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Wednesday, 09 August 2006 08:40

The strange story of a dead soldier and strange happenings in the infamous Pulau Tekong Camp 1


Mystery of Pulau Tekong 3rd Door Bunk


The Pulau Tekong Charlie Company 3rd Door Bunk is a well known army urban legend among the soldiers of Singapore .

It is so famous that a girl I know went off immediately to scold her boyfriend, after I told her that the 3rd door bunk was abandoned since my army days. Her newly enlisted boyfriend had just boasted to her that he slept in that bunk. And that was in year 2002.

Many stories had been told about this bunk. How a recruit on a route march went missing, how he was found with his (1) full pack items neatly displayed on the ground; (2) internal organs all taken out and placed in a stand-by-weapon position; (3) intestines all spilled out; and (4) his changkol blade found embedded in his stomach but facing the wrong way. The last version was what I heard.

It was believed that the dead recruit spirit still resided in his bunk after the tragic death, and so the services of a Taoist Priest were called. A 3rd door was subsequently made in the middle of the bunk to release the dead recruit spirit.

The old Camp 1 and the Charlie Bunk is no longer in use now.

In an attempt to unravel this mystery I had Interviewed many people whom I hope would be able to shed some light as to the true facts of what really happened on that fateful route march.

Still I must stress that all the findings are but conjectures based on what information I have found and may not necessary represent what really happened.

There is no intention whatsoever to bring back any sad memories to the bereaved family or anyone. 

I was also asked for information and some contacts for the STRAITS TIMES Urban Legends Series published in their newspaper.     



I still remember vividly the day I was enlisted to the army. It was the year 1988. Having completed my Polytechnic studies, I was in the second batch of soldiers-to-be (sigh…..) from my age group to be called into national Service. The first batch was in June, when we had just graduated. I was lucky, and had a whole 3 months of ‘freedom’ before the day of my Imprisonment, as I called it then.

I spend 3 happy months as a Technical Writer in Miniscribe Peripherals (Now Maxtor). I still remember the Manager saying to me as I left:” Too bad, Kiddo, you have to play soldier boy, else we would love to have you stay with us!”

Yeah, too bad……that dreaded day came all too soon. The date was September 14, 1988 . I was driven there by my dad in his taxi, my girlfriend and my mum was also there to send me off.

We arrived in the morning at the old Central Manpower Base (CMPB) at Dempsey Road , off Holland Road . Already there was a flurry of motions and activities as families huddled together as mothers and girlfriends held handkerchief to teary eyes, as they gave advices and hugs to their soon-to-be-men.

Lugging 2 heavy bags I reported to my station and surrendered my IC. Then I was brought to a room together with other enlistees, and there we took our Pledge. It was time to walk the last Mile. We walked out and were led by a stern looking corporal who was trying to look friendly. From the sea of faces I saw my girlfriend and my mum. My mum was waving her hands, but not at me, but in an attempt to cool herself in the human-cramped-together heat. My girlfriend she did wave, ever so happily as she lean forward and say: “Bye..! bye!....” Now thinking back, SHE was the only one waving and smiling to see her man going off to 2 and a half year of torture. The rest was cries and wails of distressful women.

I boarded the 3-tonner to collect my ‘barang barang’ from the Central Supply Base. Then I boarded a big flat ship known as the RPL. I remember those darned ships. Always early to pick us up when we have to go to Pulau Tekong, and always late when we need to go back to Singapore .

Once our feet touch the grounds of Pulau Tekong the Corporal reveals his true colours. Where in the 3-tonner he was quiet stern looking man, he was now a loud mouth, foul swearing stern looking man.

We did a quick march, carrying almost twice my weight on my skinny legs. I learnt later that we had to walk almost anywhere in Pulau Tekong. Some of us must have come prepared. For it was then that I learnt to sing the song that I carried in my heart even now. The song is in Hokkien, but this is part of what it said in English Translation:

September Fourteen is a bad day,

is my army enlistment day.

Very early I take taxi,

and taxi brought me to CMPB.

Taxi brought me to CMPB,

Soldier-Head took my pink IC.

After taking my IC I take lorry

And Lorry take me to ITD!

ITD stands for Infantry Training Depot. I was enlisted into Camp 1, Delta Company, Platoon 16.

