Explainer: Yishun’s child-stealing mystery man, hantu kumkum and other Malay-Muslim urban legends

Recently you might have heard about some exceedingly creepy encounters in Yishun about a man going around flats and asking folks for their children.

Here’s Farah Ridhwan’s story:

Photo: Facebook screengrab

One afternoon, she saw a Malay man outside her flat giving a greeting and looking into her window. After greeting him back, he asked if her house has a baby. She said no, and asked him why — but he left without saying anything. Farah immediately locked up her gate and door, feeling lucky that her kids are in their rooms, so he couldn’t see form the window. She believes that he must have tailed her family from the foodcourt and followed her home.

She has since lodged a police report, and the cops have since launched more regular afternoon patrols in the neighbourhood. The police however aren’t able to check the CCTV to discern the man’s identity as no crime has taken place.

Then there’s Aida Mahat, who also experienced the same thing:

Photo: Facebook screengrab

A man had knocked on her door pretty intensely, and her husband want to answer the door. After greeting him, the mystery man asked for a glass of water. Aida immediately rushed to the door and told the guy that they ran out of water and asked him to go to 7-Eleven instead.

The man said it’s fine, but asked if she has any children. Aida remembered seeing the viral post by Farah, and tried to closed the door on him. He pushed back on the door, and said something nasty to the couple. Eventually she managed to close the door and locked it, but called the police as she could “still feel” that he was lingering outside.

She believes that the man was using black magic as the husband looked pretty dazed when the man asked for a glass of water.

Urban legends old and new

Never, ever, give a glass of water to strangers who knock on your door and ask for it. 

Scary, much? You bet your ass. Their stories are way too similar to urban legends prominent among the Malay-Muslim community of Singapore, which some of your folks may not be familiar with.

Hantu Kumkum

There’s the familiar tale of the Hantu Kumkum — an old woman (witch?) who goes around knocking on houses to look for young girls to feast on their blood. She’s not a vampire, she just needs her fix of virgin blood to regain her youth and beauty. Anyway, sightings of an old lady garbed in a long headscarf wreaked havoc in Malaysia and Singapore in the past. She can’t pronounce the traditional Muslim greeting “Assalamualaikum” (because she’s a blasphemous entity), so she can only go around saying “kumkum”.

Nenek Keropok

Then there’s the story of Nenek Keropok (Old Lady Crackers) who — like hantu Kumkum — also goes around knocking on doors. This creepy lady however goes around selling traditional Malay crackers and snacks around the neighbourhood, but with a twist — she brings along a Pontianak where ever she roams. Said to have gone around Woodlands and Tampines, what she does is send her Pontianak to haunt the house if the person who answers the door doesn’t want to buy her wares.

Malicious Bomoh/Pawang/Dukun

Then there’s the story of Malay shamans or black magic practitioners also going around knocking on doors to cast jampi (incantations) on people. What they would usually do is ask for glass of waters to drink — which is the point where the individual who answered the door falls under the spell of the bomoh. Once the bomoh gets the glass of water, the spell is complete — the victim believes everything the shaman says, and will do anything for him. The bomoh can ask for money or even gain entry to the house to take whatever he wants, and yes, even babies.

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