmless, he said.
This got us thinking.
If it weren't for an "interpreter" in our midst to parse what happened, it would have been extremely easy to shrug off the sounds we heard as just something we imagined.
As to why the rest of us were not alerted when there was supposedly something else in our midst in the building, we learned that there was a need to keep a poker face.
If you show that you know something's up and acknowledge the presence of the entity, you reveal yourself as "communicative".
It is better to appear ignorant, in other words.
Given what I had felt, would I visit another abandoned building in Singapore next time?
In a heartbeat.
But at the same time, I don't know what to make of the idea that a place can become inhabited by others just because no one else lives there.
Maybe that's the point.
Places always need to be inhabited.
Which is why there aren't that many empty buildings in Singapore.
Top photos by Andrew Koay