Camp 1 has a Parade Square , surrounded by the various companies. If I remember correctly, each Company has a Instructor Bunk, 4 Recruit Bunks and a Toilet. There was only 1 public phone per platoon, and lectures were conducted in shared lecture rooms or under trees near the beach.

I was lucky. Delta company bunks faced the beach, and I spent many long hours just sitting outside and staring at (I think) Changi Beach .

The truth is, it was the first time I have been out of Singapore , away from my family. I still recalled those tears I shed, almost each night, both staring out at the sea, and talking on the phone. I still remember patting the guy before me, as he walked away from the phone with red eyes. When my 3 minutes was up, I was the one sniffing away, while the guy behind me pat me on my back.   

In my first night the Strange happened. My bunkmates in the night heard the sound of marching boots marching past our bunk. The stamping of boots were loud as the commands of ‘LEFT RIGH.. LEFT RIGH……’ thundered through the bunk.

“Whoa”.. someone said… “First night kana tekan already. I thought the first two weeks are known as orientation weeks, with no hard training?”

Next day we asked our Corporal, who replied: What marching?? We don’t have night training on the 1st 2 weeks, which are the Orientation week.”

So what did we hear? So what were those marching noises?  So loud that there must be hundreds of men and so near that they must be just outside my bunks?

In the course of my 3 months stay I would continue to experience strange things that occur to almost all of us. There were many times while asleep we would suddenly wake up and jump out of bed, to prepare for breakfast. That's because we had visions and heard cupboards banging and people waking up... and when we did wake up... it was in the still of the night... to which we would collapse back onto bed and slept.  It's all true…. because we talk about our weird waking moments almost every day..

There was once we heard young children laughter.  Not just me... half the bunk heard it.  Someone said they are ghost children..

It was in my first month there that I heard about the 3rd Door.

All long bunk where army recruits slept and have lessons in Pulau Tekong ITD Camp 1 have two doors.  One at each end of the bunk, which is a type of long houses.  All except one.  There was this lecture room bunk in Charlie Company that had 3 doors.

After ROD many years later, when the internet in the home is as common as a toothbrush, I read many versions about the 3rd door.  But this is what I was told……. way back in 1988.

In the past that platoon from Charlie Company went for field training, one of the recruits went to see a doctor that morning and so wasn't in the strength counted for that morning.  On that day after lunch, the sick recruit joined the company.  The corporal however didn't know that and counted strength before moving out.  He thought he counted correctly and so moved off.  Unbeknown to him there was actually one recruit missing, but the sick recruit arrival made up for the shortfall, and so the loss went unnoticed.

Till at night when they had to return their weapons to the armoury, that they found one weapon missing, and so the missing recruit was realized.

On that night a massive search was carried out but they could not find that missing man.

It was  the next morning that  he was found, next to the tree where the company had earlier rested, except that the recruit was quite dead...  His full pack items neatly lay out on the ground, except for the Changkol blade which was missing. The blade was eventually found to be embedded inside the stomach of that recruit, with the blade handle inside the blade STICKING OUT.

The dead recruit was brought back to the Medical Center but the Center refused to take him in, fearing the patients may be alarmed by it.  So the corpse was brought back to the bunk and an autopsy performed that very day.  The corpse was sent back to Singapore after that.

Then the haunting begins.  The dead recruit bed would shake violently, and several times scratches with blood streaks could be seen on the next recruit that slept on the deceased bed.  Many a times that recruit was thrown off the bed.  Finally an exorcist was called in.  The priest informed them that the recruit spirit couldn't leave that bunk, and a 3rd door had to be made in the center of the bunker.

So a 3rd door was made. That night, the whole Pulau Tekong camp was chased back to Singapore and the ritual conducted.

So did the ritual worked? Did the 3rd door allowed the spirit of the dead recruit to leave the bunk and his bunkmates alone? At that time, we really didn’t know. I was there, I saw the sign ‘Lecture Theatre’ hanging at the top of the door. But it remained deserted and unused.
I remember passing by the 3rd door bunk when I was on guard duty and have to patrol the whole camp. Creepy it was, though I didn't see anything.

