This is not a ghost story, it is a story of two young lads who braved themselves to pass through some places thought by many as haunted. Places where not one person dared to pass by especially after midnight. It was not a planned idea but an idea that simply sprung out while they were both conversing at that same tembok they usually sat practically every night. They heard so many eerie tales that supposed to have happened in some places right in the heart of Muar town. They just wanted to experience themselves how true are all these tales and perhaps given the opportunity to have an encounter with someone from the ‘other dimension’. They were simply two yound lads who had nothing better to do.
It was Halim who suggested this terrible idea and it was my ego that persuaded me to agree. Yem was not available that night as he had a distant relative spending the night at his house.
“Din, what say you if we cycle and pass through some of those places believed to be spooky?” asked Halim suddenly. It was almost 12 midnight and normally we would have bid each other goodnight but tonight Halim suddenly thought of doing some exciting adventure of just passing by to some of these spooky places.
“Are you mad, don’t you have better things to do?”, I answered as Halim smiled looking straight into my eyes.
“Are you scared?” asked Halim sneeringly.
“I am not saying that I am scared, it is midnight, don’t you think it would be better that we just go to sleep”, I answered back trying very much to disapprove his idea and at the same time feeling appprehension with such an idea. Halim was always braver than me and always without a pang of conscience when it came to this kind of mischievous activities.
“What good is it to pass through these places during the day?” Halim answered back and continued, “I have always been skeptical about all these ghost stories that we have heard and the places that are supposed to be haunted. Come on, let’s do it”. He was so determined that we should excel into this kind of exciting pursuance and quite a risky undertaking. He could sense that I was not too incline to accept the idea but his persistent and persuasive manner made me to finally succumb.
“Ok, where are we going?” I asked him and this time I was seen to be more demanding and I could see that he was satisfied.
“Let us trail from which direction that knocking sound we’ve been hearing whenever it came close to 1am every night”, answered Halim.
During most weekends (Friday and Saturday), the three of us would normally spent together cycling through Muar town, watched any good movies at the Rex theatre and we would have our dinner in any of those good restaurants. We would usually stopped at my house and continued conversing sometime as late as 2am. Every time when it reached 1am, we could hear a knocking sound from a far distant and it would surely puzzled us. It was like the sound of someone knocking at a big metal container and the sound was more obvious when it was done during the silent night producing the reflection of sound.
“I think it is somewhere near Jalan Joned”, continued Halim. “Since it is near that stretch of road, we might as well pass by ‘Kebun Tuanku’, continued Halim.
Most Muarians of my time knew ‘Kebun Tuanku’ was a spooky place and everyone would avoid using this road during the late night especially when cycling alone. It was believed to be the place where the Japanese kept their prisoners during the Japanese occupation. There was a small concrete building with its roof almost worn out and surrounded by big trees. The place was hardly used and there wasn’t any accessibility. According to some old folks I met during my growing days, many people were beheaded in this area by the Japanese with most being the Chinese. During the night they could hear voices, cries and their wailing sound could send shivers down your spine. Some even confessed that they had seen figures moving around the area.
Now that was one hell of a suggestion but nevertheless I thought to myself that I might as well join him. I nodded without saying a word and we both began cycling towards Jalan Joned. The night was bright with its full moon shinning backed by the numerous glittering and twinkling stars up above the heavenly scene. At almost 12pm the night was so silent you could hear even a falling pin. There wasn’t any cyclist passing by except the sight of one or two becas peddling their way home after a long hard day. While we were cycling, Halim told me some stories that were as spooky as our on coming ‘adventure’.
“My uncle said his friend saw two white figures sitting on some tree branches in that area”, Halim said as we both peddled our way. We took the Jalan Ibrahim route heading towards the junction of Jalan Abdul Rahman. All the houses we passed by had their lights off and the only areas lighted were along the areas where the street lights glimmered, some faintly. It was the full moon that provided us with some consolation. The night was still and the breezy wind that would normally pass by seemed to shy away. “What happened to the two white figures, did they create any trouble to your uncle’s friend?” I asked Halim as we kept on peddling.
“Nothing happened, the two white figures just sat at the branches”, replied Halim. We reached the junction and turned right towards the northern side of Jalan Abdul Rahman. This road will lead right to the main entrance of the District Officer’s residence. The area where ‘Kebun Tuanku’ was situated was within the vicinity of Tanjung and Jalan Joned could well serve as the border. Towards the west was Jalan Mariam, another spooky area filled with numerous stories of peculiar sightings.
