Daphne Iking: ‘I saw this shadowy figure looking at me!’

“I see dead people”.

It’s only four words, but it’s memorable enough for it to secure a spot in every ‘most memorable movie quotes’ list you can name out there. But for Daphne Iking, those four words are not just a movie quote; it’s her way of life.

You see, Daphne was born with the sixth sense, and she’s been seeing dead people for as long as she can remember. And on 30th August, the Malaysian personality will be sharing her ghostly experiences with the whole of Asia in Bio Channel’s ‘My Ghost Story Asia’, a new paranormal show that features true accounts with the supernatural shared by normal people like us.

The 33-year-old actress recently sat down with us to talk about her scary experiences with the dead, how she first found out that she has ‘the gift’ and a creepy old man she bumped into in a lift. 

Can you tell us about your experience that is featured in ‘My Ghost Story Asia’?
It happened while I was filming the movie “Belukar”. It was the first scene of the movie where I was supposed to get ‘shot’ by my co-star and I would fall to the ground. The filming took place in a jungle in Labuan at 2am. After the scene, we went back to the hostel and went to sleep. The next morning, I met the crew downstairs for breakfast and I was my usual joker self. But the crew members were all very quiet; some even looked angry.

So, I asked one of the production members who I’m BFFs with: “Why is everyone so mad at me?”. She told me that I was screaming profanities at the director, Jason, and the crew members during the entire shoot. But I don’t remember all of that. All I remember was waking up with a pain in the neck, and I actually had a bruise on the back of my neck! 

After that, I went to Jason to apologise, and then he told me that he and some of the crew members already knew something fishy was going on during the filming, but they kept quiet so that they don’t frighten the others.   

Did the crew see something?

No, they heard something through the walkie-talkie but they just kept quiet. But the best part is; the props guy took a picture of me – in my costume and pretend blood – and around me were six tombstones, with the biggest tombstone located at the spot I was supposed to ‘fall’, and that was the stone that I hit the back of my neck against.

And the tombstones weren’t there when you were filming the scene?
No! And that wasn’t all: in the picture, there was a shadowy figure of a woman looking at me. The props guy was taking one of those ‘Facebook pictures’ and I was in the background looking so tired in my pretend blood with six tombstones and the shadowy figure. And this story was picked up by the producers of ‘My Ghost Story Asia’.

Did you feel something was amiss when you were on location?
I knew that place was ‘kotor’, but then you just say your prayers and you feel fine. But it was that particular night that the whole crew was so busy; we didn’t manage to say our prayers.

Is this your only time encountering something paranormal, or..?
Well, I don’t tell a lot of people this, but I’ve been in-tuned with things like this since I was a young girl, and my mother thinks that it’s because my great grandmother is a traditional healer from Sabah. So, probably it has passed down to me.

Whoa! Does that mean you can see spirits all this while? Did it scare you knowing that you can see ‘things’?

It used to scare me because when I was studying in London because when I was there, I was already the odd one out, being Asian and stuff, and it didn’t help that when I’m talking to my friends and I would be seeing something there and go, “Hello!” and they’ll go: “Who are you talking to?” So, my mother had to sit me down finally and said: “Girl, don’t feel so bad. Let me tell you why.”

When did you realise you have this gift?

I was around four or five years old. I remember because I had this fascination with graveyards. We had a cathedral near the place we live in London, and at the back, there was this beautiful graveyard. I thought it was a playground because I would play there. I remember talking to my ‘friends’ there. Now that I’m older, I know that the bad spirits are the unhappy ones wandering around. The ones that were there are the ones who didn’t believe they’ve passed. And when my brother and my sister see me talking to my ‘friends’, they would go: “Oh no, she’s talking to her imaginary friends again.”  When my mom finally told me, I knew that it was more than that.

So how did your friends - umm, real friends, we mean - take it when they found out that you have this ‘gift’?
Only a few of my friends know about this. They said: “If we were out somewhere and you see things, don’t tell us.”

Surely, you must have another interesting encounter to share with us.
When I was in university, I brought all my friends to climb Mount Kinabalu and I was playing around with the cannons and all at the peak. Then, I became sick for two weeks. My mom’s a nurse, and she couldn’t find anything wrong with me. We went to all the specialists, all the doctors, but they couldn’t find any specific diseases or anything. In the end, my mom had to call my aunt who is a traditional healer.

I still remember; I was lying down in her ‘kampung’ house and for some strange reason – I don’t speak perfect Kadazan – but I could understand what she was saying to my mom! She said: “She disturbed something in the island, and she has to go now”.  Two hours later, we took a boat to the island and, sick that I was, I apologised to whatever that was there and I was OK after that. I was around 19 years old then, and I said: “Mom, I don’t want this (gift) anymore. Can we do something? Can we talk to the aunty?”. So, my aunty gave me this orange powder and after that, there were no more sightings.

Can you still see them now?
It is very strange. The apartment my husband, Joe, and I are staying now, all this while I feel that it is ‘clean’. But there’s one pillar, one very strange pillar, in the car park, and I always see a very old Chinese man standing there. I always thought it’s very odd for him to be standing there, and he always has mineral water bottles all around him. I’m like, “Oh no, it’s back!” So, I kept quiet and I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell my sister, I didn’t ask my maid; I just didn’t acknowledge it.

One day, when we were walking home, Isobel – my daughter, who was two years old then – and I were walking in front and Joe was walking behind us, and Bel saw the old man on the swing, at the park, and she went: “Hello!” I went: “Yay! Thank god, he’s a real man!”

So, Bel went and talked to him, and I was touching the bottles to see if they were real. The bottles were real, so I concluded that this old man is not one of those ‘things’. Then, Joe came up to me and asked: “Who are you guys talking to?”I said, “This guy” and he went, “What guy?” And that time, we just started dating so I didn’t tell him.

So how did he eventually find out? 
I told him much, much later, because the same guy was in the lift with us once and Belle was talking to him. After awhile, Joe asked: “Who is he?” So, I told him: “Don’t be scared, but this is my whole story”.

You’ve mentioned earlier that your daughter Bel saw the old man too. Does that mean she has the sixth sense too?
There was one time we were at Jalan Masjid India, and I saw a beggar coming towards us, and I know he wasn’t real, so I was praying that he didn’t come over. The beggar came over and grabbed my arm, and I kid you not: his face suddenly changed, it went weird. I pulled away and Bel shouted at him and started beating him. Joe asked what’s going on and I told him about the beggar. And that’s when I know Bel and I have it. 

Now that you’ve been living with this gift for so long, does it still bother you?
I don’t get scared anymore. I used to be frightened because they look so real to me; they just don’t talk.  Now, I’ve embraced it. I’ve learnt to distinguish it; what is real and what is not.

‘My Ghost Story Asia’ airs every Thursday at 10pm on the Bio Channel (Astro Channel 731).