Indonesian Banget 15 – Kuntilanak, Indonesia’s Most Famous Ghost

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It’s October, time for Westerner to celebrate Halloween. We, Indonesian, do not celebrate Halloween. But since October is famous for Halloween, I decided to share Indonesian ghosts every October of each year.

Westerner has Halloween as the day the spirits show up and Japanese has Bon day, for Indonesian, especially Javanese, we have Malam Jumat Kliwon. Malam means night, Jumat means Friday and Kliwon is the name of day in Javanese calendar. Malam Jumat Kliwon can be translated as the night before Jumat Kliwon. The Javanese mixed calendars, our daily calendar used by most people all over the world and their own calendar. It is said that that night is the scariest night of all, malam paling angker. The night where ghost could suddenly appears in front of you.

Click this letter to see her picture (this pictures is  most likely fake but she does look like that)

That’s all I can share about the scariest night in Java Island. Now let’s get to the main topic of this month’s Indonesia Banget. The ghost I am going to share to you is the famous Kuntilanak. Since I and most Indonesian consider her as one of the scariest ghosts ever exist here, I don’t want to put her picture or image in my blog as something clearly visual. All her pictures or images can be seen by clicking that white image with kuntilanak letter. I just don’t want to answer comments to this post in the middle of the night with her picture looking straight at me. I posted this in day light, I searched her image in daylight…night time is not a good thing to do this. You might start thinking that I am afraid of her…well, the answer is simple enough…YES, I am afraid of her!!!

This is Sadako

Kuntilanak is a woman dressed in a long white dress. She has really long hair. She often stays on trees and sometimes wondering here and there. From the description I give you, if you have seen Ringu (not the American version, The Ring), Sadako reminds me so much of her…and that’s why I was freaking out the first time I saw that movie. She has this special cry that can chill anyone who hears it. What’s so special about her cry is that if you hear her cry so close to you that means she is far from you, however if you hear  it as if it comes from so far that means she is so close to you.

I have heard her once. Thank God I have never seen her. It was in the middle of the night, I was watching a movie on TV. My younger brother came home and knocked on the door. I was so engaged with the movie, so I opened the door and went back to TV. My brother suddenly called me back to the door. He was whispering “Kak….kak…sini deh!!” (Sis…come here!!).

Click this letter to see her picture (a kuntilanak is standing behind some girls)

I went back ignoring the movie because he sounded so mysterious. And then he told me to listen. There, so far away, I could hear her famous cry.  My brother was smiling and said that it must be the one everyone had been talking about lately, many people saw her sitting on a tree about 5 houses away from my house. Yeah…you read it correctly, my brother smiled!!! He wasn’t scared because he sees things.

Kuntilanak’s cry

There are so many rumors about her, which one is the correct one, we never know. It was said that Kuntilanak used to be a woman who died during pregnancy and she was looking everywhere for her child. There are also rumors that to get rid of her is by nailing her head. Some believe she has a hole on her back, although Sundanese refers to a woman with the hole in the back as Sundel Bolong not Kuntilanak. In Malaysia, she is called Pontianak.I knew this after reading Nekoneko’s review and did a little internet search.  Pontianak became famous in Malaysia after Indonesian immigrants came to that country. But Indonesian Kuntilanak  does not suck human’s blood like the way Malaysian describes Pontianak.

I have some stories related to her…both are true story, or so they said.

A friend of my friend told me this first story.

There was a girl who was just returning for her campus, she went a bit late than usual. It was already dark and not many cars were around. She took an angkot, a public transportation like the picture on the right. There was a big glass window on the back side of the angkot. She sat there and looked at the view outside (as I always did when I ride on angkot). The angkot suddenly stopped. The girl was still looking out of the window and thinking that a new passenger just stopped the angkot. The angkot stopped longer than it used to. She became curious and averted her gaze toward the driver. But instead of seeing the driver, she saw the driver was no longer there and the driver’s door was opened. The driver had run away. And there on the only door to get inside and outside the angkot, stood a woman in white dress with extremely pale face and long hair looking straight at her. She was shocked as there was no way out of the angkot. The strangest thing was, people finally found her the next morning still inside the angkot with a terrified face. She was sent to psychiatric ward. My friend told me that after she got out of the ward she could see ghost almost all the time as if her window to that world has finally opened.

This second story happened in my best friend’s office. Her office belongs to a Canadian and you about to read 2 different perspective from2 people from 2 different nations.

