From Toyol To Pocong: Here Are 5 Types Of Malaysian Hantus That Are Roaming Our Country

Did you know that penanggals are actually human beings who turns themselves into ghosts?

Cover image via Samuel Allan/ArtStation

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We have all been fed hundreds of thousands of ghost movies in the past century to feed our obsession with the unknown

Both local films and international blockbusters such as Munafik, Gonjiam: Haunted AsylumPengabdi Setan, Shutter, and Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam are all shreds of evidence that the horror genre is widely valued across Asia.

It is undeniable that Asian culture is deeply rooted in horror tales and all things mystic, and Malaysia cannot be left behind when it comes to our own unique set of ghosts.

To appreciate the spooky stories that our parents told us when we were younger, SAYS is listing down the most iconic hantus (ghosts) that have all graced the Malaysian land.

Turn off the lights in your bedroom and put on your reading glasses as we dive deep into the stories and history behind some of the most popular hantus in your area.

1. Pontianak

Image used for illustration purposes only.

Image via Samuel Allan/ArtStation

While tales about pontianaks have been passed down to Malaysians from generation to generation, it is important to note that pontianaks, or kuntilanaks, first gained notoriety in Indonesia but have since haunted various other Southeast Asian countries.

As with most folklore, it is hard to actually pinpoint when exactly the tales about pontianak were spread.

But according to the National Library Board, the first movie about a pontianak, sometimes known by her nama manja, Kak Ponti, was the 1957 film, Pontianak. It was produced by the Singaporean-Malay film production company, Cathay-Keris Productions.

Because of the movie, Kak Ponti's fame quickly rose among Malaysians, and to this day, she remains a part of our cultural legends.

Maya Karin in the 2004 film, 'Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2'.

Image via MUBI

According to Malayan myths, pontianaks are women who died during childbirth, becoming the horrifying monsters we all fear today.

Rumour has it that sometimes you can hear her cries late at night as she searches for her missing child.

Another story variation of Kak Ponti also said that she will only look for male victims with evil souls, as she was murdered by a man during pregnancy. A feminist icon indeed!

2. Pocong

Still from the 2022 Indonesian film, 'MUMUL'.

Image via Dee Company (YouTube)

Always seen wrapped in kain kafan (a shroud), pocongs are famously known to haunt their victims by hopping at them at a very fast speed.

Just like pontianaks, the history of pocong also originated in Indonesia.

The reason why pocongs haunt in a white shroud is that they are corpses that have been buried according to traditional Muslim customs, with a piece of cloth wrapped and tied over their head, feet, and neck.

But not every single Muslim who dies turns into a pocong.

The 2008 Indonesian film, '40 Hari Bangkitnya Pocong'.

Image via MUBI

According to Indonesian beliefs, a dead person's soul will remain on earth for 40 days from the day it died, and if the ties of the shroud aren't released, the corpse will turn into a pocong.

Stories about pocongs have evolved throughout the years, with many claiming that pocongs doesn't actually hop to their victims but rather teleports to them.

However, there is still no scientific evidence to support both claims. (Well, duh.)

3. Toyol

These cute and tiny little green creatures live off of stealing money from innocent people.

But if you think that they are terrible for robbing people, toyols are actually one of the most loyal and obedient hantus you can adopt, as they will steal any banknote you want, be it RM1 or RM100.

To add to that, Malay animism professor Dr Zainal Borhan told Yahoo! Malaysia that this little mystical pet can also be trained, all for the price of human or chicken blood.

Unlike pocongs and pontianaks, myths about toyols began in Mecca during the country's pre-Islamic days.

There is also a version of toyol in Chinese culture, but it is called guai zai instead.

Image used for illustration purposes only.

Image via Sinar Harian

Toyols are usually 'created' by a bomoh (shaman), who will keep the child-like creature in a small jar and pass it on to their clients who wish to be rich.

As the baby of all Malaysian ghosts, it is believed that toyols are very playful creatures. But this also makes them very easy to be fooled.

Recently, a TikTok video of a man finding coins kept inside the pillars of old Malay homes surfaced online.

After the video went viral, many netizens claimed that Malay ancestors built their homes in that manner to trick toyols and prevent them from entering their homes, by making them struggle to pick up the coins inside the pillars.

4. Penanggal

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Image via Staehle/Unusual Co.

Since the birth of TikTok, Gen-Z kids started using the terms "snatched my wig" and "my wig flew" on a daily basis. However, this ghost did it first and took it to the next level by flying with only its head.

Penanggal, sometimes known as penanggalan, is a Malay ghost that is actually a human during the day but detaches its head and organs at night.

Legend has it that a woman who indulges in black magic and has the will to do whatever it takes to be beautiful can turn herself into a penanggal.

But it has its drawbacks. In order to be the "It Girl", the witch must go on a vegetarian diet for 40 days, and once the time comes for her to break her fasting season, her head will detach from her body and she must consume human flesh and blood.

Image used for illustration purposes only.

Image via darkghast/Deviant Art

This floating creature is evil all around. They not only surrender to witchcraft but will also consume infants.

Penanggals will usually target a woman when she is defenseless and alone with only her baby at home, breaking into their house through an open window.

It is believed that you will notice a heavy scent of vinegar when a penanggal is near you. So, if you notice that smell, immediately go to all the windows in your house and lock them!

5. Orang Bunian

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Image via Nur Halimah/ArtStation

If you are planning to hike in Malaysia's deep forests, there are a few things that you must check before you set off on your adventure.

First, make sure that you have a guide with you. Second, carry all the necessities you need. Last but not least, try to read up on orang bunian to avoid getting yourself kidnapped by our friends in the other world.

Orang bunian are creatures that are said to look just like human beings, and they behave in similar ways as we do. They eat, they drink, and they have their own community.

They also live in a civilised society. There are many orang bunian kampungs in Malaysia, with each being run by its own kings and queens.

The only difference between humans and orang bunian is that they don't live in the same dimension as we do. They live in the same universe and on the same Earth, but their existence is hidden from our naked eye.

Orang bunian are not necessarily evil. Most of the time, they only become bad due to humans provoking them, and it's usually because we steal the materials from their land and destroy their homes.

Image used for illustration purposes only.

Image via Fly FM

According to Yahoo! Singapore, orang bunian comes from Minangkabau culture, which originated from West Sumatra in Indonesia.

There are plenty of stories from locals who claim that they have accidentally entered the orang bunian realm. Usually, those people were reported missing, only to be found dazed and confused in ungodly places.

Speaking of ungodly places, the orang bunian kampung is said to be located in places like cemeteries, forests, and abandoned buildings.

To communicate with them, one must use a medium like a bomoh. However, unlike toyols, you cannot manipulate orang bunian to do things for you. After all, they are smart, just like us!

If you wish to speak to them, you must do so in a polite manner and offer them gifts like pulut kuning berhias (decorated yellow glutinous rice).

Once they approve of your presence, you can ask them to do favours for you. But be very careful, because once you enter their dimension, it is extremely difficult to return back to this realm.

Have you heard of the 'most haunted house' in Malaysia, the SG Mansion? If you haven't, read more about this iconic house located in Bukit Gasing:

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