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25 June 2008, JellyBean @ 3:13 am

Angkor Wat temple (photo by Djeyli)I have always been the kind of person who goes out of their way to find the supernatural and paranormal.

I am curious. I want to know.

These have always seemed to be my mantras in life, so it isn’t surprising that I often seize opportunities even being woefully unprepared. One such opportunity presented itself to me on my recent trip to Cambodia.

Map of CambodiaThe trip was primarily due to renewing my visa, but I had always been fascinated by Cambodia and its often turbulent history — the Angkor Wat temples, the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge and the influence of the French colonialists. At no point had I thought about ghosts, hauntings or other paranormal activities. On my third day in Phnom Penh, my taxi driver / tour guide suggested we go to see the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This being on my agenda, I jumped at the chance and off we went.

Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” or “Strychnine Hill” and it was the site of the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21) concentration camp during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror.

I spent the afternoon on a tour through the prison, hearing about the atrocities that had been committed there. 17,000 – 20,000 prisoners had been housed here, and virtually all of them were brutally tortured and subsequently murdered. Only 12 prisoners survived.

Cheung Ek killing fields (photo by Djeyli)At the end of the tour, my thoughts inevitably turned to the spirits of the dead prisoners. After suffering such incredible pain and anguish, were the prisoners’ spirits still in this place? To find out a little more I approached a security guard who could possibly answer some of my questions. It turned out he was a wealth of information and a lot more.

Security guards at the site do not like working alone. They often report strange creakings, whispering voices, slamming doors, the sound of dragging shackles and, on occasion, strange sounds of human voices in pain. Some have reported seeing strange shadows moving in the corridors. One has reportedly seen the ghost of a woman who committed suicide by jumping off the top floor of the building.

At first I was skeptical, but the more he spoke, I could see the tinge of fear in his eyes and hear the sincerity in his voice. (Subsequently, I found out that the prison is known as the most haunted place in Cambodia).

At this point, my interest had peaked. I asked him if I could come back later that night to see if I could experience some of what he told me. At first, he totally against the idea, but after explaining that I had been to such places before and promising him a gift ($20), he reluctantly agreed that if I came back at 10 pm, he would be on duty and I would be able to explore the facility.

Returning to the hotel, it suddenly struck me — I was totally unprepared for ghost hunting!

To be continued ….

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