A friend of my friend had to work late with his boss, a Canadian. They worked inside the main laboratory. That laboratory had a huge window facing to the back yard. There was a big tree in the yard. And I should remind you that the event took place somewhere between 11-12pm, in the middle of the night where most people were asleep. They were so busy and forgot to close the curtain. The boss was looking out of the window and looked bewildered, he asked his co-work (my friend’s friend) “why is that girl sitting on the tree in the middle of the night?”. The Indonesian worker looked at the tree and tried to be cool by saying “sir, let’s just close the curtain shall we!” He was scared and the Canadian boss was bewildered. You might say that it was probably a real human…but it was impossible as the back yard had high fence and the front gate had a security guard.

You might not believe everything I said here because you don’t believe in ghost and other supernatural thing…but here in my country, we believe that there are other unseen beings living among us. One of those beings is Kuntilanak.

I  will share more next year 🙂


  1. Creeeepy. Of course I had to click on the photos. This was so interesting. The cry sounds a bit like the cry of the Irish Banshee. Only they say when you hear a Banshee you will die. Did Kuntilanak ever hurt people or just scare them?

    1. Creepy isn’t she!! I never want to see her as long as I love. I am glad all I can do is only feeling their presence. My brother is the one who can see them.
      I didn’t know banshee is Irish. I have about her but never knew her origin.

      As far as I have heard, Kuntilanak only scares people. Most ghosts in here only scare people. The one who hurt people are another human being who used spiritual being to help him hurt another. In here we call it as guna-guna (kinda like Voodoo).

  2. We also do not celebrate Halloween (althouugh I wish we did 🙂 but we do have All Saints day on October 31. and November 1st when we visit the graves of our dead ones.

    1. All Saints? that doesn’t sound like a creepy day. I bet it doesn’t have same meaning as Halloween. I like the idea of a day where you visit the grave of the dead.

      1. yep, it doesn’t, Halloween is quite weird because it is a day when they celebrate death in order to get drunk and sell millions of tones of chocolate and candy to people, rather ironic isn’t it.
        All Saints is more of a family day when you take some flowers to the graves of your loved ones. The day usually reminds me of roasted chestnuts and chrysanthemums since it is Autumn here and the air smells of those two things when you go to the graveyard.

        1. Hahaha it does sound weird when you put it like that!

          Your all saint day sounds like Japanese Bon day, in term of honoring the dead. The day where they accept the dead into living world. In Indonesia, specially muslim, will go to the grave on Friday and days before the Islamic holy-days.

          Do you have a famous ghost in Serbia, Dezz?

  3. I don’t really care for Halloween, I never do anything special. I did meet my hubby for the first time at a Halloween party back in Jakarta Nov, and I went with a friend of mine who had a huge crush on him and I actually went up to him to ask him to speak to my friend, ahah, and I never met him before! Little did I know our paths would cross again years later and he’s now my husband!

    As for Kuntilanak, it is a very scary ghost! I think Indonesian horror movies are even more terrifying than American ones, I did see Kuntilanak on dvd with a bunch of friends. It’s less scary and actually kind of funny when you watch in a big group though 😀

    1. Kuntilanak is indeed scary. I can understand that there’s no image of them here. I couldn’t put the image of Ringu in my blog since it’s too scary to look at, and then I was surprised seeing it in your post.
      See, I think Indonesian horror movies does more terrifying than anything else! I thought that that feeling was just because we live in Indonesia.
      Interesting subject, original 🙂

      1. Kuntilanak is scary but Sadako is not scary anymore after I watched it countless time. Once, I used her as my mobilephone wallpaper 🙂

        Good Indonesian horrors (I emphasized it so much at the word GOOD) remind us of the real ghost around us. That’s why Asian ghosts movies also felt scary because some of the ghosts are similar unlike movies from other part of the world.

        Thank you Andina, for Indonesia Banget I always try to share original things from our country.

        1. I can’t even look at Ringu image for more than one second 🙂 Great! I know I share too much foreign movies, but I hope in the future I’ll post more great Indonesian movies.

    2. Ow…that’s what we called ‘Kalau udah jodoh pasti ketemu lagi’ 🙂 how sweet.

      Old Indonesian horror movies are scary…but the new ones are only crap. Trust me, they don’t even worth to be watched.
      Real ghost stories shared from mouth to mouth is much scarier than a movie to me

      1. Oh I totally agree about your last sentence Nov, I get goosebumps when people tell me ghost stories. I have a couple friend who was um, harassed in a hotel room in Bali in the most frightening way, kind of reminds me of the Paranomal Activity story, except that it was for real!!

