5 Malay Ghosts All Singaporeans Should Know.

With the tudung and the Muslim community in the spotlight, I think it’s high time we took a step back and focus on something else for a change…namely ghosts.

As somebody who fervently believes in the supernatural (but has yet to encounter anything), spirits and demons and their like have always interested me…especially the Malay ghosts below.

So without wasting time…let’s get to hantu (that’s ghost in Malay) number one!

1 – Kum Kum

Like most ghosts, there are a ton of different myths about this spirit. All agree that it takes the form of an old woman. In some stories, it’s a disfigured crone. The ghost gets its name from its inability to say ‘Assalammualaikum’ or Peace Be Upon You, the traditional Muslim greeting.

Instead, it mutters ‘Kum Kum’ to any who encounter it.

The Kum Kum is a malicious spirit, preferring to target young women. The story is that the Kum Kum used to be a beautiful woman who wanted to preserve her beauty. She visited a bomoh (shaman) who gave her a potion, and told to drink it once every day for a month.

However, during that time, she was forbidden to look into a mirror or the spell would be broken. For most of the month, she followed the bomoh’s instruction. On the last day though, she got too curious and looked into a mirror.

It shattered and broke the bomoh’s spell, which cause the woman to lose her beauty.

Going back to the bomoh, the woman was told that there was only one way to reverse the effects; the blood of young women.

You can guess pretty much how it goes from here on, yeah?

She goes around looking for victims hoping to one day restore her beautiful looks. The Kum Kum’s been sighted everywhere in recent years, mostly within Malaysia. There have been stories of the ghost in Singapore though it seems like she likes to haunt our neighbours more.

2 – Pontianak

This one should be pretty familiar to all. It’s pretty much THE Malay ghost…or ghosts since there are a lot of them.

Dressed all in white, long hair, sharp nails and a hankering for female blood, the Pontianak (or Kuntilanak) is or rather used to be a pregnant woman who died in childbirth. It has a handy indicator of its proximity; the sound of a baby crying. The louder it is, the nearer the Pontianak is.

Due to the conditions of her death, she wants the same for every expecting mother, which is why she targets them. Talk about a fixation on revenge. She can be scared off by carrying nails, which is why expectant Muslim women (at least those who believe in this creature) are always advised to have a nail with them at all times.

Depending on which myth you subscribe to, there might be a silver lining to encountering a Pontianak, especially if you’re single. As the story goes, if you have a nail and manage to hammer it into the back of her neck, the Pontianak will turn into a beautiful woman who will fall in love with the person who put the nail in.

You might want to consider this next time you have relatives coming over who just love to ask you about your love life.

3 – Toyol


This one is doozy.

A Toyol is a stillborn fetus (sometimes premature baby) that’s been recovered from its grave and resurrected in a black magic ceremony by a bomoh. Unlike other ghosts, the Toyol has no agenda of its own. Once resurrected, the Toyol is no longer a fetus, but the size of a small child. It’s supposedly deformed and demonic looking, due to the spells cast upon it.

After being raised from the dead. it’s then bound to a person, and used by that person for devious things; theft, haunting somebody…even murder. The Toyol has absolute loyalty to its master, and will do anything it’s commanded to do, provided it is kept fed.

The Toyol is fed by blood but not just any blood. It must be from the owner’s big toe…and it has to suck it out personally. It demands this daily, or else it will turn on its owner.

One thing to know about the Toyol; it’s not inherently evil. It is an undead creature.In fact, there are also a ton of stories where the Toyol is a force for good. It’s all dependent on who its owner is.

4 – Orang Minyak


In Malay, Orang Minyak translates simply to Oily Man in English. That’s pretty much what this monster is; a perpetually greased up dude who preys on young women.

The legend on the Orang Minyak differs on who you ask.

The most popular one has it that the original Orang Minyak was a deformed man who made a deal with the devil to be handsome. In return for granting his wish, the man was turned into the Orang Minyak each night, to prey upon young women and ruin them for Satan.

Unlike the most things in this list, the Orang Minyak isn’t an undead spirit, it’s just a man.

Despite that, the Orang Minyak allegedly has a ton of supernatural abilities; superhuman strength and agility, an unnatural slipperiness that makes it impossible to restrain or hold him and the ability to slip through even the tiniest of cracks.

So how do you stop this greased up Malay man? Throw batik cloth (which supposedly neutralizes his powers) on him, and then bite his thumbs to kill him.

Not really that weird at all…

5 – Penanggal


Last on the list is Penanggal, probably the weirdest looking one too.

Unlike most Malay ghost myths, the Penanggal stands out for its appearance of a disembodied woman’s head that’s floating with its organs still attached. However, it cannot be technically be classified as a ghost.

Commonly in Malaysian folklore, it is believed that penanggals are women who practised black magic to become one. The change is obtained by meditating during a ritual bath in vinegar with only the body being submerged.

However, the origins of the Penanggal has changed in modern times. It’s now claimed that the transformation is to have come from a curse or broken pact. This origin makes the Penanggal more of a tragic figure, other than outright evil one.

Whichever origin you believe in, both are united in their claim that you can easily detect a Penanggal by the strong smell of vinegar.

Penanggals are known to target pregnant women in labour by using their long tongue to lap up the blood. It doesn’t do much else other than that but its innards are cursed with a potent poison. Those who brush against them suffer burns and afflictions that can’t be cured by normal medicine, only with the help of a bomoh.

Eliminating a Penanggal is simple; just find the body (and burn it or pour broken glass inside its hollow neck cavity) or distract it until the sun rises. Like Western Vampires, sunlight is anathema to Penanggals and exposure to will kill a Penanggal immediately.

Those are pretty glaring weaknesses to us, especially compared to other entries on the list.

At least the Orang Minyak needs batik to be rendered useless…

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