Sep 02, 2013

    It's not just ghosts I had to worry about

    With the help of his sleuthing skills, modern technology and a whole lot of pluck, 35-year-old urban explorer Robert Joe tracks down the most notorious haunted sites in Asia in his new television series, I Wouldn't Go In There.

    The Korean-American intrepid seeker tells My Paper about the intensity of exploring dilapidated sites and how an experience in an abandoned hotel in Okinawa gave him the jitters.


    What do you hope for this series to achieve?

    I have a theory that wherever there is a concentration of ghost stories, it is an indication that something happened there.

    The purpose of this series is to test that theory by visiting some of the allegedly most haunted places in Asia to investigate what, if anything, had sparked these ghost stories.


    Which filming experience gave you the worst chill?

    The crew and I were exploring a massive abandoned hotel space in Okinawa, when we got to a former bath area with the words "dead baby in the tub" spray-painted in red on the wall.

    While filming, we heard a distinct "clunk" sound (coming) from just beyond the hallway. I flashed my torchlight there, only to see a shadowy figure whose face was obscured by a bright light. The crew and I were genuinely scared, and we stood completely still.

    (The figure) was actually another urban explorer who was also scared because he couldn't see who or what we were, other than shadowy figures.


    What were some of the challenges you faced while filming?

    Some of the places we explored were abandoned and not always structurally sound. They were dark, dank, and often crawling with snakes.

    In some places, it was easy to fall to your death; in others, sharp and rusty metal structures threatened to cave down on your head. Even without supernatural hauntings, there was plenty to worry about when we entered those places.


    What makes an urban explorer?

    I think most urban explorers are driven by curiosity and a bit of an (adrenalin) rush from being in places they're not supposed to be.

    Whether high up on rooftops or digging through a long-abandoned space, I think a lot of us are driven by that sense of being lost in time or space. It's a cool feeling.

    It definitely helps if you are not afraid of heights and not claustrophobic. You might have to crawl through some tight spaces and even do some balancing acts across beams overlooking a city.


    Any advice for those who want to venture into such "apparition hotspots" on their own?

    To be honest, I can't, in good conscience, tell people to explore these spaces, which are often dangerous and illegal to go into.

    But for those who choose to ignore my warnings, be very careful, carry a flashlight and look out for holes and snakes.



    I Wouldn't Go In There airs every Friday at 10pm on the National Geographic Channel (StarHub Ch 411/SingTel mio TV Ch 201).