        1. AH yes…the hotels in Bali…I heard so much stories about real paranormal activities there. Even my own student been in that situation.
          It is known that Bali is the ‘gudang’ of ghosts and spirits

  4. Wow, thank you for this introduction to the ghosts in hour country and to Kuntilanak. She does sound scary. I’m in the US, and Halloween is more of a fun time than an actual believe in ghosts time. But the changing of the seasons always makes me think of/feel the dead and lives lived past. I love hearing about how other places consider people who have died. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Katie…I know that Halloween had turned more into having fun than thinking about the ghosts and monsters. But there are still many horror stories (books and movies) related to halloween. It would be fun if halloween really is the day people are scared of.

      Here in Indonesia, we believe ghostd exist. I have students who can see them and students who are sooo afraid of ghost story. I often teased those who are so afraid with ghost.

      Thank you for reading a bit bout my country, Katie

  5. Oooohh!! I’ve been waiting for this post and now it’s here!

    Novia… you really have heard her? That is scary. I’ve never seen or heard anything like that, so for me ghosts and the like are not as scary it is real living evil people that always scare me.

    I had seen a movie with the title “Malam Jumat Kliwon” but didn’t quite understand what it was about until just now… (the subtitles were terrible… and they didn’t quite let me know what was going on. I thought Kliwon was something like “All Saints Day” or something of that nature)

    Thank you for sharing these stories… for me they are a treat to hear about the real legends of the ghosts and spirits from all the movies I watch and always wonder about. Maybe I will do a post of my own about some of the stories my Grandmother used to tell when I was a girl…… 😉

    1. Thank you for reading this post Miyukichan 🙂

      Well, as I have said before, we believe there are ghosts around us and that’s why I find ghost stories scary. Whe I heard her, she sound close and yet so distant. The mp.3 file I gave for everyone to hear her cry is not 100% like her actual cry. It sounds sadder and deeper.

      I would love to hear your grandma’s stories. Btw, your grandma from whose side? your father’s or mother’s? I know some Japanese ghosts. I will share one of them in Kame’s blog on Oct 31 😉

      1. I have seen that in Indonesian movies, how people fully believe in all the ghosts and spirits, but I was never sure if that was really how Indonesian people feel or if it was made up just for the movies. It sounds so different to think people would really have such strong feelings like that. It make me think about it more too…

        My Grandma was my mother’s mother and came to live with us when my parents moved to the US after Dad left the military. She used to tell me ghost stories when I was little… I think to scare me into being a good lil’ girl… but little did she guess how much I liked them rather than be afraid of them….

        1. The scare is more like scared of the unknown not scared of being killed by it. The one in the movie is more to scared of being killed. It’s a big different.

          In my Holy book, it is written that we live side by side with the unseen till the end of time. However, tho not written in Holy book, some decided to show themselves among us human. I think it is also depend on whether the people believe it or not. My student can see this unseen sometimes but when went to US few years ago, she saw none of them…maybe because American is not a believer like in Indonesia.

          Poor grandma…she didn’t get what she wanted from you 😉

  6. Hehe, as Indonesian, I don’t call kuntilanak and “her friends” as ghosts. I’d rather mention them as satans and jins (genies, not genies in the bottle, hehehe). They exist, yes, and there are times that they appear in front of us (and the one with special eyes ^^), and it would be scary if we’re not ready to acknowledged them as ‘earth inhabitant’ just like us. My theory on Kuntilanak would be satan who personified him/herself as woman, especially woman who died after giving birth. I believe that woman died giving birth has her owner place in heaven, with God’s permission. Ah, of course that is only my opinion. 🙂

    1. In my opinion…Satan and Jins are the one written in Holy Book…however I like to call those Satans and Jins that intentionally show themselves in front of human as ghost. I hope you understand wht I meant.

      Yup…even though they said Kunti is from a dead pregnance woman, but I don’t believe…same as you, I think (and The Holy Book also wrote it like that), those who had passed away will directly go to Alam Barkah…the Jins are the one who pretended to be Kunti or Pocong or other ghosts.

      1. Yup I understand what you meant. Btw, I think I’d still shocked if I met them in their “physical” appearance. T.T. Hehe, that’s why I decided not to click the pics. At least not now. Thanks for hiding it in advance. 😀

  7. sometimes, we don’t believe that “they” stay beside us. Maybe also we don’t see “them”, feel “their” appearance, but, we must keep going what we speak to, don’t disturb “them”!!!!.

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