Hantu season: 5 famous supernatural creatures in Malaysia

Artwork by Adam Shafi
Artwork by Adam Shafi

Halloween is always the time of the year to get a little fun and spooky but cute pumpkins and adorable black cats don’t quite make the cut. 

Let’s get to what is really scary in Malaysia. Since we love everything horror at Coconuts KL, we want to celebrate Malaysia’s scariest supernatural creatures. From the infamous ‘Pontianak’ to the green ‘Toyol’, you bet you won’t get a good night’s sleep tonight. 

1. Nenek Kebayan 

Picture for illustration purposes only. Photo from ‘Roh’ 2021 film. 

In Malay folklore, the nenek kebayan is an old woman with a hunchback who has long white hair and walks around aided by a stick. 

She is regarded as a mountain or forest-dwelling jinn or spirit. She was portrayed in one version as a decent person who enjoys using her magical abilities to aid those in need. While in another, she was a witch who practised dark magic and was malevolent. 

The nenek kebayan is particularly popular among Malaysian parents who want to put their stubborn kids to sleep. “If you don’t sleep, then the nenek kebayan will come get you” is usually how it goes. 

Anyway, if you’re camping in the woods and see a woman with a hunchback, good luck! 

2. Pocong

Photo source: Pinterest

The pocong, also known as hantu bungkus (literally means “wrapped ghost”), is a ghost dressed in a white shroud. Because its feet are bound together, it is unable to walk and must move along the path by hopping. It typically wanders through the night on highways or in villages, leaping up and down as if in search of something or someone.

Its leap reportedly extends up to 40 or 50 metres. It has also been known to roll along the ground as well.

According to legend, the deceased’s soul is said to remain on earth for 40 days following their passing. The ties around them need to be cut after 40 days in order for the soul to be freed. If the bonds aren’t cut, the corpse will transform into a spirit, leap from the grave, and become a pocong.

Its face is described as decaying, withered, and pale green. Instead of eyes, the creature has two dark, hollow pits.

So, if you see what might look like an odd pillar in the middle of the road, probably best to just… run over it? 

3. Toyol

Artwork by Adam Shafi

In Malaysian folklore, a toyol is a fictitious green creature. It is rumoured to be the ghost of an infant who passed away before birth and is also known to be a mischievous thief. 

A toyol is a dead infant who has been revived by a Bomoh (a Malaysian shaman) or an expert in black magic. By reanimating a dead baby using black magic rituals and incantations, you can make a toyol (not that we are encouraging it). 

With green or grey skin, a large, bulbous head, pointed ears, piercing red eyes, and sharp fangs, the toyol resembles a mummified newborn. It is said by some to look like a goblin. The toyol is often kept in a glass jar and kept out of sight until it is needed.

Those that make toyols use them to steal from their neighbours. The toyol will prowl the village at night, doing errands for its master – errands the summoner would prefer not to be seen doing himself – in exchange for food and protection. Petty theft or vandalism are typical “errands,” which the Toyol can get away with because of its small size.

The toyol must be kept cheerful, amused, and fed because of his temper, which is similar to that of a young child. You must present the creature with gifts, such as toys, milk, candies, sweets, and biscuits.

You also have to nurse it by pricking your thumb and allowing it to suck your blood. If you don’t feed it, the toyol will forcefully suck blood from your toes or the toes of your immediate family members while they sleep.

In other words, watch your toes while you sleep!

4. Pontianak

Photo source: Star 2

The pontianak, arguably the most well-known Malaysian ghost, differs from vampires in the West in that they are only women who died during pregnancy or childbirth. Dressed in a long, white, and bloody dress, she is characterised as a gorgeous woman with a pale complexion, crimson eyes, and long black hair, should you ever have the misfortune of meeting one. 

Legend has it, she feeds on the blood of young children, and men, and when she’s very ravenous, just about anyone would make a nice meal for this hybrid vampire and ghost. 

One method of avoiding them is to avoid the banana trees, where they are frequently reported to lurk. In villages, parents would frequently warn their kids to return home before dusk to prevent running into a pontianak. 

The pontianak loves flying from tree to tree while laughing out loud. It has been said that if you hear its laughter from afar, means it’s nearby, but if you hear it rather closely means the pontianak is quite a distance away from you. Either way, run. 

Oh also, there’s more bad news if you’re a guy: She allegedly removes male genital parts as a kind of retaliation for the suffering she endured throughout her pregnancy or labour.

5. Hantu Raya

Artwork by unded/DeviantArt

In the underworld, the hantu raya is regarded as the “master” of all ghosts and no, it does not just roam around during Hari Raya despite its name. 

Although the hantu raya can assume any shape or form, they frequently opt to appear as people or animals. They eat gifts from people like roasted chicken, eggs, yellow glutinous rice, and other delicacies. They occasionally even consume animal blood as food.

Some people think they have owners, exactly like the toyol. These owners are usually powerful shamans. 

It has been said that the hantu raya is useful in guarding one’s farm or house when the owner is not around by appearing as its owner. 

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