I went to a haunted reservoir so you don’t have to

My friend and I saw on tiktok and a couple of nature exploration blogs about a supposed haunted reservoir in Singapore near Mount Faber and we were just itching to go and explore it.

The excavation and discovery of this reservoir is still unclear to this date, and was only recently rediscovered in 2014 by the National Heritage Board. The most likely date the reservoir was built was 1899 during the colonial period according to excavation records of Mount Faber. It had managed to stay off government records and maps for almost six decades before its rediscovery.

The reservoir was initially a power station that served companies, hospitals and villages nearby. Once more buildings started developing around and the power station could not meet its demands, it was turned into a small, private, modern swimming pool used by neighbours and the community.

Evidence of swimming pool facilities like diving boards are still lying around. Here I am standing on the diving board still standing at the edge. Photo: Little Full Circles

So how is it haunted?

In 1936, two British soldiers, Private Alfred Birch and Francis Hubbard, drowned in the reservoir. Private Birch, a non-swimmer, drowned by underestimating how deep the water would be. The reservoir maintained its usage as a swimming pool even into the Japanese occupation, but, when a teenager drowned after the war, the second fatality here, the reservoir was ultimately abandoned.

During the decades of abandonment, luscious trees and forestry grew around the water to create an outworldy and mystical scenery. It’s very well hidden within the forest and only those frequenting Mount Faber and the nearby areas are familiar with the route.

We decided to go early in the morning when its still cool but had lots of light. We were a little anxious we might end up getting bitten by a snake or end up in a ditch or slip and fall into the reservoir if we went in the dark. So, be careful when you go, its very easy to slip and fall if you’re not careful because its muddle, steep, and there are no protections.

Luscious greenery on the way to the reservoir and the peak. Photo: Little Full Circles

The walk to the reservoir itself wasn’t that long, it took us around 10-15 minutes to get there. We had read up before that there are patches of mud along the the way, luckily it didn’t rain the day before or in the night, so the mud wasn’t as troublesome. Upon making it to the reservoir, we saw the instagrammable abandoned diving board and just had to take a picture looking outwards. With the overhanging trees and the sun cast above us, it looked like a halo resting above the reservoir.

There were two paths diverging from the reservoir. We decided to follow a random group of hikers who were carrying proper hiking sticks (so they obviously knew what they were doing unlike us) and went right.

About five minutes into following the right trail, we realised why they had the hiking sticks. It was a narrow, steep, root-filled hike up. Because this area is undisturbed and not gentrified, there were no manmade solid pathways. There were only a few red and pink ribbons tied around certain branches or trunks to identify the correct pathway. The hikers told us that seniors who frequent Mount Faber have developed this signalling system to know which they want to go, and to help out fellow novice explorers.

Halfway up, we saw a Japanese memorial tomb. Hidden in the depths of Mount Faber is a tombstone commemorating a Japanese civilian naval engineer who worked in Singapore during the 1940s. He was said to have died due to overworking, and the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned this tomb in 1943 facing Keppel Harbour. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this tomb. People have theorised why the Imperial Japanese Navy would commission a tomb for one person, and why he wasn’t buried at the Japanese cemetery. We could see that people have left coins and fruits at the memorial tomb.

Japanese memorial tomb at Mount Faber. Photo: Little Full Circles

From the tomb, there are a few shorter branching pathways to explore a few brick walls and lookout points. We decided to continue following the hikers up to the peak of Mount Faber. At this point we were all practically best friends, chatting about the insects, sharing telegram chats, and wondering where mysterious objects left behind came from.

After another steep climb, closing to the peak we could see the cable cars near us. But the path in front of us was much narrower and covered with protruding forestry. We crouched down and weaved through the plants, swatting insects away, and crawled to the top. It took us about half an hour from the reservoir to make it to the viewing peak.

The view was just stunning. Something about the satisfaction from climbing up Mount Faber mixed with the beauty of the lush greenery, the sparkling blue water from the ocean, and the floating cable cars just made my entire day and created one of the best memories of the year so far.

Mount Faber Peak (current). Photo: Little Full Circles

By now, if you did a quick google search, you probably know exactly which reservoir I’m talking about. But, I am a little careful to share how we got there, the pathways and the trails, because of a few reasons. It’s precisely because this place has been untouched for decades that mother nature grew into herself and created this magical place. It wouldn’t be as mystical and exploration-worthy if it wasn’t the way it is now. Right now, there aren’t any safety measures or cautionary signs in the entire place, primarily because the pathways and its existence have been kept on the down-low.

The moment this place becomes extremely popular, as many nature spots tend to become, it becomes a safety hazard and in need of management. That’s when the government or national parks will step in to ensure safe exploration for all visitors. But their intervention means carving our man-made pathways, putting up information tables, safety nets and barriers, and closing off some of the steeper pathways, or gentrifying those pathways. The actual top peak of Mount Faber is currently under construction to create a lookout point.

I highly recommend exploring all these hidden spots within Singapore but maintain a sense of mystery and curiosity. Singapore hustling city life can be quite demanding and these unexplored and undisturbed havens are the best way to unwind and get in touch with nature, before its boarded up.

Historical information from:

Oh, Justin. “Keppel Hill Reservoir: Forgotten Nature Spot Near The CBD Haunted By Singapore’s WWII Past.” The Smart Local. 28 April 2021. https://thesmartlocal.com/read/keppel-hill-reservoir/

Remember Singapore. “The Mystery of a Deserted Japanese Tomb at Mount Faber.” Remember Singapore. 6 March 2016. https://remembersingapore.org/2016/03/06/japanese-tomb-mount-faber/

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