In the daytime I did manage to glimpse inside once while passing by.  It was fully boarded and the inside very dark.  There were many colored papers spilled all over the floor.  Though designated as a theatre it is entirely emptied of any seats or furniture, except for those colored strip of talisman papers all over the floor.


This is me in my bunk, young strapping man with a waist line I now can only remember back with envy and regret. I was lucky to bunk next to the bespectacled guy behind me, his cupboard is always filled with tidbits he would share. 



This is my platoon mates just outside our bunk. You can roughly see the timber louvered walls. I am the 1st one from the left in the front 2nd row. 



This is a typical view of how a Camp 1 Recruit Sleeping bunk looked like.

In my mind then were these burning questions: Is there a truth to this story?  If not why was this the only bunker out of all the bunkers to have the 3rd door?  Why designate it as a lecture theatre but leave it empty?  Why seal up all the windows?  The door was locked at all times.  But on that day it opened.  Was it really open?  Or did I entered into another realm unknowingly and saw that open door?

There were stories following this one.  That there was to be no night training on Thursday night because that recruit was killed on Thursday night.

Follow-up Story 1
Following that fateful night a company of men lost their way on Thursday night and though they try and try but still couldn't find their way out...  Instead they ended at the same intersection - the tree where the boy was found.

Follow-up Story 2
Two commanders who scoffed the idea of no night training on Thursday left to stay outside.  They were both found dead the next day.  You guess it, at the same tree.  One was lying on the ground, and the other was hanging high up on the tree.  On both their faces were the look of extreme fear....  They were both frightened to death.

And such was the stories told to me as a young recruit back in 1988.

My Officer Commanding (OC) didn't believed such stories, and we had night training on Thursday nights as usual, but fortunately with no incident.

Now back in 2003/4, you can easily find from the web different versions of the 3rd door bunk.

I have read later versions of the 3rd door bunk, it seemed that from late 1990s to earlier 2000, the popular version was that the recruit died in the late 1980s, and instead of the Changkol Blade embedded in his stomach, the poor recruit now have all his organs taken out (disemboweled) and laid on the ground in a Stand By Weapon position. An easier version was also that he wasn’t disemboweled at all, but rather his fullpack items were removed from his fullpack and laid neatly on his groundsheet.

What ever the story might be, it had already fired my imagination, and so began the hunt for the truth behind the Charlie Company 3rd Door Bunk Myth.

1st Hurdle – The Year it happened

Since I was a recruit in 1988, we could easily rule out the recruit death occurring in the late 1980s. So it had to be before my time.

I first started out by interviewing an ‘old bird’. That’s a Singaporean Slang for someone who is an Old Hand in a certain matter. In this case, I am talking of an old soldier.

Mr Robert was edging past his 50s, and vaguely recalled the story. He said:

I heard this story from my army mates back in late 1980s, whom I believe may have belonged to the time when this event occurred. The story should have occurred just a few year before I heard about it.

It was said that in Pulau Tekong, there was a route march conducted for a group of army recruits. That day they rested somewhere, and when they were about to set off, 1 particular recruit said he needed to rest a while more, and asked the rest of his comrades to go ahead.

After awhile when that platoon realized that that recruit did not catch up with them, they went back to the place they left him. He wasn’t there.

Then they searched in vain, reported back to camp about the missing recruit, and the entire camp searched the island in vain.

The body was found after the 2nd or 3rd day, just below a tree, very near the place where they last left him. There was no wound to be found on him. He was lying facedown.

They did not know how he died, or why they couldn’t find him in the first place, so near their last resting place.

I did not know, nor am aware of any connection of my story to the 3rd door bunk, which I am not aware of.

Mr. Robert wasn’t stationed in Pulau Tekong. He had his training in Sembawang Camp. He heard the story in about the same time I did. Only with a difference:

He wasn’t aware of a 3rd door!

Yes he was aware of a recruit that went missing and died, though he didn’t know or wasn’t told anything about a disemboweled or stabbed stomach.

Confusion poked his head even further up when I interviewed a ex-army officer, a Mr John, formerly an Instructor from Pulau Tekong, who coincidentally was a Commander in Delta Company too, though not in the same platoon. He said:

Being an army officer stationed in Pulau Tekong, I have to take special induction training courses in order to perform my duties as a platoon commander.

