Police arrest man who stole his dead best friend’s burial ropes for good luck charm that didn’t work

Pocong zombie illustration.

One Indonesian man’s quest to find good luck through supernatural powers had the exact opposite effect as he is now looking at jail time for grave robbery.

On Saturday, South Tangerang Police arrested an angkot minivan driver identified as 34-year-old Moh Irpan for allegedly digging up his best friend’s grave, not to steal valuables such as gold or jewelry (Muslims do not take earthly possessions with them into the grave), but to steal his tali pocong (burial ropes).

First, some cultural context: tali pocong, which is generally tied above the head, around the neck, and below the feet of a dead person to enclose him or her in white cloth, is believed by many Indonesians to be a good luck charm. As a body is put into the ground, the ropes are usually untied (failure of which results in the body coming back to life as a “pocong” zombie, according to Indonesian folklore) and buried along with the body.

According to the police, Irpan’s desperation for some luck in his life led to the alleged grave robbery. He and his best friend, Suhendra, had been living in a mosque as both were homeless for the past four months. When Suhendra died on December 28, 2017, he was buried that same day near the mosque.

The next day, Suhendra’s grave had been dug up and his three burial ropes were stolen. On January 6, police arrested Irpan, who admitted that he had committed grave robbery to steal his best friend’s tali pocong in order to boost his fortunes.

“He believed that the tali pocong could bring in wealth, as he’s just an unlicensed angkot minivan driver. He believed that with the tali pocong he would get more passengers,” said South Tangerang Police Chief Fadli Widiyanto, as quoted by Detik.

Alas, Irpan’s fortunes did not turn for the better.

“On Saturday he brought them while driving the angkot, but instead of gaining more passengers he barely had any,” Fadli said.

Irpan said he chucked the tali pocong into a river after finding out that they had no magical properties. The police charged him with grave robbery, which is punishable by up to 1 year and 4 months in prison.

Tali pocong is quite popular among supernatural believers in Indonesia. Back in September of last year, civil servant recruitment officials found that some applicants brought tali pocong with them for good luck. That said, tali pocong usage doesn’t always necessitate grave robbery, as some believe that unburied tali pocong also works as a good luck charm. 

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