In 2006, a woman approached “Ghostbuster” Grand Master Chew Hon Chin, 72, for help to deal with “a problem” that had plagued her for eight years.
The woman, who was in her 20s, came into Chew’s shop in Katong Shopping Centre accompanied by her boyfriend. She was observed to be highly strung, tip-toeing on her heels with her tongue sticking out.
Immediately, Chew could sense what was wrong with her. “She was possessed by a ghost of a woman who committed suicide by hanging in East Coast Park. She was down on her luck when she visited the park, and it followed her back,” said Chew in Mandarin.
It was a “tough” case requiring 10 days for the veteran exorcist to resolve. Eventually, with the help of a senior exorcist from Indonesia, he could “negotiate with the ghost”, who requested for a house.
He brought his client to Indonesia where they bought a spartan kelong for $500. The spirit was trapped in a banana tree and left behind in the kelong while Chew prayed for his screaming client.
Seemingly appeased, the spirit stayed put. After leaving the place, Chew set fire to a bridge linking the kelong.
Chew’s client calmed down after the ritual – she was “cured”.
Craft of removing curses
Over 14 years in his line of work, Chew has encountered numerous “unexplainable” phenomena. The spry man recounted meeting an elderly client who was possessed by three spirits, including that of her aborted child.
Another client had her house haunted by a being that had the “head of a human and the body of a spider”. In another case, a man was followed by a “monkey” apparition, which left faint footprints on a bed of flour set up by Chew and his team.
“The spirits are everywhere, even in daytime. Some appear as people dressed in modern or outdated clothes. Their common trait? They have no feet,” Chew quipped.
Dealing with the spirits, however, is not the only service that Chew provides.
Since opening “Ghostbuster: Fengshui Masters & Exorcists” in 2004, Chew claimed to have also helped his clients to get rid of cursed items, which were often hidden from view. Some of the items that had curses removed by Chew or his disciples were displayed at his shopfront, including a child’s doll and a jar stuffed with snakes.
“Once, we had to dig out a cursed item from behind a client’s father’s burial mound,” Chew recounted.
His spiritual affinity with the Jade Emperor led Chew to the location of the item. It was a piece of bamboo stuffed with nails and needles – the apparent source of his client’s recurring nightmares about his deceased father.
Another client who was believed to be inflicted by a powerful Filipino curse approached Chew for help.
Chew and his helpers dug below the concrete surface at the client’s house and found a bottle that was stuffed with red talismans. By then, it was too late as it was almost depleted of its oil content, according to Chew. Just two days after approaching him, the client passed away.
The rod of fortune
Spirits and curses aside, Chew also provides services and products such as 八字 consultation, geomancy, luck “enhancing” rituals and “wish-granting” amulets. These can range from as low as $80 to as much as thousands of dollars.
“(Clients come to me) when things go wrong in their families, careers or other aspects of their lives. They usually approach us as a last resort after they have exhausted all other avenues,” said Chew.
As a demonstration of his skills, Chew held a divining rod that he claimed can detect the “energy fields” of his clients. The rod is a tool of communication with the Jade Emperor, who can answer Chew’s questions through its movements, according to him.
“Your luck is not very good,” Chew told this reporter as the poles of the rod crossed. He instructed the reporter to hold an amulet that he wore on him – one that has been blessed by the Goddess of Mercy – and the rod slowly unravelled from its cross position.
“Of course, the things I predict are not 100 per cent accurate. 90 per cent success rate, at least,” he said. “But there are cases that I can’t solve…or the god tells me not to help the clients as they have gone against the law or never pay respects to (their) ancestors.”
If necessary, Chew will help to get rid of their bad luck by cutting a kaffir lime with a blackened knife that has been blessed by the Jade Emperor.
“I help them to change their luck. It will take effect as quickly as within an hour or as long as three days,” said Chew.
Clients from all walks of life have sought Chew for his services. Among them are political leaders, members of prominent families, property agents and those in the entertainment scene including a Bollywood actor who refused to be photographed with Chew.
Some have flown down to Singapore from places as far as the US, Portugal, Kuwait, and Hong Kong to consult him.
When American punk rock band Anti-Flag was in Singapore for a concert, they requested their band manager to bring them to Chew’s shop. Even local film director Eric Khoo dropped by as part of his research on “ghostly matters” for a movie, Chew said.
On top of his regular clientele, he sees around 60 to 70 new customers per month. Unusually, most of his clients are Christians, according to Chew.
“We don’t discriminate (against people of different faiths). Our main focus is to help them solve their problems,” said Chew.
A client’s cleansing ritual
One of Chew’s long-time clients is Ong Liam Beng, 59. The company director was on the brink of bankruptcy when he chanced upon Chew’s shop. Desperate for help, the free-thinker decided to walk in to ask for a luck-enhancing ritual.