In one special session, which I unfortunately missed, but my fellow officers told me, it involved a Mindef Directives on not conducting training on Thursday nights. The reasons cited included an increased risk in accidents, injuries and incidents occurring in Thursday Trainings in the evening. The session included an actual case study of a mysterious death of an army recruit. The incident supposedly occurred in the 1970s.

Basically it involved the incident of a recruit who went missing halfway through a route march. First the platoon, then the company, then the camp, and eventually the entire island was mobilized to look for him. They found him the next day, with his body disemboweled, along the route of the route march.

I am aware there is a 3 door bunk in Charlie Company. I am not aware there is a connection with this story I just mentioned. I believe that the 3 door could have been built for a reason, whether paranormal or not.

And so I was stumped. In the 1970s? He could have remembered the date wrong, but it confirmed what my own OC had said back in 88, that there was a directive that there shouldn’t be any training on Thursdays. John revealed also that he was in ITD just 1 years before me, making it the year 1987. We missed each other by a few batches of recruits when he ROD.

2nd Hurdle – Maybe the 3rd Door of Charlie Company and the death of the Recruit wasn’t connected

That brought me to another dilemma. It would seem that there is a possibility that the death of the recruit may have nothing to do with Charlie Company having a bunk with a 3rd door.

Consider this, from my time 1988 and beyond, the general story line revolve a dead recruit who died during a route march and came back to haunt the bunk he once stayed in, or possibly being autopsied upon. (This is of course unlikely, considering that SAF would not have the policy of bringing dead corpses back to sleeping bunks.

But Mr. Robert, who heard the story from his fellow soldiers, backdated the story to a few years before late 1980s. Compare this with Mr. John, who was there in the year of 1987. He too, although having heard of the route march tragedy, did not know about its connection with the 3rd door, even though he knew about the 3rd door existence.

Is it possible the 3rd door ‘just happen to be there? That it was created out of convenience at a certain time?

One thing’s for sure. Someone did die on a particular route march, possibly before 1986. But could this story even be verified?

Prodding on, after sieving through many forums that provided no further  insights into solving the mystery I finally came onto this story in circulating in some forums, written by a Mr. Soh.

Title: Pulau Tekong True Fact

It is a well-known fact that Pulau Tekong has a number of ghosts. Some of you readers may have read or heard about the ghost at Charlie Company at the old basic military camp 1. Unfortunately, some versions that I read or heard have been distorted over the years.

Here, I hope to set the record straight. Instructors and trainees of Charlie Company, Infantry Training Depot during the March-June 1983 period can vouch for my version of the story. It is NOT my intention to revive hurtful memories especially for the bereaved family or to blame anyone, but purely to narrate facts as they had happened.

The starting point of this true story should be the 16 Km route march about 18 years ago. Before the march, the Officer Commanding of the company asked the trainees whether anyone was sick or not feeling well. No one put up his hand. But there was a trainee among the company, Recruit Tham W.K., who was down with flu but did not put up his hand.

Then the route march started. The platoons took turns to lead the company after each break during the route march. Sometimes, the pace of the march became too hot for some trainees, who could not keep pace and had to fall out. They became stragglers and had to be picked up by a few instructors walking at the rear of the company. The landrover with the medical orderly was also supposed to be at the rear.

Somehow, Tham fell out and managed to slip out of view by taking cover in the forest. He was not to be seen alive again.

During subsequent rest breaks, there were head-counts. He was presumed to be with the medical orderly. It was only in the evening after the route march, when the the rifles were due to be returned to the armoury, that they realised Tham was missing. They went to the medical centre but he was not there. The instructors feared the worst. Overnight, they organised a night-search party for him, re-tracing the 16-Km route taken earlier in the day. They could not find him.

The next day, the entire Camp I ceased training and batches of instructors and trainees were dispatched to find Tham. It was only about 5 p.m. that his own platoon commander (PC) found his corpse. Near a forest track junction, the PC noticed a half-pictched tent. He called out but there was no response. As he neared the tent, he noticed many flies buzzing around and detected a foul stench. There lay before him his dead trainee, lying with one hand holding his rifle and the other hand outstretched with a water bottle, with its cover opened. The PC broke down in tears and wept openly.

