Written by Matin Firas Harahap
Edited by Candice Neo
Superstition is a part of the daily chitchat of Indonesians, even in the metropolis of Jakarta. Every Thursday night, local television stations fill their airwaves with tales of horror. From movies to supernatural game shows, ghost stories simply fascinate the people of Indonesia.
Not surprisingly, the supernatural industry has become a source of income for many. Shamanist services and supernatural tours raking in millions have appealed to the hearts of all segments of society.
This Halloween, our team of experts have brought together the most chilling stories that will have you sleeping with the lights on…
(Note: This article contains graphic images.)
1) A Thousand Doors, a Thousand Horror Stories: Lawang Sewu, Semarang
Widely said to be Indonesia’s most haunted place, the Lawang Sewu is notorious for being featured in the final episode of a local paranormal TV series, where an apparition was caught on video. A few days later, rumours spread online that one of the participants had died mysteriously.
Photo via estergita
Sitting right in the heart of Semarang, the Lawang Sewu marked the Dutch’s success in Indonesia. Rich in colonial era atmosphere, the building itself is a majestic piece of architecture and a modern marvel at that time. Underground tunnels that were made to cool the building also served as passageways connecting it to the Governor’s residence and harbours.
Photo via jesenwiranata, virtuatravelr, ryo wibowo
During the Japanese Occupation, the Lawang Sewu was used as their headquarters in Semarang. The underground tunnels of Building B served as prisons where inmates were brutally tortured, and their decapitated heads were piled in a corner of the basement.
Photo via wisatanesia
Climb up a few set of stairs and you may get goosebumps. The ghost of a girl who committed suicide to escape torture is said to be roaming the tower, often with feet floating off the ground!
Photo via pulsk-wikimedia
2) An Other-worldly Commute: Bintaro Railway and Manggarai Station
Widely condemned as the nation’s most devastating railway accident, two trains collided head-on on Monday morning, 19th October 1987, in Bintaro, South Jakarta due to an internal miscommunication.
More than 100 lives were lost, some were thrown out on impact, while others bled to death as they were crushed in between pieces of metal. It was a gruesome scene, and it took almost two days to completely evacuate the bodies.
Photo via dudy sudibyo, wikimedia
Since then, the number of accidents on the exact stretch of railway has oddly increased, especially on Mondays. Increasingly widespread were stories of drivers who did not notice warning signs of an oncoming train in time. There was also a spike in the number of pedestrians who walked onto the railway tracks, right in front of a speeding train, and they were believed to be possessed by the Deaf Spirit or Hantu Budek.
The most recent major accident took place in late 2013, when an oil tanker was struck by a train, causing a huge explosion killing seven people. Regarded as Tragedi Bintaro II, the accident reminded the public of the railway’s dark past.
Photo via dian-triyuli-handoko-tempo
The story doesn’t end there – for decades, the wrecks from railway accidents around Jakarta are brought to a ‘train graveyard’ at Manggarai Station where they are put to rest. Unfortunately, although the trains have stopped operating, the same can’t be said for souls attached to them. Besides the apparitions reported on this site alone, trains have also been seen to be travelling way past operational hours with no one on board.
Photo via badilscom
One of the most bizarre stories is that of a college student who saw what looked like victims inside the train he was on late one night. Surprisingly his legs became sore when he reached his destination. He talked about what happened with the security guards duty, only to find out that there was no train all along and he had run the whole way.
3) Don’t Forget to Honk when passing by, Jakarta
There is one thing Jl. Casablanca is known for – inhumane levels of traffic, all day, every day. As the main access road connecting the suburbs to the city, the number of drivers and their dodgy road ethics will surely haunt you in your sleep.
Photo via Matin (TripCanvas)
The traffic is so bad that passing by Jl. Casablanca every day, we often forget the road’s sinister secret. Although the eight-kilometre stretch consists mainly of straight roads, it is a surprising fact that an accident occurs here every other week, and even the newly built flyover has already claimed a number of lives.
Tracing back to its origins, when Jl. Casablanca was built in the 80s, an underpass had cut right through the Menteng Pulo cemetery. The mishandling of corpses while relocating them is said to have upset the spirits, including a particular Lady in Red.
Photo via jurukunci
A few years later, an elderly man was found hanging by the neck at the end of the underpass.
Photo via andi-irawan-youtube
And so they say, always remember to honk three times as you enter the tunnel or you might be given an unpleasant welcome!
Photo via chandrawitts, nurimanwidianto
4) Go on a Supernatural Shopping Spree at Mall Klender, Jakarta
The sudden collapse of Indonesia’s economy in the late 90s had stirred up violence within the people, resulting in looting, mass murders and rape.
On May 15, 1998, an army of looters seized the Yogyakarta Department Store.
As shopkeepers and visitors scrambled for safety, a fire was deliberately started and soon engulfed the four-storey building. More than 300 people were trapped. Afraid of being harmed if they escaped the building, they remained inside to meet their fiery death.
The scars of what is now referred to as Mei Kelabu (‘Grey May’ in English) remains in the hearts of the affected, no matter how hard they try to forget. One of the darker moments in Indonesia’s history, the incident shook the nation as well as the international community.
Although the departmental store was rebuilt as the Klender Mall in the year 2000, it is still difficult for the locals to let go of the traumatic memories that linger here. Eight ghosts are said to haunt the area, including phantom bus passengers who usually hitch a ride at night, only to disappear a few hundred metres later.
Photo via segiempat
A phone booth that was part of the original building is also never removed as it is believed it would upset the spirits attached to it.
5) The Epicentre of the ‘Bogor Triangle’: Mount Salak
Out of the many places in Indonesia that claim to be haunted, Mount Salak has swallowed the greatest number of victims to date, including seven unexplained air crashes in the past decade that involved planes which suddenly lost contact with control towers.
