In the above image, the translucent, moon-like orbs of light (3 of them) are what 25 year-old Dante Chua says are spirits or ghosts captured on photographs. Sometimes, he tells me, you can see faces in these orbs. Unfortunately, they don’t present themselves in all pictures.
When he introduces himself as Dante, I think, “Of course this guy’s name is Dante,” the namesake of the man who wrote about his journey through heaven, hell, and purgatory in the 14th Century. His surname, however, being Chua, makes this strange coincidence a little less chilly.
Ever since he was in secondary school, Dante has had an interest in the paranormal. From reading stories on the internet to books on demonology, Dante says that he started photographing “ghosts” 6 years ago to feel connected to them.
Julian: So, can you see ghosts?
Dante: No, I can’t. But I can feel them. Everyone perceives ghosts differently, but for me it’s a feeling where I know they’re there, and my skin starts to feel a bit prickly. Sometimes, people think this “creepy” feeling means they’re scared, but it’s not always true. You’re just sensing some energy there.
J: How did you get into this as a hobby?
D: I watched a lot of science fiction stuff when I was young, so I got interested in this very quickly. I started reading up about this, mostly on the internet, and I also like exploring abandoned parts of Singapore.
J: Why paranormal photography and not paranormal investigative stuff?
D: If you watch a lot of those paranormal investigation videos online, they always try to provoke the spirits. They say things like, “Show yourself to me!”
I don’t want to do this. With photography, I’m just an observer. I’m only there to accompany them, not to disturb them.
D: Once, I was around Pearl’s Hill. It was broad daylight, and I was walking down the hill when I heard footsteps behind me. And I could feel that the spirit was not a good one; it was pushing me to walk faster and faster. All I wanted was to get out of the place, and this was in the day time.
Another time, I was around the Bidadari area when I entered this place, and suddenly froze up. But after I started talking to the forces and making my intentions known, that I was not there to make trouble, I slowly started to be able to walk again.
J: If you capture spirits in pictures, does that mean you bring them home with you?
D: No, it doesn’t work like that. “Ghosts” are usually in a place for a reason. So they stay there.
J: Do you ever worry that spirits might follow you home?
D: No. Once you start getting worried, this is when they start to feed off your negative energy. You need to be firm in your thinking. As long as they know you’re not going to harm them, they’ll just let you pass.
J: What are ghosts?
D: When we die, there is “electrical” energy that escapes our bodies. So these become “spirits.” There’s also a theory in physics saying that there are wormholes, because we live in a four dimensional world where time is also a dimension, there are sometimes tears in this fabric that allows us to see into a different time. So these are also “ghosts.”
My parents can see these things, so once when we were driving back from JB, they saw this family dressed in Victorian era clothing. This is when we’re “looking through time” at people that we cannot touch or interact with, which happens when different points in time collide. It’s a bit like the idea that there are 3 version of you: past you, present you, and future you. So sometimes when you encounter a doppelgänger, that’s also like time colliding. Or when you go to a place and you feel like the place is very familiar, like you’ve been there before, this also time working as dimension.
There are also different kinds of spirits, although in scientific terms this is energy. For example, poltergeists describe more violent energy forms. These are the ones that can move and knock things. Then there are also spirits that are pure evil, but those need to be summoned by witches. There’s also a Chinese saying that every body contains 7 spirits, so they come from us.
D: Yes, there’s actually a group called the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI). They do something similar.
J: Do you all do it for the same reasons?
D: No. Groups like SPI do it for profit. They do it for likes, views on their videos, and all that. I do this because I want to keep the spirits company. I get satisfaction when they accept me and allow me to be there to photograph the scenery.
J: Is there something in particular you’re waiting to capture on camera?
D: No, I don’t wait to capture something specific. If they choose to appear they’ll choose to appear. But of course I obviously will choose somewhere where they will hopefully be around.
D: It’s self-accomplishment, it’s something I want to achieve. I want to communicate with them in a way that I don’t disturb them. So when they appear in my pictures, I feel like they understand me. If they’re not okay with you, they will not come near you. They’ll just go as far as possible away.
J: Are some places more prone to “hauntings” than others?
D: Lim Chu Kang, Old Jurong Road. Caldecott Hill behind the radio gate at the changing rooms. Forested areas, because of the energy of nature and the forest. Like you know how you should never flash your torchlight at the trees at night, it’s because they’re resting in the trees. Sometimes they appear in the form of smells as well, for example a sudden whiff of fragrance in a place.
But night time and more secluded places also just feature more spirits because of the decrease in human activity. So they seem more present there. Technically, there should be ghosts everywhere. It’s just that they choose who to show themselves to.