A Khmer dwelling on prime downtown riverside land has come back on the market, despite its widespread reputation as a haunted house.
The wooden house, surrounded by banana trees and garden, sits alongside the Siem Reap River near a pagoda in Beoung Dounpa village, Slorkram commune. The house was built in 2003 in traditional Khmer style by a Cambodian family.
But the family only enjoyed pleasant living in the house for the first month – after that male members of the family residing in the house began dying. A year after moving in, the family vacated the house and it has remained empty since 2004.
Hooch, a young boy, said he often heard strange sounds coming from within the allegedly haunted house.
“It’s freaking scary for me to hear such things in the middle of the night,” Hooch said, staring at the house.
“I remember one night when my dad had just come back from a wedding party, about midnight. I heard a lot of people talking to each other and laughing so loudly in the house. I think there were also a lot children running around in the house, but when I looked through the window, there was nothing there.”
He added, “It was not only me who heard them talking. My family heard it also. And they [the spirits] sometimes do housework like humans, they clean their house and they communicate to their family members as we do.”
He said that during Buddhist ceremonies such as Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben, he heard the sound of Khmer cakes being made and the sound of shuffling feet.
“It scares me almost to death,” Hooch said. “The sounds are so horrible and at night the dogs whimper a lot. I dare not sleep alone.”
Most people in the village firmly believe the house is haunted, but people are wary about poking around and asking too many questions.
Hooch’s mother stared fixedly when asked about the house and advised that sometimes staying in our own worlds without crossing to other worlds is the best thing to do.
Speaking anonymously, she said, “If we don’t bother them, they will never disturb us if we live in our world and they live in theirs.”
Seven years ago, in 2003, when the family moved into the house, the men began dying. First the father died. Then a son-in-law, then an uncle, and then a son also died.
“The spirit takes only males,” Hooch’s mum explained. “All male members in this family died one by one. I think it‘s a woman ghost, but I’ve never seen a ghost at the house. I have only heard horrible sounds such as a woman singing for her baby, and it really freaks me out.”
After the deaths, the family moved to another house and sold the haunted house to a rich woman in Phnom Penh.
Hooch’s mother said, “The new owner rarely comes to see this wooden house. I don’t know why, but she seems intent on keeping the house as original. She didn’t change or rebuild anything. Last year, a group of monks went to the house and prayed for spirits to be reborn. After the praying, the sound of a woman singing for her baby vanished.”
Cambodian people have a strong belief in ghosts and spirits. They believe that ghosts reside in empty houses and pagodas or near bridges.
Hooch’s mother said that almost all households have a "spirit house" that looks like a tiny temple mounted on pillars.
“When people move into a new home they also build a spirit house to look over them in their living and keep mischief and danger away,” she said. “This is a place for the spirits to dwell. No one wants them to become angry as they might come into the real house and start causing mischief, bad luck or bad health.”
According to Hooch’s mother, the Phnom Penh owner decided to sell the house because she has no time to come to Siem Reap to look after the building.
The house sits on a 20m x 150m block of land, totaling 3,000 square meters. The land is going for $450 per square meter, or $1, 350,000 all up..