Ghost Explained (Part 1)

The Quest to understand life after death

From Spiritualism to quantum physics, the quest persists to find out exactly what haunts us, and how, and why…

Inquiring Minds

The idea that the energy of life just vanishes into nothingness in death has never been comfortable for us humans.  Such potent energy must go somewhere: to Paradise, perhaps, or the Underworld, or some purgatorial holding pattern, or the interstices between the stars.  It must revive secretly on some other side of existence.  And there, many have long supposed, the spirits traverse eternity, reaping whatever good or ill they sowed in life.

Such an explanation accounts nicely for what happens to an individual’s life force.  But not all energy that has gone on to its post-mortem dimension seems content to stay there.  Unfinished business, hatred left unquenched,  revenge uncompleted, one’s murderer gone free, lost or unrequited love, the need to warn or scare or save one’s survivors; there are so many compelling reasons not to rest that one would expect the ether to teem with souls still not quite decoupled from life.  And so they seem to over about us, occasionally visible, often subtly perceptible, just out of earshot, but nevertheless there, palpable enough to prompt never-quite-answered about who they are and what they want.

The questions about the fate of the life force have been asked for thousands of years.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, it appeared at times that science was on the verge of providing some definitive answers.  Energy of all sorts was on the verge of providing some definitive answers.  Energy of all sorts was much on people’s minds then: electrical energy, magnetic energy, how to two transferred back and forth, how energy was transformed into light and heat.  Energy never vanished, it seemed, it merely changed forms.  So it might be with the energy of life, some scientists speculated:  Perhaps life was another manifestation of energy, as indestructible as electricity or sunlight, and as quick to take another form.

It made sense, and it carried the advantage that the whole business of an afterlife might be viewed objectively, not through the distorting lenses of superstition or metaphysics.  And if one could quantify the existence of human energy after the body’s death – ghosts and spirits, as it were, why couldn’t one get in touch with them?  Why couldn’t science open a line to the Other side?

Science and the Supernatural

The idea smacked somewhat of hubris; the science of the time (and of today, for that matter) was as yet ill-equipped to unveil nature’s most closely held secret: the mystery of death and what lies beyond it.  Even so, there were pioneers willing to try.  And if they fell short, some were equally willing to cloak their efforts in enough pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo to at least confuse the issue.

One of these was Franz Anton Mesmer, the 18th century Austrian physician whose theory of “animal magnetism” – a natural magnetic energy he believed to exist in all living creatures, suggested the possibility of sensing objects and events beyond ones’ waking ken.  Mesmer was wrong about nearly everything except the technique of hypnotizing or “mesmerizing,” subjects.  Still, his incorporation of magnetism into his spiel imparted a certain learned aura to his work and to the otherworldly pranks of a legion of Mesmerists who sprung up on both sides of the Atlantic.

Emanuel Swedenborg, a renowned Swedish scientist who was a contemporary of Mesmer, offered a philosophical counterpoint to the Austrian’s mind-bending hocus-pocus.  The hidden worlds to which Mesmer clamied to send his hypnotized subjects were familiar ground to Swedenborg, who reported the frequent company of Jesus, a host of spirits, and even God.  He framed the afterlife into six spheres of Spiritualism, which spirits traversed from the lowest (life on Earth) to the highest (unknowable to us).  About equal parts brilliant and deranged, Swedenborg like Mesmer, helped fertilize the occult ground of what would become, in the 19th century, the Spiritualist movement.

Science and the Soul

By the end of 19 centaury, science and mediumship have gone their separate ways, the latter dissolving into the often suspect claptrap of channeling and psychic hot lines, the former searching for spirits in wholly new directions.

These days, the serious scientists speculating on the soul’s possible survival tend to be, of all things, physicists.  Their mystical turn of mind is doubtless linked to quantum mechanics itself, the science describing the cosmos as a mysterious mesh of being and nonbeing in which tiny, invisible bits called quanta – the building blocks of the universe – behave in exotically erratic and unpredictable ways.

All creation is joined “in a state of unending flux of enfoldment and unfoldment,” says the University of London’s David Bohm, a leading authority on quantum mechanics and also a student of Eastern mysticism.  Bohm asserts that human consciousness is part of a unity that includes the whole universe.  If such oneness is indeed the case, it’s logical to assume that somewhere in that universe, disembodied souls exist.

Another physicist influenced by Eastern thought is Brian Josephson, a Nobel laureate and professor at England’s Cambridge University.  “One is not the same as one’s body,” says Josephson, who defines the soul as a nonphysical “organizing center” of the self.  He is convinced that this organizing center survives death.

