Most of you would not be familiar with the term “gui da qiang”. Translated roughly from Mandarin into “ghosts building walls”, this term, coined in Asia, refers to a phenomenon where a person is prevented from leaving a location by ghosts or other spiritual entities.
Here in Singapore, gui da qiang has been well documented in several parts of the country where spiritual activity is known to be particularly high. Some examples include the infamous old and now abandoned Changi Hospital, Pulau Tekong where our soldiers train, and the long stretches of beach along East Coast Park.
#1: The first thing to know about gui da qiang is that it usually occurs in areas frequented by paranormal entities.
My experience in gui da qiang occurred back in 2013, while I was staying overnight at a Pasir Ris chalet during the school holidays. Renowned for not only being one of the more popular chalet of choice, the Pasir Ris chalet is also rather famous for its hauntings. Sightings of ghosts (especially in the forms of long-haired females and young children), along with unexplainable noises in the night such as crying and laughing, dominate such hauntings.
The chalet was about as chaotic as you might expect – there were ten of us staying overnight, and it was about five in the morning when I finally fell asleep. I shared the room with three of my buddies, while the rest of us were scattered throughout the small two-storey chalet.
#2: There are often tiny, subtle signs hinting towards a possible gui da qiang experience.
For example, it usually takes me little to no time to fall asleep. But on this particular night, I found it incredibly difficult to sleep, despite me being extremely tired. This could not be due to the chalet environment either, as I’d spent previously spent many nights at different chalets in the country. Yet on that particular night, I laid in the bed tossing and turning for almost an hour, before uneasily drifting off to sleep.
In contrast, my other buddies, one of whom was famous in our group for being the least able to fall asleep outside of his home, quickly fell into deep sleep within seconds of hitting the pillow.
#3: Your first few moments in gui da qiang may not be obvious to you – but it is extremely important that you pay attention to any key differences in your environment.
Gui da qiang is so particularly dangerous in that the environment you wake up in is often very similar to that you fell asleep in. Such an environment is purposely crafted by your holding spirit, in order to lure you into a false sense of safety and achieve their goal of trapping you in their dimension for as long as possible. However, there are several crucial, and sometimes, very subtle differences with your new environment.
One of the most common feature of any gui da qiang experience is isolation. No matter where you fell asleep in, and with how many people, you will always wake up alone.
This was exactly what I’d experienced. When I was jolted from my sleep moments later, I was initially disorientated and annoyed. My first reaction was to turn to my buddies, thinking that they were the ones who had awakened me.
However, there was no one in the room except myself. Besides being completely empty, the three other beds in the room were also neatly kept. The blankets were folded nicely at the base of each bed, and perfectly fluffed pillows rested at their heads. My buddies’ bag packs were still in the room, though. However upon further examination, I realised that all their bags, apart from mine, were completely empty. Every single bag and compartment – empty.
The other two bedrooms in the chalet were in similar state. Neatly made beds and empty bags. Out of the ten people who’d stayed here that night, there was only me remaining. Such was the first sign.
The second clue, also very common in gui da qiang, is the noise. Or more specifically, the lack thereof.
Chalets in Singapore are often built rather close to one another, and recreation areas can often be found within the close vicinity of the rooms. In order to fully enjoy your chalet experience, you must become accustomed with the steady level of noise from your surroundings.
It was because of my prior experience with chalets that I soon realised that something was incredibly wrong. The chalet was deathly silent. There was no noise from within it, and none from the outside. I specifically recalled our chalet neighbors for that night to be a group of particularly rowdy teenagers who were singing loudly to karaoke throughout the night. And yet, I heard nothing – not even the sounds of lizards and cicadas – creatures who feature dominantly in the local chalets.
Now, it is extremely important to note besides these two abovementioned indicators, clues and hints of gui da qiang vary widely between individuals, locations, and spiritual entities. If you were camping outdoors, for instance, you might witness lake water flowing uphill. If you were taking a nap in the afternoon, you might wake to pitch black darkness beyond your windows, even if your clock says that you’d not been asleep for more than ten minutes. Or if it was winter, you might wake up to stifling heat despite your windows being open. Similarly, waking up shivering with frosty breaths, in the middle of a summer heatwave, is another clue of you being trapped in gui da qiang.
#4: Stay in your immediate vicinity. Do not stray away.
