|On Youtube, some of the most popular ghost videos are those coming out of Indonesia. It doesn't surprise
me. I am Dutch-Indonesian on my Mom's side. She was born in Djarkata and my grandfather spent the
greater majority of his life in Indonesia.
I remember he told of a story wherein he saw a soldier sitting at the foot of his bed. The soldier is sitting in a
pool of blood, his head is in his hands and he looked to be in mourning. I can't recall the exact details but my
grandfather's house during this time was either used as former POW camp or sat across the street from
one. I remember him telling this story but having another family member chime in with a story of his own. Now
this unnamed family member was sleeping in the basement when all of a sudden the door blasted open! He
felt a presence in the room. Then the dog came in and his hair was standing on end. He started barking
than ran out of the room. After hearing this story, my grandfather said "you were just drunk." His ghost
stories were real but the "supernatural experiences" of other family members were the product of inebriated
minds, haha...If he were alive today he would probably think that the ghost videos coming out of Indonesia
are bullshit. But I still remember him talking about his particular encounter and how real it was to him.
There was another story where a relative of his in Indonesia had gotten hold of a military sword. The myth in
Indonesia is that the soul of the original owner remains with the sword. So this family member put the sword
in the closet, went to bed and then insisted that throughout the night she heard banging and screaming and
yelling going on inside the closet. The next day, she got rid of the sword. Guess, homeboy didn't want to be
Now to the western mind, these stories are ridiculous. But in cultures like Indonesia, particularly during the
time period of my grandfather this kind of talk wasn't looked at with a raised eyebrow. Indonesia isa country
steeped in both Islamic and Catholic ceremonies. My Mom remembers the Islamic funerals at night and
described them as being "eerie", the whole town would go dark and quiet and you would just hear an
ominous drum in the background. In Islamic tradition (in Indonesia, not sure if this applies elsewhere) when a
person dies they are wrapped in a white cloth. The cloth is tied in three spots, the neck, waist, and feet.
Before burial, these ties are undone so that the dead can meet their maker face to face. If the ties are not
undone, the dead are destined to be hopping around the earth, trying to find God. I think the myth-makers
here had a sense of humor.
The most memorable myth I can remember, however, is the kuntilak (spelling?) or sundel bolong. The
legend is that this is a woman who has died while giving birth or was killed by someone when she was
pregnant, I forgot which. She will appear by the roadside to men only and is basically described as the
hottest chick you'll ever see. She smells like roses and entices the man forward. When she turns around,
however, she will have a huge hole in her back which is filled with maggots and snakes. How she seduces
and kills the man after that is beyond me but that is how the story goes.
Here is the wikipedia entry for Indonesian and Malaysian ghost myths. I have edited where I've deemed
There are many Malay ghost myths (Malay: cerita hantu Melayu ; Jawi: چريتا هنتو ملايو), remnants of old animist
beliefs that have been shaped by Hindu-Buddhist cosmology and later Muslim influences, in the modern
states of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and among the Malay diaspora in neighbouring Southeast
Asian countries. The general word for ghost is hantu, of which there exist a wide variety. Some ghost themes
such as the female vampires pontianak and penanggal are similar throughout the region. While traditional
belief doesn't consider all ghosts as necessarily evil, Malaysian popular culture tends to categorize them all
as types of evil djinn.
Traditional ghost beliefs are rooted in prehistoric animist beliefs. However, the area has long had extensive
contact with other cultures, and these have affected the form of some of the legends. Trade links with
southern India and China were established several centuries BCE,in large part shaping the local culture and
folklore. The Indian faiths of Hinduism and Buddhism were particularly influential in Southeast Asia. Islam
was also introduced from India, and had become the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of
the 16th century. The Muslim beliefs overlaid and mixed with existing cultural and religious influences,rather
than removing them altogether. One example is the festival of Mandi Safar, originally a Tamil Hindu practice
where people bathe in the sea or river and perform ceremonies that purify and protect against sickness and
misfortune, and which also serves to introduce marriageable young people. After the introduction of Islam it
was given new meaning as a festival to celebrate the recovery of Mohammed from an illness. The ritual has
long been banned in Malaysia on the grounds that it contravenes the teaching of Islam, but continues to be
practiced in Malaysia and Indonesia.
According to traditional Malay lore, the human soul (semangat or essence) is about the size of a thumb and
appears as a miniature form of the body (sarung or casing) in which it resides. Able to fly and quickly "flash"
from one location to another, the soul is often compared to and addressed as if it were a bird. It temporarily
leaves the person's body temporarily during sleep, trance and sickness, before departing permanently at
death. When the soul leaves the body it assumes the form of a sort of homunculus, and in this form can
feed on the souls of others. At death, the soul usually passes into another person, animal or plant. The spirit
or ghost, usually called the anitu, continues to linger and may be harmful to its survivors.
