By Badrolhisham Bidin
I love reading stories on the supernatural. In the early 90s, my favourite author Russell Lee, a Singapore-based writer, wrote a series of ghost stories around Singapore and Malaysia. There are 22 books altogether, and I have them all.
The books, titled True Singapore Ghost Stories became best sellers overnight, relating purportedly true incidents as experienced by readers themselves.
My kids also love Russell Lee. My sonâs bedtime stories were mostly about strange happenings and ghost stories.
Apart from Russell, I have a box filled with Mastika, a magazine produced by Utusan Melayu. This magazine delves in mysteries and ghosts.
Crazy? Not really!
The interest stemmed from a personal experience when I was about nine or 10 years old. In fact, the whole family experienced this ghastly encounter and we would talk about it till this day.
It was a Thursday night (Malays believe the night before Friday is when these beings roam the earth) when my cousin, Rahim, came home after visiting an uncle with my mother.
It was about midnight and my mother walked in first as Rahim was locking his brand new Mini Cooper parked by the main road.
Rahim was staying with us as his family had moved to Bentong, Pahang, where his father was attached to the district hospital there.
(His frequent drive to Bentong had led to many unexplained incidents. One of them will be related in future articles, God willing.)
Our house was separated from the main road by a five-foot wide monsoon drain and linked via a wooden bridge.
It was a half-brick half-wooden double storey house with ample garden around it, located in Taman Sungai Abong, Muar.
Suddenly we heard footsteps and the frantic Rahim barged in, signalling us to go upstairs. We ran up and with an almost two-foot long torchlight, Rahim pointed the powerful equipment towards a tree across the road.
There, we saw a figure in white, long haired, swinging what looked like a cradle. The face was monstrous and it was cackling.
Swinging The Cradle
It seemed oblivious with the light from Rahimâs torch and kept swinging the âcradleâ.
After a few minutes, the figure suddenly flew off with a trail of devilish laughter.
We were speechless, blood drained out as we tried to figure out what had just happened. Not frightened, probably due to our motherâs presence, but definitely excited.
Rahim then related to us that while he was locking his car, he heard cackling sounds and saw the hideous figure on the treetops.
He literally jumped across the monsoon drain to get to the front door.
That was not the end. The following night, the âthingâ was scratching furiously on the roof of a neighbour’s home, sending them screaming in the middle of the night.
Jalan Sungai Abong, Muar was deserted after 8pm in the 70s, but occasionally a car or a trishaw would pass by.
Once, a trishaw puller had an accident in front of our house. He claimed to have seen the same figure in white flying above him.
The folks identified the figure as pontianak, scaring residents and passers-by especially the men.
The residents then organised prayer sessions every night and the pontianak disappeared after about a week.
No one came out after dusk, except my late mother who was a midwife at the Muar Hospital, located about 2km from our home.
She would cycle to and from work daily. She had three shifts â 7am to 2pm, 2pm to 9pm and 9pm to 7pm.
A brave woman she was, my mother related an incident that occured (well, again it was on a malam Jumaat).
She had to pass three Christian graves by the roadside (presumably belonging to the same family). One night, during a drizzle, my mother came home from her 2pm shift. It was about 9.30pm when she faintly heard a church organ being played.
White As Snow
There was no church in the vicinity. My mother wasted no time and cycled home furiously. We realised something was not right as her face was white as snow when she reached home.
After dinner and cleaning up, she told us what happened. But she said the organ could have been played by occupants of a bungalow opposite the little plot of cemetery.
Till this day, we never knew the identities of the dead, but the graves are still there.
Sungai Abong is now bustled with activities. The district Road Transport Department is located in the vicinity, many housing estates were built over the years and the street is brightly lit at night.
Pontianak or vampires have made their presence felt once in a while, judging from sightings and tales we read online but they are quite harmless, really.
The legend has prompted local film producers to come up with pontianak-themed movies such as Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam, Dendam Pontianak, Sumpah Pontianak and Anak Pontianak, among others.
Now that makes me wonder where the pontianaks and other beings had gone to.