(A subsequent post-mortem showed that Tham had apparently died of stomach rupture. When his body system was still hot from the heat of the route march, against the advice of instructors, he had apparently gulped down massive amounts of water suddenly. It was like pouring ice cubes into a thin glass of hot water, which can cause the glass to crack. But the post mortem also found puncture marks on his body, which could not be satisfactorily explained to this day.)

It was left to the Company Sergeant Major and his landrover driver to drive the corpse back to camp for transfer to the mortuary. It was twilight at that time. Inexplicably, the engine could not start. The thought of the two of them spending the night with the corpse unnerved them. But eventually, they somehow had the engine started and returned safely to base.

The late Tham was promoted to NCO and cremated at Mount Vernon with full military honours. As the company trainees lined the road snaking up to the crematorium to salute our late comrade, it was a heart-breaking sight to see a distraught mother being supported by two daughters following the hearse.

A few instructors returned to the site where he departed from this world, to offer incense and prayers. One instructor asked the late Tham not to come back and haunt us, but rather to express his last wishes in a dream so that his soul could rest in peace after his wishes were fulfilled.

But Tham did not listen.

Incident 1: One of the instructors came to the Platoon 9 bunk to remove his personal effects. When he opened up his metal cupboard, there was a foul stench from inside that could not be explained.

Incident 2: In the dead of the night, some trainees of Charlie Company heard Tham's voice shouting for the platoon or company to fall in at the common company compound.

Incident 3 (more scary): One of the platoon 9 section mates woke up in the middle of the night and saw the white figure of Tham's ghost standing in front of his former cupboard ! He bolted to the next double-decker bed, grabbed to share his blanket and said "ghost!" The next morning, the platoon mates could see two trainees pale and ashened by the encounter.

Incident 4: During one of the subsequent route marches (by Golf Company), the company noticed a figure of a soldier in full battle order standing in the distance among some trees. The OC (a former Commando Captain) dashed forward to take a closer look. He quickly ordered the whole company to double past without slowing down to see what he saw. Subsequent route marches were diverted to avoid that area of sighting.

It's been a long time since I last set foot on Pulau Tekong in June 1983. But I heard that the bunk in which the late Tham used was converted into a lecture room and subsequently into a store room. The room was installed with padlocked doors for obvious reasons.

Over the years, generations of trainees who became instructors passed down their version of Tham's story by word of mouth, which unfortunately got distorted in the process.

May his soul rest in peace. 

(End of Narration)

Could this be the one? Have I hit the jackpot? There were many factual information given out that wasn’t available before. The dead recruit was from Charlie Platoon 9. It occurred in the period from June to September 1983. Mr. Soh even mentioned what I already deduced earlier, that the bunk was converted from a lecture room to a store. ( from those who went to Tekong in late 1990s, they said that the store was converted to an Instructor Bunk)

But there was a catch. When I emailed him, asking if the bunk 9 has a 3rd door opened because of the recruit death. He replied that he wasn’t aware of any 3rd door, and maybe I made a mistake, and that it was another case unrelated to what he said!

So now we have someone who said that he was there, knew of the recruit death, but didn’t know anything about the 3rd door.

Could it be that the 3rd door was created after his time? Further confirmation came when I chanced upon a Mr Ricky. Mr Ricky (known then as Corporal Chua) was a NCO stationed in the CCO Tekong.. He provided logistic support to Tekong ITD.

On that fateful night, Mr Corporal Chua said he was the Duty NCO. He said:

The year was around 1983. I wasn’t a sign-on soldier, I was just posted to CCO ITD. I was the duty NCO on that day, and so dispatch the vehicles to search for the missing recruit, together with Charlie Company Officers. I knew he was from Charlie Company, but I don’t know which platoon he was from.

What I know was that after the route march, they did a head count and found they had lost 1 man. They went back and search, but couldn’t find him. So on that night everyone was very excited and I also dispatch out my vehicles to help look for the missing recruit. It was about 3am .

After that they came back after failing to find him. After that, a group of 4 or 5 high ranking officers, whether you believe it or not, went to consult the ‘Tai Yong Gong’ (a Priest in a nearby temple) to seek for help. The Priest who performed this spiritual rite told them not to waste their time, but to go after a certain time, I think 10am… they would be able to find the recruit near the road, and that it would be very easy to find. So they went back to the spot mentioned by the Priest, and as the Priest said, they found the body about 2 meters from the road side.

