Tiger Balm Gardens: Still Spooked as an Adult

Decided to do a separate post about the scariest, creepiest part of Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Gardens (how we used to refer to it in the 70’s).  Was debating whether to put up the pictures at all, but decided that since I named my blog Singapore Actually (meaning the real Singapore) I can’t not include this. Move on to the next post or avert your eyes if you feel too spooked. Or read my less spooky earlier post about one of the campiest theme parks in Singapore, perhaps the world?

There’s still time to stop here if you can’t take the nightmarish images. This first picture is not scary as it depicts the people who did more good than bad and they go to heaven. Yeah I never quite got the concept of heaven and hell but it used to scare me a kid. Never thought that anyone deserved eternal punishment that bad. Although in this case it seems the punishment is not eternal and at the end of it they get reincarnated. So I wonder if it’s all metaphorical and the punishment stands for your guilty conscience? Or perhaps just stories to scare children into listening. Yeah, more the latter I am thinking.

What I found more interesting with the explanations of which punishment you’d end up with depending on what bad thing you did. I have to admit my cousin and I were tickled as it was pretty ridiculous. Some of the things were not bad at all. And in some cases, being in particular professions would then mean you would be in danger for these hellish punishments.

The shadows these figures cast add to the scariness.

All I could think as a child (although I recall the figures as much tinier – perhaps I viewed them from far away, probably I might have been carried or something?) was that no one deserves to be tortured like this and I still feel the same way. I looked at the evil creatures punishing them as bad and they seem to relish it, and not these poor people who looked so scared. It’s the same reason I can’t watch movies where there is cruelty depicted. I loathe any form of cruelty.


For someone who is perpetually hot in Singapore, this was the least scary of the lot. A place where you freeze from the cold called a cold ice pond.  So all the Singaporeans who pay the S$100 entrance fee to the casinos will have a good giggle because this means you’ll be frozen into a block of ice for gambling. And wouldn’t that include fund managers and stock brokers who gamble with other people’s money? I find that some agents here are like con men. Yup recognized quite a number of behaviours I see rampant in money hungry Singapore.


This one was awful.

Urging people into social unrest?

Beyond gruesome. Still can’t imagine how there is no age limit for this park and so ridiculous that some movie themes are censored. I truly loathe violence and I always find it incredulous that everything is censored and gory violence is left intact. But I am against any form of censorship when it comes to those above 21. Adults are mature enough to decide for themselves.

This pulling out of intestines one I recall as a kid as I didn’t know what that was and had to ask my parents. Back in the 70’s parents never thought of censoring anything and I saw lots of nightmarish shows and did a lot of dangerous things that would make today’s parents totally freak out.

Here’s where the tortured ones are given a potion where they forget their past lives and will be reincarnated. My cousin then commented – what’s the use of punishing them then? So true. Unless of course it’s all not literal.

Outside the courts of hell, this disturbing scene, but upon closer inspection, it’s supposed to be depicting filial piety. A daughter-in-law feeding her mother-in-law, but yeah, I can’t quite yet process this one.

About bookjunkie

Blogging about life in Singapore & recently cancer too.
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5 Responses to Tiger Balm Gardens: Still Spooked as an Adult

  1. Pingback: Haw Par Villa: Gruesome & Strange, but a Once in a Lifetime Kinda Place | Singapore Actually

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 26 July 2012 | The Singapore Daily

  3. More than 35 yrs ago I visited that place as a child. I was freightened by those images. When returned home I became a good boy for a while. Lol!

  4. Heather Wagstaff says:

    I visited in the 60s as a child and was traumatised for years. I saw people being pulled apart tied by the legs to two trees snd dismembered and deboweled aged 5. However it was very memorable for the nice bits as well.

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