Sabah's ghost tours idea exorcised for now

KOTA KINABALU: Plans to carry out a "dark tourism" concept for the supposedly haunted Agnes Keith House in Sandakan will be put on hold pending a thorough review, following concerns that it might affect the heritage value of the colonial structure.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin (pic) said this after previously announcing on Sunday (June 27) that the e-seram programme was in the pipeline for the house managed by the state museum.

"Seram" is Bahasa Malaysia for "scary" or "eerie".

The Agnes Keith House is already a popular tourism spot for those visiting Sandakan, where it was the home of American author Agnes Newton Keith with her husband Harry Keith and son George back in 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 reportedly experienced such sightings.

The programme which had yet to be launched due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, would have allowed thrill-seekers to stay overnight at the house.

However, former state Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Datuk Christina Liew criticised the move on Monday (June 28), asking the state government to review the plan as "promoting ghost or haunting tours is not a trend in the Malaysian market".

Liew added that the legacy of Agnes Keith should be honoured and the house respected as a heritage site.

Jafry explained that the e-seram programme is just one of the suggestions to add value to existing tourism destinations in Sabah through a "story-telling" approach.

“Many may have been surprised with the proposal as they might not totally understand the dark tourism concept. The e-seram programme would also give visitors a new experience of spending a night at the house of the famous author to know more about her history.

“It would not jeopardise the value of the house as a heritage structure, in fact, we expect it to garner more visitors with a deep fascination with history.

“However (due to latest developments), I have asked the state Museum Department to make a detailed review on the proposal before it is executed - This includes getting views from tourism industry players in this state,” said Jafry.

Several people online have also poked fun at the state government's plan to use ghosts to promote tourism.

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