That was weird, according to Corporal Chua. They had searched that area with search lights, and the whole camp out in force, he was sure they could have found him, if his body is so near the roadside.

There were many houseflies around the body, even though it was only found the next day (afew hours, in fact) the recruit had gone missing. The recruit was dead, even though they couldn’t find any physical evidence on why he died. He was found lying his ground sheet, with his full pack laid out properly beside him. The recruit was lying in a way as if he was sleeping.

They brought the body back to  Medical Center . I didn’t see any of this, but I was told by my driver, who was dispatched by me. He didn’t tell me that he had any engine problem. (Corporal Chua believed that this part mentioned in the earlier version may have been exaggerated.)


This is Corporal Chua, who was the Duty NCO of CCO Tekong on the night of the missing recruit after the route march.

Corporal Chua then when I asked him, said he was not aware of any 3rd door.  He then said that the driver he dispatched out on that fateful night was a Lance Corporal Lee, who happened also to be one of the few Tekong Residents living in Tekong at that time.  By now Lance Corporal Lee should be a Warrant Officer or Staff Sergeant.

And so we seemed to have verified most of the facts mentioned by Mr. Soh, though there are some irregularities. But that is to be expected, as both Corporal Chua and Mr. Soh were speaking from different viewpoint, each experiencing the event from his own level.

But one important fact still sticks out like a sore thumb. Neither Corporal Chua nor Mr. Soh knew about the 3rd door, even though they knew of the route march tragedy.

But still the nets are closing in. I knew that people posted to Tekong in 1983, knew of the recruit death, but not the 3rd door. Officer John who was there in 1987, knew of the route march tragedy, and the 3rd door, but didn’t know if they were connected. I, Charles Goh, who was there in 1988, knew of the route march and the 3rd door.

What I need now was someone who was there between 1986 and 1984.

As luck would have it. I found such a man.

He is 1st Sgt Phua, currently from the same platoon as I am, serving as a NSman in 27 SIB. Sgt Phua was a recruit in Bravo Company, in the year 1986.

He was aware of the 3rd door, but he wasn’t aware of the route march death. Sgt Phua said that he heard that a recruit hung himself in that bunk, and after a bout of strange disturbances, a Priest was called in, who after a ritual declared that a 3rd door have to be made in order for the aggrieved spirit to leave the bunk.

Sgt Phua thus provided the missing link that I was looking for. Though certain facts could never be ascertained to a high degree of accuracy, we could deduce the following conclusion from our interviews and research.

Our Conclusion

1.   It is very possible that at the time of the death of the recruit in 1983, the 3rd door was not built yet. That would explain why people I interviewed belonging to that period was not aware of any 3rd door mystery.


2.   It is very possible that there was a transition period in which for reasons as yet unknown; a 3rd door was built in a Charlie bunk. It is possible that supernatural events occurred in that bunk, including a suicide, that led to a Priest being called in, and a 3rd door created. Sgt Phua knew about the suicide in the bunk with the 3rd door.  


3.   Over a year or so, someone realise the connection, or created the connection between the route march death and the 3rd door.


Whatever the final conclusion may be, Pulau Tekong Camp 1, and the famous 3rd door Charlie Bunk is no longer in use, having been replaced by newer and better facilitated camp buildings.

The last I heard was in 2002, when someone told me that out of the whole Camp 1 barracks, only Charlie Company bunks were doubly sealed with timbers nailed across its doors and windows. Then in 2003, someone told me that in old Camp 1, every other bunk in other companies was still around, except Charlie Companies’. The bunks were demolished to the ground.

Perhaps you who are there now can tell the answer.

But for me, there was 1 last thing to do. If the story told by Mr. Soh was accurate, then the ashes of recruit Tham W. H. should still be there in Mount Vernon Crematorium.

I had to solve this final puzzle to the 3rd door mystery.

And so I did. I found him. As if Fate had guided my path I found him just as I was about to head home after a fruitless 1 hour search.

From the date of birth to the time of death on 24th May 1983, Tham W. H. was 19 years of age, the right age for army enlistment.

And like Mr. Soh, I too prayed that may Mr Tham’s soul rest in peace.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 September 2007 09:00