Waking up alone and disorientated would often prompt the natural reaction of exploration. After all, it is common for one to wish to glean more information about their current plight. However, it is important that you do not stray away from where you woke up from. This is because of the fact that the further you stray, and higher the chance of you getting lost.
As mentioned above, your holding spirit will do everything in its power in order to keep you there, lost and confused. One way it achieves that is to distort your surroundings ever so slightly as you conduct your investigation. Again, such distortions are often subtle and may be easily chalked up to your own emotions of disorientation.
After discovering the empty beds and bags in the chalet, I was beginning to become aware of my current plight. Thankfully, my buddies and I had always been interested in the paranormal, and guo da qiang was a frequent topic of discussion among us. I was able to pinpoint the key differences in my environment, and fix them together in a mental jigsaw. I made sure to remain only within the confines of the chalet, and even then, I experienced several environmental distortions that nearly threw me off.
One of it was the changing of the placement of the chalet staircase. I ventured downstairs in order to fully determine whether my friends had truly vanished from the chalet. I checked the small pantry area, the living room, and the downstairs toilet, before returning upstairs. It was only after reaching the landing upstairs that I realised that the staircase was now at the opposite end of the chalet. Instead of being at the left side of the chalet next to the kitchen, it was now on the extreme right of the chalet, next to the living room instead.
The second distortion occurred on the second floor. Upon realising the staircase change, I now moved with caution and suspicion. I was determined not to be tricked again. Warily, I headed down the corridor, systematically rechecking each bedroom again. But alas, despite my best efforts, I was once again caught unawares. I had reached the end of the corridor where my room was, when I froze. Something felt awfully wrong, and I was compelled to turn around. So I did, and it was only then I realised that instead of there being three rooms along the corridor, there were four instead. And I had checked every single one of them, completely unaware that one of these rooms was a fake.
The most dangerous part of these distortions aren’t the distortions themselves. The most dangerous part is how oblivious one can be to them. Even within the confines of the chalet, and being aware of me experiencing gui da qiang, I was still tricked. For someone with no prior knowledge, such subtle distortions will without a doubt heighten confusion and despair. In order to reduce such effects, it is extremely important that you remain where you are.
#5: Do not panic, and do not make any noise.
This is the rule that will most likely to be broken by anyone trapped by gui da qiang. No matter how stoic you may be, the very environment of gui da qiang is a catalyst for panic. But it is absolutely crucial that you do not do so, and here’s why.
Panicking and making excessive noise will only serve to draw attention to yourself. However, when trapped, what you should do instead is to lay low and stay under the radar. Do not give your holding spirit any reason to further focus its attention onto you. Panicking will also give your holding spirit a sense of satisfaction, which will further encourage them to toy with you in order to gain more pleasure.
What you should do instead is to keep quiet, and move around as stealthily as possible. This was exactly what I aimed to do during my experience. When peering into rooms, I made sure to open the door as slowly as possible in order to minimise the sounds made by rusty hinges. When climbing up the wooden staircase, I took extra care in figuring out which parts of each steps were the least squeaky. I kept my breathing level throughout, fully aware that even the noises brought on by hyperventilation might worsen the experience.
#6: Never look over your shoulder.
After some time in the gui da qiang experience, it is highly likely that your holding entity would make its presence known to you. No matter what shape or form it takes, you should always assume that its intentions are malevolent. After all, it has trapped you in its dimension for its own purpose.
Holding spirits are typically shifty and stealthy. These are not the types of spirits to reveal itself outright. Instead, gui da qiang spirits prefer to draw the disorientation and confusion of its victims out for as long as possible, and simply revealing themselves would not help them achieve this goal. Instead, holding spirits will typically employ the technique of skulking behind its victims. As it continues to toy with you, your holding spirit will eventually become bored. It will begin to physically interact with you.
The most common way to do so is by calling or whispering from behind you. Depending on your holding entity, it may choose to disguise its voice as one of your companions. Doing so would heighten false hope in victims, thereby bringing more pleasure to the holding spirits.
My holding spirit, however, dispensed with the frills and fancies. In its low, croaky voice, it whispered my name from right behind my ear. Instinctively, I began to turn in response, but quickly pulled my resolve together and returned by gaze to right infront of me. I behaved in such a way because of my prior knowledge of the protective triangle, which is a common belief that one is protected from evil spirits by maintaining a triangle shape between one’s shoulder and forehead. As such, people are strongly advised against turning only their head and looking over their shoulders when called from behind, as doing so would break the protective triangle, and leave the person prone to the evildoings of spirits. Spirits are also aware of this, and often utilise the technique of drawing attention from behind in order to break the protective triangle.
