Haunted houses in fun fairs and malls do not excite us anymore. It is merely a gimmick, the scary monsters and ghosts are, after all, people in costumes. But for the diehards who want to experience the thrills and spills of haunted houses there is one place to go – a tour of Batu Gajah’s Kellie’s Castle after dark.
Aptly named, “Pelancongan Malam Paranormal: Merungkai Fakta Misteri” (Paranormal Night Tour: Unlocking Factual Mysteries) is a unique touristic programme aimed at providing visitors a chance to experience Kellie’s castle at its haunting best.
According to Zamri Hj Muhyi of Le Shuttle Event (M) Sdn Bhd, the company that organises the tour, the event is not intended to scare visitors but to give them an opportunity to experience, first-hand, what it is like inside Kellie’s Castle in pitch darkness and after midnight. There have been claims that ghosts roam the building.
The programme is conducted four times a month – on Friday and Saturday of the first and fourth weeks of the month. Each tour can accommodate 40 people beginning at 9pm. Participants need to make prior booking with the management. The length of the tour is 30-45 minutes and the fee is RM80 per person, inclusive of food and insurance.
On Friday February 28, media representatives were invited to be on the inaugural tour before it is opened to the public. I was on the list, being a scribe from Ipoh Echo.
I arrived at 7pm and was astounded by the beauty of the incomplete castle built by Scottish planter, William Kellie Smith, during the British colonial era. Sited on top of a hill with a crystal clear stream running at the front, it was a sight to behold.
Soon after the sun had set, media representatives began to trickle in. By that time, the castle was illuminated by large colour-changing spotlights. We were given T-shirts and told to don them before being ushered into a room for the official launching.
The inaugural night tour was officially opened by the guest of honour, Dato’ Haji Jamry bin Sury, President of the Batu Gajah Municipal Council. A video presentation detailing past paranormal experiences within the castle followed soon after.
We were then split into five groups of 11 individuals, including two staff members. Each group would spend approximately 30 minutes touring the castle. A period of 15 minutes would be spent, with a partner and without torchlight, inside an area of the building where paranormal activities had been reported.
It was past midnight when my group was called for briefing. We were told to stick to the group at all times and not to stray away. If we feel, hear or see anything unnatural, get assistance from the two staff members. After handing us torchlights, we were led past the bridge and into Kellie’s Castle. The time was 1.15am.
The environment surrounding the castle exuded a spooky aura. Against the background of tall dark trees with branches waving ghoulishly in the cold night air, we were showed the Kellas House, the original mansion prior to William Kellie building the castle around it. It was badly damaged by Japanese troops during World War 2.
We were then brought into the castle proper and into the guest room, which is now used as an information counter, and then to the linen room where the alleged sighting of Gopal, the laundry man, was reported. Our next stop was Helen’s room. Helen was William Kellie’s daughter. There have been reports of strange childlike laughter and sightings of toys drifting in the girl’s room. The wooden floorboards creaked under our weight, as we moved upstairs to the master bedroom. It is said that the ghost of William Kellie roams the area and the corridors outside the room.
Here we were split into pairs and placed in designated areas without torchlights. Three were placed along the master bedroom corridor, two each in the guest room and Helen’s room and two in the wine cellar. The wine cellar, apparently, is the spookiest because it is located underground and is seemingly more dark and scary. Being a little adventurous, I coaxed fellow reporter, Khairul, to come along with me into the wine cellar.
We walked down a flight of steps and were soon greeted by the still air and the dark stone walls inside. The cellar is small but there was plenty of room for the both of us to move. After repeating the warnings of how to react if faced with any paranormal entities, the two accompanying staff took our torchlights and left us there for 15 minutes.
From where I was standing, there was a window to my left and to my right was a passageway to the rest of the cellar. In front and behind were empty wine racks. It was pitch black. I heard the occasional ‘whoosh’ sounds coming from the side of the window, but I discounted them as traffic from outside.
There was complete silence; the kind of silence, if it were to continue for long, would prompt you to imagine the unimaginable.
I asked Khairul whether he felt anything. He shook his head. Although it was dark I knew what he meant. I decided to keep the small talk going with Khairul. As we were talking, I could feel the place warm up and beads of sweat were trickling down my forehead. I attributed it to the dry weather and nothing else. However, I felt the lower part of my forearm warming up a little more than the rest of my body.
Soon I saw torchlight flashes from the steps of the cellar. Our 15 minutes were up but it felt like an eternity. We were led up the stairs and out to the castle compound. There, we were brought to an “ustaz” who purified us in case of any paranormal disturbances.
Members from my group then exchanged experiences. One of them saw a fleeting sight of something unnatural in the guest room. Another showed a picture of a mysterious bright light on his camera taken along the corridor. The “ustaz” confirmed that they were indeed paranormal activities.
I smiled nervously, as I ambled out of the castle grounds and into my car to drive back home. The roads were deserted and my thoughts were back to the “whoosh” sounds I heard in the wine cellar. Could it be the wind?
The programme is managed by skilled professionals and is opened to those above 17 with no health problems. Women who are menstruating are not allowed on the tour. Those who are not spiritually sound should also refrain from going. However, there is an “ustaz” to provide visitors with spiritual protection should things prove “spooky”.
Zamari said that plans are in the pipeline to expand the programme to include an overnight stay inside Kellie’s Castle. “It’ll be a true test of courage to stay a night inside one of the spookiest places in the country,” he enthused.
For further details, contact the management between 9am to 6pm at 05 365 3381.