St. John's Island

Most of us know St John’s Island as the place for a relaxing getaway. Just South East of Sentosa, the island is a big hit with would-be fishermen and nature lovers, with white sandy beaches, clear waters, and vibrant plant life. It has bungalows and a holiday camp for stressed-out city-dwellers. Read more about St John’s Island in our Southern Island guide.

Not many people know about St John’s island and even less know about its gruesome history.

The Legend:

Cholera and leprosy were a big deal in the late 19th century, so St John’s Island was converted into a quarantine station and burial ground. All vessels heading into Singapore were forced to call at this port before passing through to the mainland. The island was also used as a penal settlement for political prisoners and gangsters.

In the heart of the compound lies a sinister human-sized chessboard of unknown age, likely built at the height of British colonialism. During the Japanese occupation, the Imperial Army took over and used the island to house prisoners-of-war (POWs) en masse.

Legend has it that the Japanese soldiers lined the POWs on this board and used them as live chess pieces – with every “captured” prisoner being beheaded on the spot. Even today, people hear screams coming from the board at night.

We think this landmark is one of the most frightening – it reminds us all that there are times when human nature is darker and more violent than any ghost story.

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