An old Malay myth is that a person's spirit haunts their grave for seven days before departing. Ghosts may
also return and take possession of a living person, causing madness or illness. Ghosts are generally are
believed to be active only at night time, especially during a full moon. One way to evade such a ghost is for
all the victims to formally change their name, so that when the ghost returns it will not recognize them.
Another is to tempt the ghost with a meal. When the ghost turns into an animal such as a chicken so that it
can eat, it may be killed and destroyed. Ghosts traditionally were blamed for some illnesses. To cure them,
the shaman (dukun or bomoh) in a village would burn incense, recite incantations, and in some cases
sacrifice an animal and wash its blood into a river to appease the ghost. Healing dances may also be
performed, such as the mak yong, saba, main puteri, or the Ulek Mayang.
Childbirth-spirits are ghosts which are in some way related to birth or pregnancy. A significant number of
them are the malignant spirits of stillborn children, while others prey on infants. All are a reflection of a
formerly high infant mortality rate.
A kind of familiar spirit acquired by a male who says the proper incantations over the newly-buried body of a
stillborn child. It takes the form of a civet or musang and may cause convulsions, unconsciousness or
delirium. In exchange, its master feeds it eggs and milk. As with other spirits of this type, a bajang may turn
on its master if it is neglected. Although a bajang can be made to attack any whom its master chooses, it is
considered particularly dangerous to infants and young children. In former times, some children would be
given "bajang bracelets" (gelang bajang) made of black silk to protect them against it, and sharp metal
objects such as scissors would be placed near babies for the same purpose. Even the striations of
pregnancy are somewhat jokingly said to be the scars left by a bajang's attack.
Also spelled langsuir or lang suyar, it is said to be the ghost of a woman who died while giving birth to a
stillborn child which turns into a pontianak, or during pregnancy before the forty days of uncleanness have
expired. The mother's grief changes her into a type of flying banshee. To prevent a pregnant woman's
corpse from becoming a lang suir, glass beads are placed into the mouth, an egg is placed in each armpit,
and needles are placed in the hands. The lang suir can appear as a beautiful woman with long nails (a
traditional mark of beauty), ankle-length hair and dressed in green. They also have the ability to take the
form of an owl with long talons. Being fond of eating fish, they usually haunt coastal areas and attack
pregnant women out of jealousy. It is possible to tame a lang suir by cutting off her long nails and stuffing
the hair into the hole at the back of her neck.
Also known as matianak or kuntilanak, it is the ghost of a stillborn female. To prevent this, as with its mother
the lang suir, a needle is placed in each of the corpse's hands and a hen's egg under each armpit. Depicted
as an ugly woman wiith sharp nails and a white dress, the pontianak can also take the form of a beautiful
young woman or a night-bird. When she is close, she gives off a strong smell of frangipani. It is usually
encountered by the roadside or under a tree, and attack men and drink their blood. The Indonesian
kuntilanak, however, typically uses its bird form to attack virgin women. The bird, which makes a "ke-ke-ke"
sound as it flies, may be sent through black magic to make a woman sick, the characteristic symptom being
vaginal bleeding. A pontianak can be made into a good wife, by placing a nail into the hole at the nape of its
neck (called Sundel Bolong). Modern popular culture often confuses the pontianak with its mother the lang
suir. However, traditional myth is clear that the pontianak is the ghost of a dead baby and not a pregnant
woman. A similar ghost called tiyanak exists in Philippine lore.
The penanggalan is another type of female vampire attracted to the blood of newborn infants, which
appears as the head of a woman from which her entrails trail, used to grasp her victim. There are several
stories of her origins. One is that she was a woman who was sitting meditating in a large wooden vat used
for making vinegar when she was so startled that her head jumped up from her body, pulling her entrails
with it. Another has her as a normal woman during the day, whose head and entrails leave her body at night.
If a baby is expected, branches from a type of thistle are placed around the doors or windows to protect the
house, since her entrails will be caught by the thorns. The penanggalan is known in Thai as krasue and a
similar Philippine ghost called the manananggal which preys on pregnant women with an elongated
Often translated into English as "goblin", the toyol is actually a small child spirit invoked from a dead human
fetus. Traditionally described as looking more or less like a naked or near-naked toddler, modern depictions
often give them green or greyish skin, fangs, and pointy ears. The toyol may be used by its master to steal
things from other people, or to do mischief. Because they are childlike in their thinking, valuables can be
protected by scattering beans on the floor, or leaving sweets or toys next to them, all of which will distract
the toyol. It is said that the owner of a toyol may become rich, but at the expense of the health, fortune and
even the lives of members of their family.
