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'Haunted' hotel sheds light on Malaysia heritage neglect

Abandoned colonial building stars in popular new 'found-footage' horror film

Prem M. Nath's horror films always add a flair of South Indian and Tamil religion and rituals that make them unique among other Southeast Asian horror movies. (Courtesy of Kuman Pictures)

GEORGE TOWN, Malaysia -- Perched on the former colonial hill station of Penang Hill, an abandoned and yet regal-looking hotel overlooks UNESCO-listed George Town, the main settlement on the Malaysian island of Penang. Many wonder why such a beautiful heritage building is being left to rot on an island where property prices are soaring. The popular view is that the hotel is haunted.

The Crag Hotel has remained empty and abandoned since 1977, when an international school that had taken over the building in 1955 moved from the top of Penang Hill to sea level. The Crag was sometimes used as a guesthouse until 1999. Surrounded by walls of viridian forest, and often blanketed by thick mist, the decrepit empty building oozes a timeless old-world charm that makes it a perfect setting for a film location.

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