Everywhere you turn in the U.S. are orange pumpkins and costumes for Halloween. Candy bars and sparkly tinsel wrapped around brown leaves, orange and browns, everywhere. They kind of look like Freddy’s Nightmare meets Wizard of Oz, but that stuff does nothing for us Asians. How do you scare the crap out of people, Asian-style? You gotta take it up a notch and get regional. Here are some ideas for you.
1. Jiang Shi (China)
I remember the Chinese Vampire movies from my childhood. Pretty scary for a kid, but also, that very powerful piece of yellow charm paper makes them freeze and stops them cold in their tracks. Mike Chen explains the different types of Jiangshi for you.
2. Orang Minyak (Indonesia)
Orang Minyak, Oily Man, or Oily Maniac is a legendary Incarnation of a Man who likes robbing and ravishing in Malay folklore. Orang Minyak looks like a human being but his entire body is covered with black oil and he basically goes around looking for women to rape in the darkness of the night. If the Cantonese call horny perverts ham sap, for the oily pervert, this would be yau sap. He’s so oily you can’t catch him!
3. Toyol/Tiyanak (Malaysia/Indonesia/Philippines)
Almost everyone in South East Asia has heard of the word Toyol, and if you are in the Philippines, references to the Tiyanak is plenty scary. These are spirits that are dead fetuses that have been revived by a witch doctor called a bomoh. I’ll let Scary for Kids and Wikipedia tell you all about them.
4. Sundel Bolong (Indonesia)
The Sundel Bolong is a female ghost from Indonesian mythology, with long hair and a hole in her stomach. She’s said to be a sensitive ghost, who castrates men who reject her. You can read more about her and watch the Indonesian film here.
5. Ju On (Japan)
Take inspiration from the movies that haunt the crap out of you. I was too chicken to watch this one, but you can. It’s this kid that kind of crawls on the ceilings.
6. Pontianak/Kuntilanak (Malaysia/Indonesia/Singapore)
This ghost is said to have died in childbirth. They take on the form of a beautiful woman and prey on men. You can watch Maya Karin go from beautiful to totally creepy at Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam here.
7. Penanggalan/ Balan-Balan/ Palasik (Malaysia/Borneo/Indonesia)
I’m not sure why all the ghosts in South East Asia are female or children. Feminists take note! The Penanggalan or Balan-Balan is a Malay/Bornean female ghost, who is human by day. By night it detaches its head and flies around in search of pregnant and children to attack. She has dangling intestines and organs. More information on the Penanggalan or Balan-Balan can be found from Wired Weird World.
8. Gwisin 귀신 (Korea)
The Gwisin 귀신 isn’t unlike the Pontianak, but she’s Korean. She has her hair down because being unmarried, she doesn’t have the right to bun it up. She wears a white Hanbok which is the traditional attire for those in mourning. More info can be found here.
9. Yurei (Japan)
So the Yurei looks a bit like the Gwisin and Pontianak in that they have long hair, but they dangle their lifeless hands on their wrists and hunch a little in their white kimonos. Yokai.com has all the details on what a Yurei is, and Wikipedia has a good entry on it too.
10. Pocong (Indonesia)
Not to get all religious or anything, but this ghost called the Pocong is specifically a Muslim ghost. It is said that the soul of a dead person, trapped in its shroud. Not sure how dangerous they are, they just kind of hop around because their feet are tied.
There are many more types of ghosts from Asia that I didn’t cover, but if you’d like to learn more, here are some Thai ghosts descriptions from Ghosts of Thailand and Ghosts in Thai Culture from Wikipedia. There are also more Malay ghosts, Japanese ghosts, Chinese ghosts, Indonesian Ghosts, which to me are the scariest of them all!
Happy freaking everyone out!