Each culture in Malaysia has deeply ingrained customs and beliefs surrounding the supernatural. These stories of ghosts and monsters—and the ways to appease them—are passed down from generation to generation. Like many other folktales and superstitions, they also serve as cautionary tales against greed, lust, pride, and other undesirable traits.
One misstep or error in judgement and these spooky creatures, which allegedly roam amongst us, will seize the chance to wreak havoc and mischief. The five below are especially grotesque and terrifying in their ability to harm the living. Proceed to know more about them if you dare…
1. Nu Gui
The nu gui refers to any female ghosts who were tormented by abuse or raped while they were alive, leading them to commit suicide while wearing a red dress. Some stories also portray them as mistresses who, having met an unkind partner, killed themselves while dressed in red to symbolise that they’d come back as ghosts to haunt the men who wronged them. They get their vengeance by sucking out the life force of their victims—but still have some conscience left, as they refrain from killing other women.
Arguably the most well-known Malaysian spirit, the pontianak is different from Western vampires in the sense that they’re exclusively women who died during pregnancy or childbirth. As a vampire-and-ghost hybrid, she now preys on the blood of young children, men and when she’s especially bloodthirsty, just about anyone who would make a tasty meal. They’re often said to lurk around banana trees, so that’s one way to steer clear of them. In villages, parents would often tell their children to come home before dusk to avoid crossing paths with a pontianak.
If you ever have the misfortune of meeting one, they’re described as beautiful women with pale skin, red eyes, and long black hair. Each wears a long, white dress stained with blood. With the ability to fly, the pontianak is a terrible sight to behold when she’s suspended in mid-air, ready to swoop down and rip out your stomach with her razor-sharp nails. If you’re a guy, there’s more bad news: She’s said to remove male sex organs in an act of vengeance for the pain she suffered during pregnancy or labour.
Your only option to avoid a gruesome end is to defeat the pontianak. She supposedly can be fought off by driving a nail into the hole at the nape of her neck, which causes her to turn into a beautiful woman and a good wife until the nail is removed.
The single-minded pocong is relatively harmless unless you’re blocking its path—but it will hop after anyone who it chooses to follow, making it a ghostly stalker. Its existence stems from the Muslim burial custom of wrapping the deceased in a white cloth known as kain kafan. When the soul of a departed person isn’t released from this realm after 40 days, it’s ‘left behind’ and trapped in the body, turning it into a pocong. But beware if you encounter the red version of this spirit, which is said to be the souls of those who died with vengeance in their hearts. They’re far more vicious and will attack the living without any provocation.
Well-known among the Indian community, the mohini is a ghost disguised as a beautiful, long-haired woman dressed in a white. While they’re somewhat similar to the pontianak in that they also prey on unsuspecting men, the mohini is nevertheless believed to be the soul of a lonely unmarried female. In addition to enticing men to be with her until the victim’s death, she’s said to viciously kill couples who rendezvous in the forests she haunts.
5. Orang Minyak
The orang minyak gets its name from the belief that the creature is covered in oil, making it very slippery and hard to catch. It catapulted to mainstream infamy thanks to Tan Sri P. Ramlee’s 1959 film Sumpah Orang Minyak. Till today, young women in rural communities are taught to fear this slippery monster that made a deal with the devil to gain power. As the story goes, in order to receive said powers, the orang minyak has to worship the devil and rape 21 virgins within a week. Another version states that the creature is controlled by an evil practitioner of black magic.
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