Mind, Brain, Soul

Other scientists approach the soul by speculating on whether human consciousness is separable from human flesh: Is the mind merely what the brain does?  Or is it more, and other – an entity that can exist independent of the brain and survive the brain’s death?  One renowned thinker who argues for the second proposition is Australian neurophysiologist Sir John Carew Eccles, another Nobel Prize winner.  “I cannot believe,” says Eccles, “that the wonderful gift of a conscious existence has no further future, no possibility of another existence under some unimaginable conditions.”

Eccles has an ally in Sir Karl Popper, the eminent philosopher of science.  Popper posits the existence of three worlds: a material one containing the brain and all other material objects, an abstract world in which the mind dwells, and a world that holds all the mind’s achievements, all the fruits of civilization.  These worlds interact constantly, but they are essentially separate; the mind, therefore, enjoys an existence independent of the brain.

No End in Sight

Inquiring minds, including some of the best minds around, do indeed want to know.  But this side of the grave, will we ever really understand what death is and what the spirit is and whether it survives after the body dies?  The best minds seem to think not.

Physicist Josephson contends that physical science will never, by itself, unravel all reality’s secrets, although he concedes that mystical insight may open new path-ways for rational thought.

Neurophysiologist Eccles is even more modest about the prospects, although a good scientist that he is, he allows for all possibilities.  “I don’t want to claim that I have some extraordinary revelation telling me the answer” says Eccles.  “I keep everything open.  I keep so many doors open because I am, as it were, a lost soul trying to find my way in the unknown.”

The Strange Case of SIA flight SQ006

The Strange Case of SIA flight SQ006
Written by SPI Research team: Scapula and Portagee

Yuiiko has taken this strange photo by chance in the flight cabin;
Is it an anomaly or a camera fault?

Recently the crash of Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 in Taipei in 2000 was mentioned in the SPI public forums.  According to the story, the crash of flight SQ006 may be caused supernaturally by an earlier tragedy that involved the Singapore Airlines (SIA); the murder of a SIA flight stewardess in Los Angeles. This story has been circulating on the Internet since 2001.  It has gained popularity in Singapore and has even become an urban legend amongst flight crew members in SIA.  Since the anniversary of both events is drawing near, SPI has decided to take a closer look at the story.

Murdered SIA Stewardness Came Back for Revenge?

Background information provided by the author sets the tone of the story:

Singapore Airlines (SIA) have removed SQ 006 permanently from their timetable. The flight number is now replaced by SQ 030. The return flight of SQ 005 is now SQ 029. From now on, SQ 006 is history. The flight numbers were changed after the SIA investigating team and management found something spooky happened on the SQ 006 final flight. Believe it or not? If you recall, a few years ago on the date that SQ 006 crashed, there was this Taiwanese SIA stewardess who was murdered in a hotel in Los Angeles. The murder suspect was her fellow colleague, an Eurasian guy.

Her naked body was dismembered and hidden in a cupboard. Do you know that she was wearing red when she was flown back to Singapore on SQ 006 via Taipei and wore red when she was buried? Her mother wore red too to receive her body at the Changi International Airport. Exactly one year (31st October) later on her death anniversary, the plane crashed in Chang Kai Shek International Airport in Taipei. Coincidentally, this was also the day the Eurasian steward was released from prison.

Memories of flying with SIA flights

Something Spooky Caused the Plane Crash?

The author of the story claims that the flight number, SQ006, was permanently removed from the SIA flight timetable after the crash investigations were completed.  The story suggests that the reason behind this was because “something spooky” was discovered in the events leading to the doomed flight.  However, the flight number SQ006 was changed after the accident because the flights had been re-routed to that of SQ030; the flight number was not replaced but discontinued.  What had permanently changed in SIA after the crash was the discontinuation of painting any SIA aircraft with a promotion livery.  At the time of the accident, the Boeing 747-412 9V-SPK aircraft that had operated on SQ006 flight was painted with a “Tropical” livery instead of the standard SIA livery.  The “Tropical” livery was part of the airlines’ marketing exercise promoting its new First Class and Business Class seats.  There was only one other SIA aircraft that was painted with a similar “Tropical” livery; the sister aircraft of the plane involved in the crash: 9V-SPL.  After the accident, it was re-painted with the airlines’ original colours and SIA discontinued the use of any promotional livery on its aircraft, possibly in memory the tragedy.

