Many cultures from different countries have different myths/folklore or spirits to fear or worship. This short series looks at the different ghosts from around the World! Today’s ghost is the Pocong.
A Pocong is one of the most well-known or popular ghosts in Indonesian mythology often referred to as Hantu Bungkus in Indonesian meaning ‘The Wrapped Ghost’. Going along the with old school theme that ghosts are dressed in a white sheet, the Pocong is dressed head to toe and wrapped in a burial shroud. The same kind of shroud a person would be buried with. It is tied to the body with cloth around the neck, arms and legs. You could essentially think of it as a person who was buried wearing the shroud coming back to life. As the feet are tied or bound, it is widely believed that Pocong do not walk but instead fly or teleport to where they need to go. Horror movies have used a different approach and show the Pocong hopping as their feet are bound together with cloth.
In terms of facial features, the face is often said to be green and decayed with no eyes, again giving weight to the idea that it has literally come from the grave. The belief is that after a person has died, their soul roams the Earth for approximately 40 days. Once these 40 days is over, their soul is either freed and the ties that bound them are said to be released. If these ties are not released, the soul is not freed and instead takes the form of a Pocong.
While many fear the Pocong, legend also says that if you hug a Pocong and undo their ties, you are helping to release their soul and in return, you will receive good luck and wealth.
Image Source: Inilah Asal Usul Pocong yang Sebenarnya Pixabay
The Plastic Pocong
One of the most famous stories surrounding the Pocong is that of what is referred to as the Plastic Pocong. Originating from Java, the story involves a pregnant woman who was murdered by her boyfriend. During the autopsy process, it was said that her blood continued to ‘flow endlessly’ meaning that she had to be wrapped in plastic as opposed to the traditional white burial shroud. There were reports some had seen the plastic Pocong and stated that it existed as she wished to be free of her plastic shroud.
There are also reports of a red Pocong which is not related to the above story. The Red Pocong is said to be aggressive and evil in nature and will attack unprovoked. The red represents their anger at dying in what is described as an unpleasant death. It is what many would refer to as a type of revenge spirit.
The Pocong scares people into staying indoors
In 2020, the World was rocked with the outbreak of a new virus which we now know as Covid19. At the beginning of the pandemic, many governments tried different methods in order to get people to stay home in an effort to stop the spread of the virus they were still learning about. A town of Java in central Indonesia used a somewhat interesting method. It deployed the Pocong to scare people into staying inside!
Volunteers in Kepuh village in Sukoharjo told Reuters they have been holding “surprise patrols” every few days since early April – although the plan initially backfired when they became a social media sensation and there was an increase in people venturing out of their homes to see the ghosts.
“First of all, we want to be different. Secondly, to create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ is spooky and scary,” said the head of the youth volunteer group, Anjar Pancaningtyas, adding that the initiative was in cooperation with local police.
“Since we set up the pocong roadblock, the environment of the village has become more conducive [to the idea of staying inside],” he added.
After attracting the attention of news outlets and social media, the plan had the opposite effect with many people venturing out at night hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pocong hanging around the local cemeteries.
“The pocong is not to scare residents; instead, we want to educate residents on the fact that coronavirus causes death. It is a shock therapy, as people usually [pay more attention] to anything related to death,” Anjar Panca, the keeper of Kesongo’s Al Himmah mosque, said on Wednesday.
The pocong guards monitor guests coming into the hamlet and make sure residents obey the government’s restrictions on social gatherings.
“During the past three days, no residents were seen going out at night. Apparently, they’re scared of the fake ghost,” Anjar claimed.
The Pocong in horror movies
Perhaps the Pocong is so feared by locals due to its popularity within locally produced horror tv series and movies. It is depicted as one of the most infamous and evil ghosts in Indonesian culture. In 2006, the movie Pocong directed by Rudy Soedjarwo was banned and censored in the French and German DVD versions due to some of its disturbing scenes. For others it has become somewhat of a cult classic spawning many sequels and even horror comedy spin-offs, all hailing from Indonesia. The Pocong also features in various horror games such as Dreadout. This has caused the lore of the Pocong to be somewhat blurred between the lines of written fiction and folklore, something that we seem to come across a lot in the Ghosts of the World Series, however, the effect is still the same. A lot of people are scared of the Pocong.
When we look at the very base belief of the Pocong, I draw comparisons during the Victorian era where people had similar fears of the dead coming back to haunt us in the very state they left the World – in their burial shroud. While I will be exploring the influence of pop culture on the paranormal throughout the year, it seems evident we also need to address our belief systems and perhaps our own fears when it comes to the concept of death. Is that what we are really afraid of?
Check out more articles from the Ghosts of The World series:
Ghosts of the World: Draugr
Ghosts of the World: Onryō
Ghosts of the World: Banshee
Ghosts of the World: El Tunche