Welcome 2021! (Behave Yourself!)

Whew — 2020 is over. Finally. I hope.

So let’s look forward to what’s coming in 2021! Guess what? It’s a new book! And here is a sneak preview of what’s in store for those of you who love ghost stories.

January 1 – The Santika Nightclub Fire, Bangkok, Thailand (2009)

New Year’s Eve in Bangkok, the hard-partying capital of Thailand. All of the city’s nightclubs were open for business, but over a thousand guests and employees packed the Santika. It was a special night – the theme of the party was “Santika’s Last Night” or “Bye Bye Santika”, as the club was scheduled to move to a new location. The Thai band Burn took the stage, lights flashing, music pounding, urging the dancers into a frenzy of celebration for the new year. True to their name, Burn’s stage show featured the bright, colorful lights of sparklers and fireworks.

Minutes after the New Year’s countdown, a fire broke out in the crowded nightclub. The tar paper and plastic sheeting used to keep the tropical rains out of the building caught fire and added to the blaze. The building’s one fire extinguisher was pitifully inadequate against the inferno. Emergency teams raced to the scene, and paramedics tried desperately to reach people trapped on a staircase, but failed. The electrical system of the building shorted out in the intense heat. The exit signs dimmed, then went out, leaving the partiers trapped in the glowing hellscape, unable to find a way out.

No official cause was ever determined for the blaze that killed 66 people and injured 222, but it was generally accepted that the fireworks and sparklers of Burn’s stage show were to blame. What had begun as a night of celebration turned to tragedy, as the revelers suffered burns, or smoke inhalation, or were crushed in the frantic stampede for the elusive exits.

Three days after the fire, some teenagers broke into the roped-off scene to take pictures with their cell phones. Thais believe that ghosts return to the scene of their deaths after three days, so these kids were there to ghost-hunt. No mention was made of them finding any ghosts on that visit, but they had the right idea.

The ravaged skeleton of the building has been torn down, but the ghost stories continue. Residents in the apartment complex across the street from the site report strange noises. At night, they’ll hear the sounds of a huge party coming from the empty lot. The party noises are soon replaced with the sounds of people screaming.

Noel Boyd, the host of Ghost Files Singapore, visited the site of the Santika nightclub in 2015. He went to the site without his team, accompanied only by an employee of the hotel he was staying at in Bangkok. (He brought someone with him so he wouldn’t be completely alone, which is always wise.) As he investigated the empty site, he became aware of negative energy surrounding him. Soon Noel felt very drained, and said that he saw black shadows rushing towards him.

Noel cut the investigation short – he was so powerfully affected by the site’s energy, he just couldn’t handle two hours there. He spoke with the ghosts, pointing out that he was visiting on “Buddha Day”, when spirits are at their strongest. He promised to go to a temple the next day and pray for the souls of the 66 people who lost their lives in the fire. (To watch Noel Boyd’s investigation, please look up “Santika nightclub ghost hunt” on YouTube.)

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