I didn’t realize how many ghosts there are in the Indonesian culture. But I got to learn about them first hand one Thursday night with Faisal, Misba, Aput, Andre, Ucok and Iswan. The conversation first started when I was warned about the hypnotizing thieves at market places.
Hypnotizing thieves??? Though not so common anymore, the boys did warn me that if someone tapped me on the shoulder or put a hand on me, to never look them in the eyes. The reason for this is that there apparently are people so talented in the art of hypnosis that they can literally cast a spell on you. It starts with a hand or tap on the shoulder. If you look the person in the eyes the “spell” is complete. They then instruct you to give them all your money and to return home. It’s only when you get home that the spell is broken and you realize you have just been robbed!! Again, the boys insisted that this rarely happens anymore, but that it has happened quite a lot in the past. However, since I almost always went to the market with Mama, it was never an issue:)
So this interesting tidbit eventually moved into the topic of the many ghosts in the Indonesian culture. Once the “story telling” (I put that in quotes because they don’t believe them to be simply stories, but rather real events) began, it went on long into the wee night hours! I learned first that Thursday nights are considered the night with the most ghost activity, and that was one reason why Friday’s are considered their holiest of days. Also it should be noted that with the dawn of electricity there haven’t been so many sightings of each ghost as light keeps them away!
Mind you, what I’m writing below are stories of each ghost as given to me by the six men. They talked rather fast at times and often over each other trying to find the correct words while telling me about the ghosts, so below are my best scribbles about each one. I hope I’m going to do them justice!
Doti (aka Santeh or Dooken): Voo Doo, wicked black magic. These people can insert an evil spirit into a body essentially possessing them.
Tuyul: half human, half spirit that steals money
Babi Ngepet: half pig, half human. Can only turn into a pig on Thursday nights. There is a keeper of this creature who can turn the human into a pig when he lights a special candle. IF the candle is extinguished, the pig turns back into a human. Once in pig form however, it goes out and searches for money for its owner (the candle bearer). Babi is stronger and faster than Tuyul as it can instantly send the stolen money to its owner. If the candle bearer notices that the flame starts to flicker, that means that the Babi (pig) is in trouble and may have been noticed. But the pig can turn back into a human. So if it’s being chased and can get into a dark corner or alleyway, the keeper can extinguish the candle flame and turn it back into a human to get it out of trouble.
Poppok: A human, but in the night he can fly. He is naked. Can be a man or a woman. They go to the sea and bring fish for the house. If you meet and annoy them they will tickle you to death. But if you hit it with a native palm leaf one time you scare him. Hit him twice and you make him stronger. ONLY for South Sulawesi, but may be elsewhere under different names. This is a genetic trait. Starts as normal person. Seeks knowledge to become paranormal. If he does the steps right, he turns paranormal. If they do the steps wrong, they turn into a Poppok.
Longga: Very tall human. He eats people. Only at night. Can be in the jungle. A past problem.
Parakang: Human sometimes around us. Can be a man or a woman. At night they go to dirty ditches looking for frogs or fish to eat. He/she can suck the blood out of newborns. They will come to newborn baby homes. They come from the roof, open the roof and come in. Even in the day. If it rains with sunshine this is bad. Sometimes the eyes are red. If you are suspicious a person is a Parakang, you can test them by throwing salt at the body. If they thrash about they are a Parakang. It is a genetic disease. Can cure them with an exorcism using the Koran.
Pocong: One of the scariest and most famous ghosts in Indonesia. He has many films made about him. Happens when a person dies. During a Muslim burial, they put a white sheet around the body and tie the sheet at the top of the head. This tie is called Talipocong (tali = line/sting). After the corpse is covered, it is carried to the grave. If the talipocong is not removed once the body is put in the grave, the dead person will become Pocong. They come in the night only and hop around in their sheet that is still tied around their head because they are trapped in the sheet. Pocong comes around asking to be freed. People in the village can’t talk, they must be silent or they will attract the Pocong. But they can help the Pocong or essentially send them away for good by digging up the body and taking off the talipocong.
Kuntilanak: Only a woman who is pregnant. Story is from when the Dutch came here to colonize. A Dutch pregnant woman came and killed herself when she arrived here and she then became Kuntilanak. Sometimes the story is that she committed suicide, sometimes the story is that she was killed by her boyfriend. She takes revenge on people by taking other children. She had her baby in the grave after she was dead and buried. She picked it up and cradled it. She takes revenge on her ex by luring single men home. She appears as a beautiful woman in a white dress, though the feet don’t touch the floor. She gets the men to take her home, which appears at first to be a beautiful home, but once there it turns back into a gravesite. The lured man is giddy with love but is stuck in the grave. She is only happy if she can kill the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend.
And there you have it. Some of the many ghosts of Indonesia!