Things began to improve quickly for Ong. “The next day, I got a purchase order amounting to $60,000,” he revealed.
Since the turnaround, Ong has sought the advice of Chew and his associates about five times over the years to conduct rituals, mostly in his office or at Chew’s premises.
However, the most recent ritual witnessed by Yahoo News Singapore on 30 August took place in a forested area in Tampines, near a lake.
Acting on instructions, Ong sat cross-legged in the centre of a circle formed by stacks of joss paper and red candles. Prior to that, one of Chew’s associates had lit joss sticks and prayed in all four directions.
Ong was then splashed with a bucket of water drawn from the lake. The bucket was also filled with 12 types of flowers. At the end of the ritual, Ong rubbed some of them on himself.
“Admittedly, I don’t know if the change of luck is a coincidence or due to the power of shifu, but at least I don’t feel so stressful,” he said.
Master of his spiritual destiny
Before he was a seasoned “ghostbuster”, Chew was sceptical about spirits and supernatural rituals. But he encountered a life-changing experience while he was running a KTV lounge in Indonesia.
Then in his 40s, his KTV business was booming and several rivals muscled in. Suddenly, the business did poorly.
Feeling despondent, Chew began drinking up to two cartons of alcohol daily and was losing weight rapidly. He even attempted suicide, said Chew, who showed this reporter the faint scars on his left wrist.
Chew resorted to seeing 10 different “masters” including of Thai, Tibetan, and Indonesian disciplines, and one of them told him that he was cursed. It was so potent that a “master” in Geylang did not dare to lift it, he said.
Eventually, one “master” managed to cure him of his curse after Chew followed his instructions.
“The master used an egg and rolled it on my body. When the egg cracked, it was filled with something black,” Chew revealed. “After the master prayed for me during a ritual, a piece of thread-like substance came out of my belly button. It was about half a metre long.”
It took Chew about eight years after the curse was lifted to fully recover, he said.
A religious epiphany came to him soon after, in which the Jade Emperor urged him to use his powers to help other people, Chew recounted.
“I got a second life. Without the curse, I would never have gone into this line,” he said. “Helping people makes me the happiest.”
But his family members were not as convinced. It took his wife two years into Chew’s new business before she stepped into his shop.
Into the next generation
His eldest son Chew Teck Fatt was initially somewhat embarrassed by his father’s choice of vocation.
“I did not believe in such things. I thought of it as a joke,” the younger Chew, 43, said. “When we went to ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) to set up the company (Ghostbuster), the officer was laughing all the way!”
Nonetheless, Teck Fatt, who was then a Republic of Singapore Air Force specialist with 11 years’ experience, joined his father on a job in Nepal. While roaming a market, an American man grabbed hold of his father and asked if he remembered him. It turned out that the older Chew had helped the man to turn his business around.
Teck Fatt thought the chance meeting was somewhat a miracle and began to see his father’s “dubious” business in a more positive light.
In 2006, Teck Fatt quit his job to join “Ghostbuster: Fengshui Masters & Exorcists” and became his father’s disciple. While his then-girlfriend – now wife – was supportive, his former colleagues thought he was crazy.
These days, the younger Chew is busy modernising the business of divination. The company is working on a subscription-based platform to tell the fortunes of his clients and chart their daily “energy auras”. He hopes to create a mobile application for the service.
Teck Fatt is also focusing on another service called GRIP (Get Right In Place), which helps to profile personality types and provide life coaching.
“We can’t reach other people if we are too religious,” he said.
Extremely challenging vocation
Despite his experience, the younger Chew said he would not suggest his four children to enter the same line. But he conceded, “It’s up to the Jade Emperor to decide.”
The difficulties of the job “are beyond words to describe”, said Teck Fatt. His father used to have 12 disciples, but Teck Fatt and a fellow 36-year-old disciple are the only ones who have persevered.
“A lot of people think it is a glam job, high-paying and a lot of people respect you. You need a lot of training, discipline, and punishment,” added Teck Fatt, who has to abstain from drinking as a “ghostbuster”.
Then there are also the spiritual consequences that he has to face because of his job.
Teck Fatt described his home as “a nest for the spiritual world” where strange occurrences often happen: light bulbs burst without warning; the television switches channels by itself; “spirits” walking on his mattress and worse, his children seeing a “person behind the door”.
They follow him back home every time he completes a task, he said,“ you question your sanity”. But Teck Fatt is determined to stay the course.
“I am committed to the Jade Emperor and I am going to serve him. It’s a responsibility that I must follow through,” he said.
The older Chew echoed the sentiment, called it a “very dangerous profession”.
Having been in the business for years, Chew is unshaken by the sceptics that he has met along the way.
“I can describe (a client’s) flat, whether it is near a lift and even down to the clothes in his cupboard. I am able to describe his dead ancestor’s job, what she did or like to wear in her lifetime. Will they believe me then?” Chew laughed.
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