Were the sets of Channel 5 drama ‘Avenue 14’ haunted?

The stories from stars Alan Wong, Marianne Tan and Neo Swee Lin sent chills up our spines

Marianne Tan, Neo Swee Lin, Mathi Alagan and Alan Wong
Marianne Tan, Neo Swee Lin, Mathi Alagan and Alan Wong
19 Nov 2018

Marianne Tan, Neo Swee Lin, Mathi Alagan and Alan Wong

Photos: Channel 5, Tammi Tan
Video: Philip Ang

Confession time: whenever we speak to cast members of shows with even the slightest hint of a horror or paranormal element in it, our fingers are always crossed for eerie tales where something strange (but ultimately harmless, of course) happens on a real-life set.

And boy, the stars of Channel 5’s supernatural thriller Avenue 14 did not disappoint.

But first up, a little background. The 20-episode drama centres on two people with opposing beliefs - Thursday Soh (Malaysian actress Marianne Tan), who is convinced urban legends and myths are the real deal, and Daniel Wu (VJ-turned-host Alan Wong), a skeptic on the side of science and logic - teaming up to solve weird cases “that will eventually lead them to an evil force beyond their imagination”, as the official synopsis puts.

Well, that sure escalated quickly.

As if the plot material wasn’t spooky enough, director Jeevan Nathan revealed at last week’s media briefing that not only did they film in places that have been rumoured or claimed to have “something” (what that “something” is, we don’t want to find out), they did so smack in the middle of the Hungry Ghost Festival a.k.a. that time of the year when the dead are said to come pay a visit to the living.

One much less frightening fun fact that Jeevan shared was that Avenue 14 is a derivative of Okto’s Avenue 13, complete with the return of several characters including Ting Ting Adams, now played by Michelle Saram (whom you might know from several Channel 8 and TVB dramas, as well as Meteor Garden II) in her long-awaited acting comeback.

“We had a few Skype calls to talk about the character and she liked it and came on board,” shared Jeevan, who has worked with Michelle in the past. “She had a lot of fun and was a real trooper; she was willing to do her own stunts and wasn’t afraid to do things like lie down in a tunnel in the muck.”

Unfortunately, Michelle was unable to join in that day’s interview session as something urgent had reportedly come up for her. Still, we were kept thoroughly entertained (and by that we mean chilled to the bone) by the stories her co-stars brought us from their probably-haunted shooting days. Read on for more.

Alan Wong
Alan Wong
19 Nov 2018

Alan Wong

Are you a believer in the supernatural?
I know I’m more open to it now (after making Avenue 14), but I try not to be scared of it. My popo (grandma), who is definitely a believer, said that there are ghosts but don’t be scared of them, because for every ghost that wants to hurt you, you have an entire lineage of ancestors who will protect you, and I really like that idea.

Were there any spooky things that happened on set?
There were a few things. We were filming in what’s said to be the most haunted room of a haunted mansion, and our sound guy just fell down and swore that something tripped him. Then the power in that one room went out and there was no way to turn it back on, but when we were done, it just popped back on. Windows that we’re sure we closed were all open when we went back to check.

Another time, we were on a ship in the middle of the sea filming an episode that needed fake blood, and there was blood in places we never put it. According to some of the crew members, it wasn’t fake. It’s hard to tell for sure, but there was no reason for blood to be there. It was…interesting.

Have these happenings made you scared to do another supernatural show in the future?
Well, there was one time when the sound guy pulled me aside and asked me how I was feeling, because he wanted to make sure that nothing latches on to me. So I definitely got warnings, but I’m not scared. If anything, we’re telling [the spirits’] stories, so hopefully that doesn’t upset them.

Have you ever experienced any paranormal encounters?
For myself personally, no, but my dad once told me a story about how he was hanging out in his backyard and felt rocks hitting him from behind. He turned around and saw his late cousin that had recently passed away, plain as day, throwing rocks at him in a playful way. That’s a story I’ve heard that’s closest to me.

Marianne Tan
Marianne Tan
19 Nov 2018

Marianne Tan

Did you do any special prep for your role?
I did research on the myths my character faces in the show. One story that spooked me was the one about the Orang Minyak (literally “oily man” in Malay), and what frightened me was that they really existed back in the day, men who covered themselves in black oil before going into villages and raping women. It’s creepy!

I also watched a few shows. Jessica Jones was one of those that Jeevan told me to check out, and also True Detective, and a lot of Korean and Thai horror movies.

Did you ever have trouble getting out of a dark place even after filming?
Yes. Sometimes there would be days where I had to keep imagining my mum’s death (for a scene), or I would suddenly cry because I remembered something sad. That’s how crazy it could get.

