Mount Erskine residents live peacefully with the dead

GEORGE TOWN: She has no supernatural powers and she cannot communicate with the underworld.

But for a 50-year-old housewife, living near the dead has advantages compared to living near people.

The woman, who wants to be known as Chen, said she had been staying next to a graveyard at Mount Erskine here for the last 30 years and she had not faced problems or experienced any scary encounters.

“I've never experienced anything supernatural in my 30 years of living here. Even if I live with ghosts, it's better than living with people because it is not noisy and there is no pollution in this area.

“I feel secure living here. Most of the time, I only close my door's grille and leave my wooden door wide open,” she said.

Chen said she would not move away even if she could afford a bungalow.

Mount Erskine, which is located at the northeastern part of Penang island, comes alive especially during the Qing Ming festival.

The cemeteries in the area date back to the early 19th century and are managed by the United Hokkien Cemetery and Kwangtung and Tengchew associations.

Known as Pek Hoon Sua in Hokkien, there are families living within the cemetery grounds and it has been this way for several decades.

Growing up in the area gives a sense of belonging to Yuen Kah Moon.

Born and bred in Mount Erskine, the 60-year-old retiree said he gave up the comfort of living in a condominium to remain in his old house.

“I have a condominium unit opposite this graveyard but I seldom stay there as I am already used to the environment here,” he said.

He has had several encounters with snakes but to him, even that is not a problem.

“I'm okay with that. I love it so much here that I have even planted bamboo and guava trees outside my house,” he said.

Another resident, “Lor Bak” Long, 65, has been living next to the graveyard since he was young.

“This house is more than 80 years old and I've been staying here since I was 10. I prefer to stay here as it has the kampung' feel.

“I can walk or drive out easily compared to those living in high-rise buildings,” he said outside his wooden and zinc house.

Long, who sells lor bak for a living, said he had never had the chills being surrounded by graves.

“They (the dead) are like our friends. If we don't disturb them, they won't disturb us.

“We need to respect the dead and their graves.

“It's important not to dirty or damage their place,” he said.

Long lives there with his wife and sister while his children are working in other states.

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