Sabah banking on hauntings to boo-st tourism

KOTA KINABALU: The reportedly haunted Agnes Keith House in Sandakan, already a popular tourist attraction under the State Museum, will be further developed under a new "dark tourism" concept.

This will provide thrillseekers with the opportunity to stay overnight at the former home of American author Agnes Newton Keith, who lived there with husband Harry Keith and their son George back in the British colonial days.

The house gained a reputation as being haunted due to mysterious incidents recorded in Keith’s own writings, particularly a female apparition.

The next owner and a housemaid also experienced such sightings, it was reported.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin said on Sunday (June 27) plans for this "e-seram" programme are being drawn up under the State Museum. ("Seram" is Bahasa Malaysia for "scary" or "eerie".)

The launch of the programme, however, depends on developments concerning the Covid-19 pandemic, Jafry said after visiting the house.

He did say that there would be many interesting anecdotes made available throughout the house, recounting various spooky encounters.

"Besides being the home of a famous writer who wrote three autobiographical accounts during her stay in North Borneo times, the house itself is shrouded in mystery that will make it alluring to visitors, and we should tap into that,” he said in a statement issued after his visit.

(Keith's writings include the famous Land Below the Wind published in 1939; and Three Came Home, about her time in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, which was made into a movie.)

He added that there are other promising locations in Sabah with a history of war, destruction and tragedy that warrant promotion as "dark tourism" products.

On a separate matter, Jafry was reported as saying on Saturday (June 26) that the Federal Government should provide a vaccination quota for tourism industry players who were badly affected by the pandemic.

“The government needs to take proactive action to help those in the industry, so I hope they will give a 20,000- to 30,000-person quota for the tourism sector.

“We can have a direct channel, an appointed agent perhaps, to vaccinate tourism players.

“If we can do it, I am confident all (tourism players) will be vaccinated by October or November, and we can re-open the sector,” he said.

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