1. Every airacraft carries a registered number, like a license plate on automobile;
this one is 9V-SRK. It looks like 9V-SPK which was the SQ006 plane from a distance
2. This one is 9V-SYL. Aircrafts that are registered in Singapore all start with prefex 9V by the international codes

SPI Debunks the Fallacies

The author of the story attempts to link another tragedy in the airlines’ history to the tragedy of SQ006.  The murder of Chang Yu, an SIA stewardess, in 1995 received considerable media attention in Singapore.  She was murdered by her SIA colleague who was later arrested in Singapore and extradited to the United States to face trial.  According to the story, key dates in the murder case and the SQ006 crash looked like they are strangely and coincidentally related. However, when these coincidences were compared they become questionable. The crash of SQ006 took place on 31 October 2000, but the murder of Chang occurred on 25 October 1995; it was neither “on the date that SQ006 crashed” nor was the crash “exactly one year later on her death anniversary.”  Finally, the air steward  (whose name is Zaini Jeloni and there was no mention that he is an Eurasian), was released in the US on 8 January 2001 after serving a prison sentence for causing Chang’s death, not coincidentally on the same date of the SQ006 crash.  The only coincidence that linked the two tragedies was the year when Jeloni was released from prison was also when this story was first circulated on the Internet.

The story claims that Chang’s body was found “dismembered” in a closet in her hotel room when in actual fact he body was found strangled with evidence of blunt trauma wounds to her head and stomach. The author went on suggest that the aircraft which repatriated Chang’s body back to Singapore was the same plane that crashed on 31 October 2000: “She [Chang] was flown back to Singapore on SQ 006 via Taipei� Exactly one year (31st October) later on her death anniversary, the plane crashed in Chang Kai Shek International Airport in Taipei.” The aircraft involved the accident, Boeing 747-412 9V-SPK, was delivered to SIA in January 1997, two years after the murder of Chang in Los Angeles.  It could not have been the same aircraft that repatriated Chang’s body back to Singapore.

In year 2002, Hong Kong released a ghost movie “The Stewardess”. The ghost of the air stewardess was also wearing red

The storyline consists of elements of affairs, murder, body dismembered, and the ghost returned for revenge
Such are typical stereotyped attributes for ghost story

Dressing in red color upon death has a certain influence in Chinese culture

The author of the story also claims that both Chang and her mother were dressed in red when Chang’s body was repatriated to Singapore. For this claim we can only rely on the author’s research.  Information of such nature is usually classified.  It is worth mentioning that there is a popular belief in Singapore that if a deceased was dressed red at the time her dead or burial, she would return to seek vengeance on those who caused her death.  The author had interestingly made special mention of this detail in the story.  Clearly the author did not just casually mention the colour of their dresses; he/she was writing to a readership that would understand its connotations when he/she continues the story to suggest that the crash of SQ006 may have been caused by supernatural forces:

The SQ 006 TPE/LAX sector was scheduled to leave TPE at 10:55pm. As there was an approaching typhoon, the SQ 006 Captain and his crew decided to board the plane and depart 15 minutes early. The Left 1 and Left 2 doors were not closed until 10:55pm (the original departure time). The reason was that, the number of passengers did not tally with the passenger lists in economy section. One of the junior stewardess counted 5 times and advised her colleague that she could not tally the passengers in the economy section. Both of them then counted the passenger again and confirmed an extra passenger in the cabin. When they recounted the passengers with the chief stewardess again, the number of passengers was correct. The junior stewardess advised her chief stewardess that one of the lady passenger sitting in 40A (front section of the economy class) was not there and they could not locate her in the lavatories either.

The flight received push-back clearance as scheduled. The two junior stewardesses were among the casualties in SQ 006 where none of the passengers in the front economy section survived the crash. The chief stewardess only suffered slight injuries as she was sitting in the business class section.

While preparing the flight for LAX ( Los Angeles ) in the business class section, one of the male in-flight supervisor who could “see things” happen, saw a lady flipping through the passenger list which was placed on one of the first class cabin table. As there were cleaners in the cabin, he did not shout at her but when he walked to the first class section, there were no signs of this lady. The male in-flight supervisor was among the survivors left unscratched in the crash as he was sitting in the back section of the economy class. This story was brought up during an investigative interview with the SQ 006 crew.

There was suspicion that the murder a year ago could have involved more than one person but it was not pursued further. It was believed that the (Eurasian guy, who was also a SIA steward) accomplices could have been in the SQ 006 flight. It was also understood that one of the male in-flight steward who died in this crash was a buddy of the Eurasian guy. The flight number was immediately changed after the interview.

Loop-holes of the Story

The main concern and key factor that influenced the flight’s departure time was the approaching Typhoon Xangsane, which was making it increasingly hazardous for aircraft taking off or landing at the airport.  The author of the story mentioned the typhoon and claimed that the pilot and flight crew had “decided to board the plane and depart 15 minutes early”.  Commercial flights can only be delayed and they do not leave before the scheduled departure time.  Imagine the chaos and confusion that it would cause to passengers and ground staff if a flight’s time of departure was determined solely by decisions made by the pilot and flight crew. 

