Spooky experience: Some of the participants taking a tour around the Penang Museum premises with the staff in medical smocks.
GEORGE TOWN: When you want to go to the toilet, bring a friend. Go alone and you risk returning with two “phantom friends”.
When you take a shower, always keep one piece of clothing on. Watch what you say, no bold remarks or claims of bravery, please.
These were among the long list of advice given by Penang Museum curator Haryany Mohamad to the 40 people who spent a night at the museum last Friday.
In an event dubbed A Night at No. 57 Macalister, the museum’s street address, the group was given a chance to join the first-ever hair-raising slumber party at its premises.
Participants had a fill of horror movies being showed to them, a ghost story telling session and a sketch of a childbirth in progress acted out by the museum staff.
The 99-year history of the museum’s building was enough to bring out the goosebumps.
“It started out as the Maternity Hospital of King Edward VII in 1915 and more than 60,000 babies were born here. During the Occupation, the Japanese used it as a naval hospital. When they left, the British came back and used it as their barracks.
“Later, it was turned into a hospital again but only till 1955,” Haryany said.
After 1955, the premises served as headquarters of the St John’s Ambulance and Red Crescent Society, and the centre for Penang NGOs before being left vacant. Two years ago, it was turned into the state museum.
“There have been all kinds of ghostly tales about this place and museum visitors have often asked if it was haunted. We don’t know for sure but we have CCTV footage of doors closing on their own, chairs suddenly shifting, strange lights flying about and sound of heavy breathing at the mortuary.”
Participants arrived with their sleeping bags, torch lights and other overnight essentials, and were greeted by museum staff dressed in the white smocks of medical personnel.
Even Haryany wore a smock with a red stethoscope hung around her neck.
After the briefing, a buffet dinner was served and participants ate out of the classic dull blue food trays used in hospitals. The menu – steamed fish, vegetable soup and guava – came complete with the standard bland low-sodium preparation.
When darkness fell, they were split into groups and taken on a tour to various parts of the building including the old mortuary and post-mortem facility which was gutted by fire less than two months before the overnight stay was scheduled to take place.
“We used the mortuary as a storeroom. Our plan was to allow visitors to enter it and see what’s left of the fixtures in the post-mortem room. So it is unfortunate that the fire broke out.
“The authorities are still investigating into the cause of the fire,” Haryany added.
The next morning, the participants awoke safe and sound and took part in a treasure hunt.
A participant, who declined to be named, said she felt someone touching her shoulder at the pantry when her group was taken on a tour of the museum.
Haryany said they planned to hold more overnight stays at the Penang Museum.