A High-Heeled Haunt: Mysterious Murder in Manila Film Center's Amazing Show Sparks Ghost Stories

A High-Heeled Haunt: Mysterious Murder in Manila Film Center’s Amazing Show Sparks Ghost Stories

Amazing Show Haunting

It’s been nearly five years now since I wrote my last book, Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts. And to be honest, I haven’t thought too much about it lately. That’s not out of any type of personal shame I feel toward the book; I’ve been so swamped with researching local hauntings that it’s simply fallen by the wayside. But with the passage of half a decade, I think it’s time to revisit the topic and explore what I left unfinished.

Over the years, I’ve learned about many other locations I didn’t include, mostly in just vague mentions in passing: suicides from high bridges, haunted bars in various European cities, and arguably gay individuals haunting well-known places. Some of these vague recollections still puzzle me and haunt me as yet-undiscovered haunted places known only by local residents of specific areas. And then, there are the updates. Some places close down or change owners over time. Yet in one case in particular, a closing and a forgotten story overlapped.

The place in question is the Manila Film Center Complex.

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Manila Film Center

Manila Film Center in recent years.

For those of you who didn’t read the book—and judging by the numbers, that’s pretty much all of you—the Manila Film Center is one of the best-known hauntings in the Philippines; it’s been haunted since it first opened, with good reason. It was one of many construction projects spurred on by Dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his shoe-addicted wife, Imelda.

Imelda Marcos' shoes...

Imelda’s shoe collection is still housed in a museum.

Wish the International Film Festival fast approaching, construction was hurried in a race to finish the building on time. At 3:00AM on November 17, 1981, the scaffolding inside collapsed tossing many workers into the still-wet quick-drying cement below. The Marcos regime refused to allow emergency workers into the building for nine hours. By then, an estimated 168 workers were killed or lost in the now-hardened cement. Betty Benitez, wife of Assistant Minister Jose Conrado Benitez, gave the order to pour the cement over the bodies and continue construction. It remains their tomb to this day.

Betty died a few months later in a freak automobile accident. Many Filipinos blamed it on the revenge of the dead workers. When a medium was sent into the Film Center to see if it was haunted, he went into a trance. “Now there are 169,” he said. “Betty is with us.”* For years, people have reported cries and moans in the auditorium. In one strange story, a visitor was approached by a man who gave him a calling card and asked him to call his wife. When the visitor called the number, the woman told him her husband was one of the dead men buried in the concrete of the Film Complex.

Now just another derelict building along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, what earned it a mention in Queer Hauntings was its short-lived use as the home of The Amazing Show: the largest transvestite performance in all of Asia produced by the Amazing Philippine Theatre. Shows began in December 2001 and lasted until their lease expired in 2009. The shows returned in November 2012, but a fire on February 19, 2013 damaged the building and closed the show yet again.

Amazing Show Cast Members

Part of the cast of The Amazing Show around 2012.

But there’s more to the story. And were it not for a chance conversation with a local about haunted places in the Philippines, I never would’ve known about it.

Soon after The Amazing Show began its regular performances, something odd began to happen late at night at Manila Film Center. A few taxi drivers who found themselves at the building reported the same chilling experience. A bloodied and bruised woman would appear to be standing near the building and waive down the taxi. Climbing inside, she would ask the driver to take her to the hospital. But when the taxi arrived at the nearest hospital, he would find the back seat empty.

From what I was told, approximately between 1998 and 2001, a ladyboy—one common Filipino term for a drag queen or transvestite—was murdered in the Manila/Pasay City area and her body dumped at the Manila Film Center. The crime was not thoroughly investigated, since it was easier to write it off as a drug-related deal gone bad than waste time on the murder of a gay male crossdresser. It’s believed that this murder victim is the same one hailing taxis and trying to get to the hospital. Who she is, and what exactly happened to her, is still a mystery. And whether or not she’s still stopping taxis late at night, only the taxi drivers know for sure.

Do you know anything about the murder or the victim’s identity? Or has someone you know had a first-hand experience with the ghost? Share your stories with us on Facebookon twitter @WeirdHQ, or in the comments below!

* Romulo, Beth Day. Inside the Palace: The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1987: 167-68.


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11 Comments

  1. Pingback: A High-Heeled Haunt: Murder in Manila

  2. Aimee

    12/29/2013 at 10:04 AM

    While you are correct, I haven’t read “Queer Hauntings: True Tales of Gay and Lesbian Ghosts,” I’m totally going to! It sounds amazing!

  3. Coppertop

    12/29/2013 at 3:10 PM

    They just left the people entombed in the concrete? That’s horrid!

    • Ken Summers

      12/29/2013 at 10:53 PM

      They had a tight deadline, and the workers were expendable. You know how dictators are…

  4. alanborky

    01/01/2014 at 6:46 PM

    “an estimated 168 workers were killed or lost in the now-hardened cement. Betty Benitez…gave the order to pour the cement over the bodies and continue construction.”

    Bloody hell!

    “Betty died a few months later in a freak automobile accident.”

    Please tell me she sailed through the air an’ drowned upside down in a cement mixer.

    • Ken Summers

      01/02/2014 at 12:24 AM

      As much as I’d love to say she was hit by a cement truck, that’s not quite what happened. lol The car she was in lost control and hit a tree. The driver survived, but she died instantly.

  5. Susie-Q

    01/08/2014 at 6:49 PM

    I’m going to break the mold, and I’m going to have a fangirl moment. I’ve read your book! In fact, I read it, and got sucked in so badly that I missed my bus stop. I love, love, LOVE your attention to detail and history surrounding hauntings – that’s the most interesting part to me, because it speaks to something that most anyone, skeptic or believer, can agree on.

    I also have to say that this sounds extremely similar to a “Resurrection Mary” story, which is fascinating.

    • Ken Summers

      01/09/2014 at 3:04 PM

      Wow… well, thank you Susie! And sorry you missed your bus!

      You actually hit the nail right on the head, which is something others complained about with it. I did focus on the history and true stories behind the haunts, and I meant to make it something for anyone, skeptic or believer. Usually, I hear that is wasn’t creepy enough or the stories are too short.

      It is in a way similar to Chicago’s Resurrection Mary. But there are quite a few wayward ghost stories of people trying to catch a ride from the living to get home. Most of them are known as ghost “hitchhikers”. I think that in a way, you could almost classify them as one type of haunting.

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  7. evilsloth

    01/26/2015 at 7:14 AM

    I have no belief in karma. There’s no closure about all of the people that held up rescue and that person that died instantly in a car accident while those that drowned in cement with whatever painful injuries they’d sustained… it almost seems like a punishment, the programming of one’s own body to have done unto it as is done to others… just my little unprovable theory. Too many seemingly nice people go through too much nasty for my theory to really stand, unless they’re the religious type that’re told to hate themselves and all

  8. Dale Brocious

    11/18/2015 at 10:05 AM

    Was there 168 people on scafolding? also, how deep was this cement? why wouldnt they let the rescue workers in, this sounds to strange to be true. I cant even picture this happening in my mind. Can someone help me with some details?

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