Are you a believer in the supernatural?
I do believe in the supernatural, but not so much about the horrific parts. I believe in good supernatural things. I don’t bog myself down with thoughts of the dark stuff because it just pulls you away from your daily routine and constantly puts negative thoughts in your mind.

Were there any spooky things that happened on set?
One of the things that happened to me was when I was deep in the jungle at 2 or 3am, and out of nowhere, the cameraman asked me with concern in his voice, “Hey, are you feeling okay?” I told him I was, but it dawned on me that he never once asked me that the whole day, and we know him as one of those guys who can “see things”, so I became more alert.

At the same time, the sound guy came over to fix my mic, and he said, “I’m hearing things around you, but don’t freak out, just be normal.” That really spooked me on another level. (Laughs) And then when I got home, I remember hearing an old guy talking to me. I was disturbed but I prayed about it, found peace and slept through the night.

Have you ever experienced any paranormal encounters?
I always hear third-hand stories, but I have never personally experienced any of it until I was on the set of Avenue 14. So now I have my own stories to tell! (Laughs)

Neo Swee Lin
Neo Swee Lin
19 Nov 2018

Neo Swee Lin

What were the biggest challenges you faced making this show?
I’ve been doing more stage work recently and have not done TV in a while, so I had to get used to not being too “stagey” and to perform more naturally (as Thursday’s Auntie Lynn). But it’s been very exciting and interesting to come back to this craft.

Are you a believer in the supernatural?
Definitely. I believe there is more out there than what we can see, and I always believe we have to be respectful of spirits, especially when doing something like this (filming Avenue 14). Although I’m lucky not to have been involved too much with the supernatural scenes, I would text the cast to tell them that I’m praying for them.

Were there any spooky things that happened on set?
This isn’t really spooky, but one day a snake appeared on set! One of the boys from the crew, our hero, took a stick and threw it away while the rest of us were watching and screaming. (Laughs)

Have you ever experienced any paranormal encounters?
Not myself personally, but my mother used to say that she could feel and see spirits, and she would tell me, “You and your dad are safe because you are strong and they won’t disturb you.” Because of her belief, I’ve always believed that we have to be careful.

Mathi Alagan
Mathi Alagan
19 Nov 2018

Mathi Alagan

Tell us about your character in ‘Avenue 14’.
Inspector Sathia is a veteran in the police force who has seen and solved a lot of weird cases, but in Avenue 14, you’ll see him getting mentally and emotionally affected by the cases one by one.

What were the biggest challenges you faced making this show?
A lot of my scenes don’t have a lot of dialogue because my character is more of the common man who is just watching what’s happening around him. Although he puts up a confident front, he slowly gets eaten up inside, so you will see more of my non-speaking action in this series.

Were there any spooky things that happened on set?
This is going to be a boring answer, but I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural at all. (Laughs) I believe there’s always a logical explanation for everything that happens.

Have you ever experienced any paranormal encounters?
Well, when I was in NS (National Service), I was sent out to do guard duty alone in the middle of the jungle, so every movement around me made my hair stand on end. (Laughs) That made me fearful but that was during a different phase [in my life].

Michelle Saram as Ting Ting Adams
Michelle Saram as Ting Ting Adams
19 Nov 2018

Michelle Saram as Ting Ting Adams

Neo Swee Lin, Marianne Tan, Alan Wong and Mathi Alagan at the media briefing
Neo Swee Lin, Marianne Tan, Alan Wong and Mathi Alagan at the media briefing
19 Nov 2018

Neo Swee Lin, Marianne Tan, Alan Wong and Mathi Alagan at the media briefing

Thursday Soh and Auntie Lynn
Thursday Soh and Auntie Lynn
19 Nov 2018

Thursday Soh and Auntie Lynn

Inspector Sathia and Daniel Wu investigate a crime scene
Inspector Sathia and Daniel Wu investigate a crime scene
19 Nov 2018

Inspector Sathia and Daniel Wu investigate a crime scene

Daniel Wu and Thursday Soh investigate a mysterious scene
Daniel Wu and Thursday Soh investigate a mysterious scene
19 Nov 2018

Daniel Wu and Thursday Soh investigate a mysterious scene

Thursday Soh and Daniel Wu investigate a house
Thursday Soh and Daniel Wu investigate a house
19 Nov 2018

Thursday Soh and Daniel Wu investigate a house

Marianne Tan as Thursday Soh
Marianne Tan as Thursday Soh
19 Nov 2018

Marianne Tan as Thursday Soh

WATCH: Horror stories from the set of 'Avenue 14'

Catch Avenue 14 on Mondays, 10pm on Channel 5. You can also watch it on Toggle-It-First.

Related:
Alan Wong had to warn mum about role in paranormal drama ‘Avenue 14’

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