Ghost as agents of shamans
Shamans (known in Malay as dukun or bomoh) are said to be able to make use of spirits and demons for
either benign or evil purposes. Although Western writings often compare this to the familiar spirits of English
witchcraft, it actually corresponds more closely with the Japanese inugami and other types of shikigami, in
that the spirits are hereditary and passed down through families.
A kind of bottled-imp, created by keeping the blood of a murder victim in a bottle and saying certain
incantations over it for seven or fourteen days. The owner, who is treated as the polong's parent, must feed
the spirit daily with blood from their finger. A person who has been afflicted by the polong will cry out and
wildly strike at people nearby, all the while blind and deaf to their surroundings, and unconscious of what
they are doing. In such cases, a bomoh would be called into question the polong and find out who is its
parent and where they are located. If the polong lies or conceals the identity of its owner, the victim will die
after one or two days.
The pelesit is created from the tongue of a newly-buried first-born child whose mother was also the eldest of
her siblings. Its appearance is that of a cricket and it is kept in a bottle which is buried if the owner wishes to
rid herself of it. In advance of a polong's arrival, the pelesit will enter the body of whomever its mistress has
told it to attack. A person who has been thus afflicted might rave about cats. The pelesit is in many ways
comparable to the bajang, but whereas the bajang's owner is always male, the pelesit may only be kept by a
female. It may be fed on blood from the tip of the fourth finger or, alternatively, with saffron rice. Like the
polong, the pelesit can be forced to reveal the name of their owner through magical questioning.
The hantu raya (meaning "great ghost") is considered one of the most powerful of Malay ghosts. Possessing
great strength, it usually takes on the appearance of its owner and carries out manual labour on their
behalf. However, it is said to have a limited range, being unable to go far from its home.
Hantu Air (water spirits) live in large bodies of water, such as a river or lake. Some are said to be the ghosts
of people who drowned, but they are generally independent spirits. If they show themselves, it is usually in
the form of a floating log. They can be dangerous, and may drown or eat people. Until the 1960s, Malays in
⦁ Trengganu would regularly pay respects to the sea spirits in the puja laut ceremony.
⦁ Hantu galah (pole ghost) is a very tall and thin ghost found among trees and bamboo. To make it
disappear, a person simply picks up a stick or twig and breaks it. It is normally female.
⦁ Hantu kopek (nipple ghost) appears as an old woman with pendulous breasts.
⦁ Hantu laut (sea spirits) are animistic water spirits who assist fishermen and sailors. Until the 1960s,
Malays in ⦁ Trengganu used to regularly pay respects to the sea spirits through the puja pantai or puja
⦁ Jembalang tanah are earth demons, which may act dangerously if not appeased with the proper
Jenglot are doll-like vampiric creatures said to be found in the jungles. They are usually female. What are
claimed to be dead jenglot are sometimes sold or exhibited, but they appear to be man-made.
Orang minyak (oily man) is a cursed man who rapes women at night. Because he is covered in oil, he's
difficult to catch.
Pocong or hantu bungkus (wrapped ghost) are undead corpses wrapped in a white burial shroud. When a
person is buried, the shroud is supposed to be untied. If it remains tied at the top, the body is supposed to
become a pocong. They feed on the blood of babies.
In popular culture
In both Malaysia and Indonesia, ghosts and the supernatural have long been the popular subject of stories
in television, documentaries, film, and magazines like Mastika and Tok Ngah. The 1958 black-and-white
horror movie Sumpah Orang Minyak is one of many films based on the orang minyak concept. It told of a
hunchback who through supernatural means becomes handsome, but turns invisible after violating his oath.
The devil offers to help achieve his worldly desires, on condition that he rapes 21 girls within 7 days.
Other Malay ghost videos such as Pontianak and Revenge of Pontianak received tremendous response at
their time of release. With the rise of the Islamization movement, the Malaysian government suppressed
production of ghost videos out of concern that they would encourage superstition. However, access to
foreign horror movies made such a ban futile, and these restrictions were eventually lifted with the release of
Pontianak: Harum Sundal Malam. The film was well-received, spawning a sequel and a follow-up TV series.
Numerous other horror films followed suit but, in keeping with current religious trends, they usually portray
all supernatural beings as evil, far removed from traditional beliefs. This is particularly so in documentaries
and television series involving ghost hunters.
2007's Jangan Pandang Belakang ("Don't Look Back") holds the record as Malaysia's highest-grossing film.
It revolves around a vicious ghost which the hero had unknowingly brought to his fiancé's home after picking
up a small jar found washed up at the beach. The 2010 Indonesian soft-porn horror movie Hantu Puncak
Datang Bulan (The Menstruating Ghost of Puncak) caused a lot of controversy at the time of its release.
Telling the experiences of a group of young adults in a haunted house, it has much semi-nude sexuality,
and has been condemned by conservative Muslim leaders.