When we reached the junction of Jalan Abdul Rahman and Jalan Joned where once stood a ‘surau’, I began to feel uneasy but kept on pretending that I was as brave as Samson. We stopped at the junction when Halim took out his cigarette box and offered me one. “You need a lardos (cigarette)?” asked Halim as he lighted the cigarette already at his lips. “I don’t mind”, I answered back. At sixteen years old I was already smoking about four to five sticks a day and grandma was always suspicious. Grandpa always told her that everyday at least one stick would be found missing in his cigarette box. Who else could have done it because Uncle Wak Jis was a very honest man, he wouldn’t do such a thing. It became even more obvious when Wak Jis left home to take up a job at Pontian with the Lembaga Letrik Negara (old name for TNB).
Across the road where stood this ‘surau’ was a small bush with tall trees and some of its branches growing down toward the street lamps avoiding every possible means for the street lights to pierce through. Underneath this small stretch of road was as dark as a cave and we had no choice but to pass through. As we cycled through this dark ‘passage’ accompanied by our bicycle lights, my eyes were all over the places checking of any possible glimpses of ‘unwelcome figure’. The ‘Kebun Tuanku’ was just a few meters away and I was beginning to be scared to the bone. Halim on other hand was seen fearless as he always was and so I pretended to be even more fearless than him puffing away the smoke as I kept on inhaling and my two legs on the rowing pedals.
We passed through the passage with nothing unusual happened and the road ahead began to show more comforting signs with the street lights glowing slightly better than the ones we passed by. That was because the stretch of Jalan Joned had been newly awarded with rows of new street lamp posts using neon bulbs. As we cycled nearer to ‘Kebun Tuanku’, we heard that knocking sound. Halim was right, the sound came from Jalan Joned and it could be right near the junction of Jalan Khalidi. We both stopped for a while trying to reconcile our understanding from where the sound came from. As we lend our ears, we both agreed that the sound came from the other end of Jalan Joned, about a kilometer or two away and so we began peddling. Then we reached right at the heart of ‘Kebun Tuanku’ and Halim suggested that we stopped for a while and so we both did.
It was so quiet as the night grew older and no single soul could be seen. Then Halim shouted, “Hello, anybody around?” I looked at him with astonishment as he shouted the second time. He looked at me and smiled and I thought that it was not funny. I looked around our surroundings and prayed very hard not to let these ‘ghosts’ loosen their leash. Nothing happened, it was just quiet and the full moon was at its height providing excellent quality of illumination that even a falling leaf from a nearby tree was visible. Then we heard the knocking sound and this time the sound was more audible. “Tooong…tooong…tooong” and then it stopped. We both looked at each other and decided to proceed to the other end of Jalan Joned, nearer to Jalan Khalidi. As we kept on cycling, the sound began again and it was now very clear that we thought we should be at the site pretty soon. Now I was beginning to have goose bumps all over both my hands as well as my neck. We kept on cycling and as we were about to reach the junction of Jalan Khalidi, we saw a small lorry coming out from a small lane with both sides full of overgrown lallang, bushes and small trees. We stopped just to obeserve the lorry and as it sped off towards Jalan Khalidi, we could hear again that knocking sound. Halim suggested that we cycled through the small lane and see for ourselves whether the sound came from this direction, and so we did. It was just like James Bond looking for a hidden missile.
As we cycled inside the small lane, we saw from afar two elderly Chinese both with headgears fitted with a torch light. We stopped and gazed at them from a distant quite noticeable by them. Then we saw one of them coming towards us and then he shouted, “Lu apa mau, ini tempat buang taik lah” (What do you want? This place is where we dump the collection of human faeces). Then we heard the knocking sound and it came from the other guy at the site. “Goodness gracious me, is this what we have been looking for?”, I said as I looked at Halim who was almost bursting with laughter. “Sorry towkey, kita salah jalanlah” (sorry, we are lost), I shouted at the Chinese guy and he just nodded. We made our U-turn and started laughing aloud as we peddled home.
The sanitary system during my growing days in Muar town was mainly manual conducted by a company appointed by the Town Council. They would normally go around the housing areas from 1am collecting human faeces and dump it at a specified area, the area where that knocking sound came from. The two of us decided to keep this ‘adventure’ a secret.
We both just could not stop laughing and as we reached my house, it was almost 1.30am in the morning. Halim stopped for a while and we began our amusement expression again like as though we had inhaled that nitrous oxide causing us to keep on laughing. Halim left home at almost 2am and I went straight to my room still laughing.
The following night, Yem joined us for dinner at Pak Ma’il’s restaurant to indulge ourselves with that delicious ‘Mee Bandung’. Later the three of us left for my house and we sat at the tembok talking about yesterday and what to do tomorrow. As we were talking, we didn’t notice it was almost 1am in the morning. Suddenly we heard that knocking sound and Halim looked at me already smiling. Then Yem said, “I wonder from which direction that sound comes from, and what on earth is that sound all about?”
“Maybe it must be a place where all the ghosts go to ease themselves”, answered Halim as he burst into a loud laughter. I could not control myself and joined Halim laughing all out and very loudly.
Yem stared at both us looking very puzzled and then he said, “What’s so funny guys?”