The official findings and reports of the SQ006 crash did not mention changes to the flight’s scheduled time of departure due to discrepancies with the passenger list and a headcount of passengers by the flight crew.  If there were any discrepancy in the headcount would be reported immediately to the cockpit.  The cockpit voice recorder recovered after the crash did not contain any communication between the pilots in the cockpit and the flight crew over any inconsistency with the passenger list and the passenger count.

1. A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400 in its normal livery.
The airline removed the tropical livery given to SPK’s sister ship after the disaster of SQ006 (Image source: Public Domain)
2. Artist’s rendition of 9V-SPK lined up with taxiway NC during Typhoon Xangsane (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
3. The wreckage of SQ006 (Image source:

According to the author of the story, the first half was told from the experiences of two junior stewardesses and a chief air stewardess just before the flight took off.  In the story, the two junior stewardesses did not survive the crash.  Of the four flight crew members who did not survive the crash two were flight stewardess, one however, was a Leading Stewardess, not a junior stewardess as the story had claimed.  The second half of the story claimed that the male in-flight supervisor could “see things” and prior to the accident, he saw something that was amiss on the plane; a “lady flipping through the passenger list” who was not supposed to be there.  The author implied that the in-flight supervisor may have seen a vision of a lady, possibly a vision of the flight stewardess murdered years earlier.  These were revealed, the story went, during an interview with the in-flight supervisor who “was among the survivors left unscratched in the crash” because he was seated “in the back section of the economy class”.  The official investigation reported that “Crew duty time, flight time, rest time and off-duty activity patterns did not indicate influence of pre-existing medical, behavioral, or physiological factors of the flight crew’s performance on the day of the incident. [1]”   All interviews with surviving members of the flight crew after the crash were primarily focused on the emergency evacuations procedure of the flight.  There was no account of an in-flight supervisor’s “visions” mentioned in the report.  Moreover, a SIA flight crew servicing a Boeing 747 is led by one in-flight supervisor.  During takeoff or landing, the in-flight supervisor usually takes his seat in the middle of the plane near the stairs leading to the upper deck, not at the rear of the plane in the economy class. And the in-flight supervisor on SQ006 on 31 October 2000 did not survive the accident. He could not have been interviewed by crash investigators.

Diagram of 9V-SPK illustrating crew and passenger seat locations:
0: Fatality (location unknown), 1: No injury, 2: Minor injury, 3: Serious injury, 4: Fatality, 5: Child on lap (fatality), 6: Fuselage break
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Diagram of Chiang Kai-shek International Airport and the taxi path of Singapore Airlines Flight 006.
The dotted green line indicates the correct path to Runway 05L.
The green arrow indicates the path to Runway 05R. The red path indicates the fatal takeoff path.
(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

SPI Separated the Truths and the Lies

The story contains a number of questionable points.  There are no links between the murder case in 1995 and the crash of flight SQ006 that can even be considered coincidental. The story was also based on interviews and survivor accounts that did not exist.  This is at best a fictional story with supernatural themes.  However, creating a fictional story based on two tragedies, not to mention one that is also rather recent, trivialises these painful events and diminishes the memory of the victims.  Of the two stewardesses who died in the accident, the Leading Stewardess survived the impact of the crash and returned into the plane wreckage to try and rescue survivors.  She did not return alive. Her family and friends have known her to be passionate about her career with SIA.  The in-flight supervisor of SQ006 who died in the accident also reacted heroically after the initial impact of the crash.  The official reports showed that he survived the impact of the crash and went up to the business class section on the upper deck to look for survivors.  He did not return from the plane wreckage.  The story claimed that in-flight supervisor survived the crash and was interviewed by crash investigators, ignoring his courageous act, sense of duty and responsibility.  Finally, the story reminds of the tragic death a SIA flight stewardess who was killed at a young age and on her maiden flight with the airlines in 1995.  It also mentions the release of her murderer in 2001 after serving a prison sentence in a medium security prison in the United States.  In a Singapore where convicted offenders of serious crimes are usually given stiff sentences, or in some cases the death penalty, some Singaporeans may find the release of Chang Yu’s murderer and his return to Singapore questionable. 

For families affected by the tragedy of these two traumatic events, their pain and loss is unimaginable.  While the story circulating on the Internet may help keep the tragedy of these two events in the public mind, it does not remember the victims and survivors in a deservingly manner.


[1] Findings of the Aviation Safety Council, Taiwan, Republic of China after the investigations of the crash of flight SQ006.  This paper acknowledges that the ASC report was disputed by the Singapore authorities with regards to probable causes leading to the crash.

Some reference photos of an air stewardess in a hotel – she of course is not Chang Yu

Related News:

Possibly one of the original and earliest “sources” of the rumour posted:
Spooky revelations of SIA crash, posted 17th July 2001, 10:02

Photo Gallery of SQ006 Crash by Zaobao: