DO you scoff at the existence of the supernatural? I do not. I once was a victim of unseen forces.
You may call it superstition but the spirits of the mountain and jungle do exist. They are penunggu (guardian spirits) of these abodes.
As a seasoned trekker and mountaineer, I always give due respect when ‘trespassing’ in these zones. There are taboos to observe.
During my climb up the 2,181m-high Gunung Yong Belar in Cameron Highlands, Pahang, I was under the spell of these spirits.
Descending alone, I found myself going around in a circle. It was clear and clean within the circle which was surrounded by flowering plants.
I could not see any other path to get out. My mind was blank. I lost track of time and I was trapped.
There was pin-drop silence and the atmosphere was tranquil.
Just then, two of our team members descended. We were on a five-day trip — three up and two days down.
They asked me what I was doing. I had the audacity to tell them to follow me.
They knew something was wrong: my face was pale, my voice forceful and my body language was out of the norm.
They dragged me by the hands from the circle. None of us spoke during the 90-minute descent from my newfound paradise.
On reaching our base, they related what transpired. God bless, I had escaped from the clutches of these spirits.
During this particular outing, a woman climber saw a beautiful lake when none of us did.
At night, two other women heard a tiger sneeze and then scratching sounds on their tent. (There was a strong odour of a tiger. True enough, they discovered paw prints the next morning.)
Another woman hiker felt as if someone was following her. She heard footsteps but when she turned round, there was no one.
Strange but true. I believe in these happenings because I went through this mysterious passage.
Back in the early 1980s, I was riding home on my motorcycle from my friend’s house in Bayan Lepas, Penang. The sun had just set and it was drizzling.
I clearly saw an apparition in a black cloak flying towards the graveyard opposite the army camp in Sungai Ara.
The long-haired female flapped her arms like a bird while gliding. It was not a figment of my imagination; it happened at close range.
Cold sweat dripped from my body and i felt a sudden surge of fear — I shook uncontrollably. That night, I ran a fever.
The area between the army camp and the present Tabung Haji building was formerly a thick jungle. Now, new residential areas have mushroomed.
Acupressure therapist John Sanders ‘returned from the grave’ 29 years ago after he fell from the edge of the active Gunung Sibayak volcano in North Sumatra. I had climbed this very volcano (2,172m).
I had the opportunity to interview Sanders, a student of traditional medicine. Here is his story:
“I fell into the crater 20m deep. Again, the soil gave way and I rolled down another 20m.
“When I gained consciousness before dusk, I had fractures and wounds. I shivered and waited for death for four days. I was overcome by hallucinations.
“I survived on bulbs of some plants and rainwater.
“I was told the orang bunian (goblins or supernatural beings) saved my life because the place where I was found was revealed by a dukun (medicine man) to the search party,” said Sanders, who had climbed alone as the trekker guide he engaged was sick.
In 1949, I lived opposite the Malayan Teachers’ College in Bukit Glugor.
Every day, just before twilight, pitiful screams of women could be heard. I later learnt that the Japanese had used the college as a torture chamber.
I wanted to venture there but was reprimanded by my parents.
Take the case of the seven orang asli children who went missing for 46 days in the jungle at Gua Musang, Kelantan, recently.
Two of them were found alive. It was a miracle to survive this unforgiving terrain. The children, aged between seven and 11, knew nothing about jungle survival.
The orang asli believed that orang bunian had taken the kids away. Even sniffer dogs could not trace the two in the area where the bodies of the other children were found.
In life, there are always elements of mystery. Experience the supernatural, then make your decision to scoff about the unknown ... or not.
> A.R. Amiruddin was a journalist in The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years. The views expressed here are entirely his own.