Hungry Ghost stories: Spooked by a pontianak

This Friday (Aug 12) will be the Hungry Ghost Festival, and for the next few days leading up to that, we will be publishing stories of a ghostly nature sent in by our readers. For more articles on the Hungry Ghost Festival, go HERE.

We want YOUR Spooky Stories!

Who doesn't love spine-tingling tales? Do you have any stories of the supernatural to share? Write to us in 700 to 800 words (in Word or Text format). There is no payment for submissions, and we reserve the right to edit all submissions. Email with the subject "Spooky Story".

The year was 1957 and I was only eight. The hit movie Pontianak was being shown to packed cinemas. As the movie had been playing at the Capitol cinema for over a month, it had become a hot topic of discussion among the folks in Kampung Ayer Leleh, Melaka.

Pontianak was a Malay horror film starring the beautiful and charming Maria Menado, who was one of the draws of the movie. It was based on Malay mythology, where a hantu, or ghost, is born when a woman dies during childbirth, but her spirit lives on.

The pontianak kills her victims by using her long fingernails to physically remove their internal organs to be eaten. She can transform herself from a real stunning beauty to a ghostly, disfigured person. Terrifying or absorbing, it was certainly a different kind of movie with immense attraction.

I had five siblings then, Ajaib (14 years old), Piaro (13), Jaib (nine), Heera (five) and Harban (four). We were curious to find out what the hoo-ha was all about, so we repeatedly begged Mum to take us to watch it. Being a Tamil movie buff, she ignored our request. However, more and more interesting anecdotes about this black-and-white horror movie trickled out. It was the talk of the kampung folk.

To get Mum to change her mind, we siblings devised a plan. We decided to be on our best behaviour. We cheerfully did all the chores and willingly ran errands for her. One fine day, she told us that she would bring us to watch the movie. We were ecstatic, to say the least – it was an outing we had hoped and prayed for, for a long time.

We were very excited and couldn’t wait to watch the evening show.

As soon as the movie started, stillness enveloped all of us. We watched the movie silently and we hardly moved. There was no chitter-chatter, and we were too afraid to go to the toilet. Occasionally, I would turn sideways and could spy my terrified sisters covering their eyes with their hands during the scary scenes. It was clear that all of us were not enjoying the movie, and were just waiting for it to end.

We were relieved when the movie was finally over. Hardly speaking to one another, we took two trishaws to reach home.

Drama unfolded as soon as we reached home. It didn’t help that our house was at the base of a cemetery (Bukit Cina) with hundreds of graves in front of our house.

Suddenly, we all felt frightened at being alone in our own home! We dared not go to our separate rooms to change our clothes. Instead, we decided to have dinner first.

Our kitchen was a separate unit, 10m from our main house. We grouped together and went to the kitchen simultaneously.

We gobbled our dinner without saying a word. No one dared talk about the movie, but deep down inside, we knew that the creepy movie had terrified us. Images of the pontianak were running wild in our imagination. We were afraid that the pontianak, in seeking revenge, would pounce on us. As long as we were together, we felt safe.

As fate would have it, we were forced to make another trip to the kitchen as we had forgotten something. No one wanted to budge. I was supposed to be the bravest of them all, but I too was petrified. What if I was attacked while in the kitchen?

Mum then ordered my elder brother Jaib to accompany me. I wanted a torchlight but couldn’t find one. So, I held my brother’s hand tightly as we ran to the kitchen.

Just before the kitchen door was fully opened, I visualised a queer figure sitting at the dining table, beckoning. My inner voice asked, “Could it be pontianak?” Oh no! I did not want to be the pontianak’s next victim.

I froze. I did not scream or shout. I did not relate this to my brother later.

Jaib then switched on the lights and there was nobody in the kitchen – I heaved a sigh of relief. I quickly grabbed what I needed and ran back, leaving my brother to close the kitchen door. I was shivering uncontrollably. I angrily told Mum I would not go to the kitchen again.

It was a night to remember. No prizes for guessing if we had a restful sleep that night. It was the first and last time Mum would ever take us to watch a horror movie.

The movie remained a favourite topic of discussion among the kampung folk, but I stayed away. I vowed never to watch a scary movie again. It took some time for the ghastly images to disappear from my mind.

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