#7: Return to your bed.
Now I shall move on to describe the steps you should take in order to drastically increase your chances of successfully returning back to your rightful dimension. The first thing to do is to return back to your bed. Again this ties in with rule #4, where the closer you remain to your bed, the better your chance of returning to it.
Fully aware of this crucial step, I made sure to keep my breathing as level as possible and my emotions in check. I forced myself to ignore the very obvious entity hovering just behind my back, and made my way back into my room. I closed my door while making the very conscious effort to not look back, lest I accidentally break the protective triangle.
I could hear the entity enter the room with me, but I forced myself to remain calm. It was time for the next step.
#8: Wear your clothes inside out.
Undressing in such a stressful situation can be rather trying for most (all) people. Although bizarre sounding, accomplishing this step will help in slowing the entity down while you prepare for the next step. By wearing your clothes inside out, your holding spirit will become confused, and throw it off its game.
Thankfully, I had been wearing a rather simple attire of a shirt and shorts during my experience. Time is of the essence here, and inflexible materials such as jeans may put one at a disadvantage during this step. I made sure to move as effectively as possible, pulling off my shirt, flipping it inside out, before pulling it back on immediately in one swift motion. My haste was not only due to my discomfort, but also due to the fact that the purpose of this step is to surprise the holding spirit. The longer I took, the more time I was allowing my holding spirit to compose itself.
#9: Look between your legs.
In Asia, the space inbetween your legs is typically considered as taboo, as this space serves as a gateway into looking into another dimension. In the real world, this means that looking between your legs would allow you to see spirits and demons of the other dimension standing right behind you – a rather frightening sight indeed.
But when trapped in the other dimension, looking into that very same space would allow you a glimpse back into your own rightful dimension instead. This helps to chart a mental and spiritual map that would direct any individual back into reality.
Although this step would not be of any issue to most people, I was raised from young to abide very strongly by the rule of not looking between my legs. My parents are highly superstitious, and I was often inundated with stories about the horrible things I would view if I were to break the sacred rule. Tales of beady-eyed children squatting behind me, to accounts of long haired pale faced women staring back, flashed in my mind.
So despite the obvious urgency of the situation, I regretfully admit that I hesitated. I had already bent over, my face aimed directly at the appropriate area. But I kept my eyes screwed shut.
Then, there was a low growl from behind me.
Instantly, instinct took over my fear, and I opened my eyes wide. Even though I was certain that the entity was standing right behind me, there was no sign of it between my legs. A good indicator – this meant that I was indeed looking back into my own reality.
Sleep is how you get trapped in gui da qiang. Similarly, sleep is how you escape from gui da qiang.
Having redirected yourself back using the previous step, there’s nothing left to do in this dimension except sleep. A rather difficult thing to do, I have to agree. But a crucial step nonetheless. With the effects of the confusion induced by the changing of clothing in #8 slowly fading away, slumber must be quickly achieved before your holding entity regains its full capacity again.
If you do not achieve this last step, your chances of returning back to your reality will be close to zero. Like any other creature, holding spirits are well capable of learning and adapting, and would endeavor to halt any future escape of escape.
Luckily, I had always been a quick sleeper, and I am well accustomed to sleeping in different environments. This, coupled with my fatigue brought over from my reality, further aided in my attempt to sleep. Keeping my eyes firmly shut, I climbed into bed and pulled the wafer thin blanket over my head. I forced myself to ignore the entity now crouching right over my prone body and took several deep breaths.
One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi.
And I was off.
When I awoke again, it was daylight. The reassuring noise of the local wildlife was discernible from my position on the bed. But what finally set my heart to ease, however, were the familiar voices of my buddies. I was back.
I got lucky that time. I possessed the required knowledge of gui da qiang. But given the obscure nature of this variation of gui da qiang, not many people do, and even lesser people would escape from it successfully.
What fates lie for those who fail to return is unknown to me, and I sincerely wish from the bottom of my heart that none of you would bear the misfortune of doing so.
I hope this post has served its purpose in raising the awareness of gui da qiang.
Remember – if you ever find yourself trapped in gui da qiang, follow each step calmly and carefully.
And whatever happens, go back to sleep.