Most people know of the classic vampire from Romania which has been propagated around thanks to Hollywood. But vampire lore is nothing new to the people of Malaysia and Indonesia.
The Pontianak (also known as Kuntilanak, Matianak, Boentianak, kunti, Langsuir) is a very particular type of vampire.
If a woman dies in childbirth, she runs the risk of becoming part of the undead. Some areas believe that the stillborn baby can also join the legions of the damned. These undead creatures spend their time terrorizing villages, seeking revenge for their misfortune.
The primary victims of her fury are men. In order to get close to their victim, the Pontianak takes the form of a beautiful woman. As soon as they get close, they kill the man buy digging her sharp fingernails into his stomach and removing his organs.
In some cases the Pontianak takes its revenge by ripping off the victim’s sex organs with her hands.
Woman can also become victims. Legend has it that she preys especially on pregnant women and babies, driven by jealousy from beyond the grave.
It is believed that Pontianaks locate prey by sniffing out clothes left outside to dry. For this reason, some Malays refuse to leave any article of clothing outside of their residences overnight.
Another ploy to lure people is to cry like a baby. It is often said that if the cry is faint, then the Pontianak is near. If it is loud, the Pontianak is far away.
You can often tell when one is around as their is usually a floral fragrance in the air which quickly changes into a stench.
There are three ways to prevent a woman becoming a Pontianak:
– Putting glass beads in the corpses mouth so that they can’t shriek
– Placing eggs under the corpses armpits so that they can’t fly
– Placing needles in their palms so that they can’t fly (apparently the palm helps the pontianak to fly)
The following charm may also be used in the case of a stillborn baby:
“O Pontianak the Stillborn,
May you be struck dead by the soil from the grave-mound.
Thus (we) cut the bamboo-joints, the long and the short,
To cook therein the liver of the Jin (Demon) Pontianak.
By the grace of ‘There is no god but God, …etc.”
It is easy for people to dismiss these as superstition and folklore, but what happens when an ex-pat experiences something unexplained:
Let me tell you that prior to the experience I am about to relate, I never believed in the supernatural. My unexplained encounter changed all that.
About 15 years ago, I was working as an expatriate in an Oil & Gas company in Malaysia. I was based in a small town called Kerteh, to oversee crude oil refining operations nearby. Because I was there on secondment for only three months, my family did not accompany me.
Living alone had its benefits, for I was free to explore the countryside, unfettered by familial restrictions. This I did every weekend, until I knew every inch of the countryside within a hundred-mile radius of where I stayed.
One Thursday night, after a long day’s work, I prepared to leave the office for home. It was already close to midnight, and I was looking forward to jungle trekking the following day, which was a holiday. I quickly jumped into my Mitsubishi Pajero and drove off, eager to get a good night’s rest before my big adventure the next morning.
The house where I stayed was a good 20 minutes’ drive away. Barely 10 minutes after leaving the office, I was out on country road, with nothing but occasional kampung houses dotting the landscape.
Then, some twenty yards ahead of me, I saw what looked like a hitch-hiker. Probably some Aussie student travelling through Asia in his gap year, I thought. But no, it was a woman – well-dressed and beautiful, carrying a small package.
It did not strike me as strange to see a woman out in the middle of nowhere at such an ungodly hour. The excitement of picking up a beautiful woman dulled my senses, I suppose. I slowed down to a stop and offered her a ride.
As she climbed into the car, I caught a whiff of her perfume. It was a beautiful scent, which I recognised was that of frangipanni. Even with my smattering of Malay, I knew where she wanted to go when she told me. It was along the direction I was going, with a slight detour, no more than 5 minutes’ drive ahead.
With only hand signals, she directed me. The area had pockets of marshland, so when a foul stench permeated the car, I didn’t give it much thought and dismissed it as smelly marsh gas. Soon we reached her house. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see anything outside. When I expressed concern, she reassured me – with gestures – that it was okay and she was fine.
With that, I left her there and drove home.
Early the following morning, I got ready to drive to the jungle trek rendezvous point. When I opened the car door, I noticed that my passenger from the night before had forgotten her package and left it in my car. It was odd: the package was a cylindrical piece of granite.
I would have to return it, I thought. Anyway, it was a good excuse to see the woman again. I started the car and off I drove.
It took me just five minutes to get to the mysterious woman’s place. Except that it wasn’t a house.
It was a cemetery. And the granite cylinder, I later found out, was a tombstone.
In 2008, the Pontianak was brought into the spotlight again when a video clip of a supposed Pontianak circulated around Malacca. It was also reported by the Harian Metro newspaper.
SIGHTINGS of a pontianak (woman vampire) captured on video have caused a stir among locals in Malacca, reported Harian Metro.
For the past fortnight, droves of people have gathered at a bridge near Jalan Pulau Gadong, Malacca, where the 50-second video-clip was purportedly filmed.
Many stayed up to the wee hours of the morning hoping to catch a glimpse of the spectre.
The video clip, circulated via mobile phone, shows a woman with long black hair and clad in a white cloth floating in midair while whimpering.
A receiver of the video clip told the Malay daily that he had heard many stories about the pontianak.
“Some say she would appear like a damsel in distress but when approached, she would turn into a pontianak.
“I’ve also heard that the police were called in by several men who stumbled upon the apparition, who was asking if they had seen her missing child.
“As soon as the police arrived, she would turn into her true self and disappear,” he said.
Here is the video: