9 Famous Malaysian Ghosts & Where To Find Them

Who doesn’t love a good spooky story? We know we do. The list below will introduce you to some heard-of-before hantus (ghosts) that will make you want to leave the nightlight on.
Who doesn’t love a good spooky story? We know we do. The list below will introduce you to some heard-of-before hantus (ghosts) that will make you want to leave the nightlight on. ((L) sweetjaynee/Instagram / (R) moskitoswap/Instagram)

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Every culture has its own ghouls and ghost stories. Of course, growing up Malaysian (or if you’ve been in this part of the world long enough), you’ll have heard of these haunting creatures of the night! While many believe that there is no such thing as haunted spirits, there are others who swear to have encountered scary sightings. Stories about entities knocking in the night, from nature spirits to malicious devils, will send goosebumps down the spines of even the most sceptical person. If you’re not already familiar with Malaysian hantus, read on to find out about the kinds of ghosts we have, and more importantly, where to find them!

1. Pontianak

Possibly the most well-known supernatural being, thanks to the variety of Malay movies featuring this creature, pontianak is believed to be the ghost of a pregnant woman. They are typically shown as long-haired, pale-skinned, jasmine-scented, and clad in all-white attire. Said to take on the appearance of lovely maidens to lure men, this creature’s non-threatening appearance is most likely how it draws its victims in before digging its long nails into their stomachs and consuming their organs. Pontianak is also infamous for dismembering male reproductive parts to exact vengeance! 

Where to find them
According to legend, they prefer to hang out amongst banana trees or other large trees with plenty of shade and prey on unwary men. Tourists holidaying at The Datai in Langkawi have claimed seeing ‘strange’ images on their pictures taken in the rainforest, and in their hotel rooms.

2. Hantu pocong

Islamic tradition mentions that hantu pocong, also known as the shroud ghost, is the deceased’s spirit wrapped in a white cloth called the kain kafan (plain white cloth). Strings will be tied above the head, around the neck, and below the feet to hold the fabric on the body throughout the rite.

Many Malays and Indonesians believe that the body will emerge from the grave to remind people to release their souls if the knots are not removed during the burial or within 40 days. They can ‘teleport’ since they are not affected by gravity, and can be found ‘loitering’ anywhere from their ultimate resting place to their former houses.

Where to find them
The Penang War Museum is host to all sorts of weird and creepy artefacts. Visitors have claimed the paranormal activity of ghosts and demons, which locals believe are the trapped souls of those tortured and murdered by the Japanese Imperial Army. It won’t be a surprise to see a pocong hopping around the area. A fun fact to note – it’s believed that you could become wealthy if you hug a pocong, though we don’t recommend this!

3. Toyol

Do you live alone and find that your money or things mysteriously vanish? That could be a toyol visiting your house stealing the possessions of others to enrich their masters.

Shamans or witch doctors (called bomoh) call on the souls of stillborn babies or dead human foetuses known as toyol. These tiny creatures can be purchased from witch doctors for various purposes and are typically used by their owners to steal stuff or wreak havoc in others’ lives. Southeast Asians believe that a toyol is responsible for our money or jewellery disappearing mysteriously. Toyols are childlike: mischievous, a little clumsy, a little needy, and easily distracted. Not to be mistaken for your actual human babies running around your house!

Every morning, owners must feed the spirit milk, provide toys, light a black candle, play mantras, and occasionally put a piece of the owner’s blood on the statue to keep it happy. Toyols are said to be easy to deceive and distract, usually with mirrors and needles.

Where to find them
The former Mandarin Pacific Hotel (now shut) in the centre of Kuala Lumpur is said to be haunted by these tiny creatures. Late at night, many reports hearing doors and chairs moving, as well as marbles dropping on the floor, and all evidence points to room 1102 as the primary suspect. Unless you’re incredibly brave, perhaps don’t venture into the now-closed property. 

4. Hungry ghosts

According to Chinese beliefs, the gates of hell will open on the seventh month of the Lunar calendar, and spirits will be released into our world. Like the existing spirits roaming our world, these souls from hell are often ‘hungry,’ as they rely on descendants to burn hell money and feed them.

Some spirits are said to be naughty and play practical jokes on humans. Others seeking vengeance will frequently visit people or locations. On the seventh month, there have been numerous reports of ghost sightings. Around this time, you may notice food offerings on the streets or at the front gates of some homes. A few of your friends may even warn you against spending too much time outside, believing that spirits will follow you!

So be cautious during this Lunar month: you never know when an ancestor might stop by to pay you a visit.

Where to find them
Those looking for a ghostly adventure can check-in at First World Hotel, Genting Highlands. The ghosts of suicide victims who lost everything at the casino are rumoured to haunt this resort hotel. Stories claim that some children scream for no apparent reason and refuse to enter certain areas of the hotel. Guests who are otherwise healthy become unwell for no reason at all, and you can smell incense, which the Chinese believe is food for ghosts.

Some of the hotel’s 6,118 rooms are cursed, and the hotel never rents them out to guests, even when it’s at full occupancy. Widespread whispers say that the entire 21st floor is cursed, and the elevator always skips that floor for some reason.

5. Mohini

The mohini is said to be the spirit of a woman who killed herself without ever experiencing love. If a woman’s sexual urge was not satisfied while she was living, she will become a mohini after she dies. She’s enraged and is out to ruin the lives of happy couples. Creepy! 

To any man, they will appear to look gorgeous in order to attract them. Some folks are mortally afraid of these things, and so they should be. Someone who can tear you limb from limb while chilling in a coconut tree is not to be messed with. 

Aside from a homicidal aura and a fondness for coconuts, this demon has a lethal scent that can seduce you to your death.

Where to find them
Tourists staying at the Amber Court Hotel and Ria Apartment in Genting Highlands said they have felt as though there were eyes constantly watching them, despite there being no one in sight! But profound haunting experiences include hearing a creepy voice howling like a hybrid of girl and wolf in the middle of an empty hallway, and people running amok inside the room.

6. Penanggalan

The penaggalan are usually female body-less heads with internal organs fluttering around. They are, without a doubt, one of the most heinous-looking demonic spirits on this list, thought to be miscarriage victims who feed on human blood to feed their dead kids. Some people even believe they died while giving birth. 

Another version claims that the penanggalans are midwives who agreed to deliver infants to the devil for youthful appearances. If the midwives mistakenly consume meat within the first 40 days, the devil will convert the midwife into a penanggalan.

Where to find them
Shih Chung Branch School, the infamous haunted school in Penang was a slaughterhouse for Japanese soldiers during the Second World War. There are accounts of people experiencing hysteria and spine-chilling feelings when they stand near the property. There are no records of how many people died here, which makes it even more horrifying. The building has been abandoned since then and left to ruin.

7. Mao gui

Two words: pet cemetery.  The mao gui, or cat ghosts, are malevolent feline spirits who seek vengeance on all humans for their crimes against cats. Cats were allegedly frequently sacrificed in ancient times, and as a result, the mao gui had an axe to grind. Though they may look like ordinary cats from afar, these fearsome felines have murder on their agenda, and will do everything in their power to make their tormentors’ lives a living nightmare. You may want to double-check if your cute little kitty cat is actually alive, and not a demon cat back from the dead hungry for revenge.

Where to find them
The Nirvana Pet Memorial Garden is a one-stop funeral service that offers everything from pet funerals to cremation and burial services. While no ghosts seem to have been cited, the idea of a dead animal haunting you is still creepy enough.

8. Orang minyak

The orang minyak (oily man) is a supernatural being summoned and controlled by malevolent bomoh, who primarily aim to cause havoc. The orang minyak can cover his entire body in a black oily material that renders him virtually undetectable at night, difficult to catch, and makes breaking and entering extremely easy. 

They are believed to have made a deal with the devil to gain power or reclaim their loved ones. In exchange, the person must worship the devil and rape 21 virgins in one week. The orang minyak can also climb walls and the edges of big buildings and jump long distances on rooftops. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find some Venom-looking person on top of you. 

Where to find them
What makes this hantu even more terrifying is that orang minyak is still terrorising people today. A knife-wielding orang minyak was reported roaming about Kuala Lumpur Hospital in 2005, attempting to rape nurses. In 2012, residents of a village near Gombak, Selangor, claimed to have sighted these threatening creatures lurking around in the night.

9. Hantu Raya

(Stephanie McCabe/Unsplash)

No, this is not a ghost that haunts only during Hari Raya. The hantu Raya (when directly translated, it means ghost of Raya) is a powerful and terrifying ghost who is controlled by a human master. The hantu Raya is sometimes compared to a demon because he is the master of all spirits. These ghouls bargain with their human owners in exchange for power and certain life benefits, like riches. In exchange, the owner or master, must care for the ghost and find a new home before dying. The hantu Raya is frequently passed down from generation to generation because of this.

When its ‘master’ dies without untying its bond with the ghost, the owner will suffer tremendously while dying. The hantu Raya will then assume the shape of its previous owner while cruising the streets at night looking for food and a new home. 

According to another legend, if the owner does not break their relationship with the spirit, it will ‘live forever’. The haunted spirit will suffer and, like a zombie, turn into a living corpse. As for now, no one knows how to get rid of a hantu Raya, so if any of you do, please do not hesitate to be in touch! Until then, keep your fingers crossed that your family does not give you a ghost for your birthday. 

Where to find them
Who knows, really? These ones can turn up at a fancy restaurant or even your next party pretending to be someone else. 

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A journalist by profession, self-proclaimed horror movie expert by passion. Danisha needs to spend more time watching sunsets than Netflix. Ultimately, she's just another girl figuring out her place in the world in between the multitudinous demands of adult life.