Photo via sonofmountmalang
Although not as tall as most mountains in Java, conquering Mount Salak is considered to be a daunting task, even to experienced hikers. Besides its deadly trails, lakes and poisonous gas claim the lives of unlucky hikers every year. Many of those who survive tell horrific tales walking around in circles for hours when they lost their way in its dense forests.
Photo via fineartamerica, neil wade
The most recent air crash on Mount Salak took place on May 9th, 2012, when a Russian Superjet on a test run supposedly flew right into the face of a cliff after losing radio contact, killing everyone on board.
Photo via wirasatria, inilah.com
But more peculiarly, the search and rescue team all reported of having the exact same dream about a mysterious woman who led them into a house full of beautiful women. The same team also reported to have heard a woman crying for help, but she was never found. The cries oddly came from a different area than that of the crash.
6) Never Wear Green in the South Sea: Pelabuhan Ratu, Sukabumi
A tale of jealousy within the Royal family of 16th Century Kingdom of Mataram has brought about the death of a Queen who gave her life to the open sea, and a legend that lives on.
Just a few hours from the bustling city of Jakarta lie the beautiful beaches of South Sukabumi, with Pelabuhan Ratu right in the center of it. It’s a coastal town where beach villas scatter all over white sandy beaches, with the curl of the waves just right to satisfy any surfer.
Don’t get too carried away though – quite a handful of holidaymakers have never resurfaced after taking a dip in the ocean. Most of the victims were men, suspected of wearing green attributes while swimming, and stories spread that the Nyi Roro Kidul (Queen of the Southern Sea of Java) took their lives as wearing her colours upset her.
Photo via estergita
Different from most urban legends in Indonesia, Nyi Roro Kidul’s presence is revered by many, including President Soekarno himself.
In fact, Room 308 of the Samudra Beach Hotel has been reserved for her visit. Available for meditation purposes, the room is beautifully designed with green and golden threads (colours she loved), doused in the smell of jasmine and incense.
Photo via afif farhan, basuki abdullah, sutami kejuangan
But are you brave enough to have a date with the Queen of the South?
7) A House of Satanic Worship? Octopus House, Bandung
The public’s question has been answered – in 2013, a local news channel was set to debunk the ongoing rumours of a ‘Satanist Church’ in Bandung. The unmissable sculpture of a giant octopus sitting on the roof of the house had sparked up much curiosity online in the past.
A group of journalists’ attempt to uncover its mystery found that the ‘octopus house’ is encircled by a series of houses, and the only way inside is through House Number 6 (and for some reason, there are three places where the number ‘6’ is displayed on the front of the house). The investigation ended when a loud quarrel broke out between the journalists and the caretakers of the house.
A person claiming to be a former member of the ‘satanic church’ reported to the authorities that the house is used for cult-related sex rituals. Several investigations later, no evidence supporting the allegation was found.
The owner of the house, Frans Halimawan, appeared on a news broadcast and expressed his fury with the false accusations. As an art devotee, he explained how every piece of the house symbolizes his life journey, including his struggles as well as his beliefs, and that these rumours have offended him deeply.
Believe it or not, decide for yourself!
8) A Pit of Despair and Bloodied Injustice: Lubang Buaya, Jakarta
A monument built to commemorate Indonesia’s bloody history, the Lubang Buaya (or Crocodile’s Pit in English) is the site of the brutal murder of seven Army Generals by the Communist Party in 1965. It marked a major turning point in Indonesia’s governance as the event led to President Soekarno’s coup, and a military overtake of the country.
25 years later, a museum was opened to educate the public about the events that took place in Lubang Buaya. Wax life-sized dioramas re-enact how the Generals were dragged out of their homes and slaughtered.
Photo via diorama, benazia, syafira-aries
In the middle of the monument sits a small well, which was where the mutilated bodies of the seven Generals were thrown into.
The tragedy sparked much controversy, from banned propaganda films that used to be mandatory in schools, to the CIA’s involvement that led to the obscured truth of what really happened.
Photo via agan harahap-blogspot
That may be the reason why the cries of Lubang Buaya’s restless souls can still be heard from inside the well, to the footsteps that echo the hallways at night. In fact, it’s said that some of the clothes on display still reek of blood!
9) Get Closer to Death at Trunyan, Bali
Do you dare to visit the Village of the Dead?
Trunyan village is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
On the shores of Lake Batur in the Kintamini area, the people of Trunyan (unlike the other Balinese communities) neither cremate nor bury their dead.
Photo via beautifulbali
Instead, their bodies are left to rot in bamboo cages under the watchful eye of a fragrant tree that (thankfully) masks the smell of decay.
Photo via yusuf ijsseldijk, flickr
Once the flesh has decomposed completely, the bones of the corpses are stacked neatly on the platform that leads to the Trunyan temple of death, unfortunately off limits to the public as of now.
Photo via ruriiyy
This portion on Trunyan Village is written by Oceana Setaysha.
10) Enter the Void of a Volcanic Kingdom: Mount Merapi, Yogyakarta
In the same way that Yogyakarta is governed by the Keraton, Mount Merapi is also believed to be a Kingdom of its own – a kingdom unseen to human eyes!
Photo via ulet ifansasti, gettyimages
Predicted to erupt every two to five years, Mount Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the world today. Sitting at almost 3000 metres above the sea, it is a compound of breathtaking sights of nature, where thousands flock to each year from all over the world.
Photo via kalibiru triptrus
Beyond what our eyes can see, the residents of the surrounding area believe that Mount Merapi is a Kingdom of spirits who govern the mountains, from fertilizing the land, its weather, and ultimately, its eruptions.
Instead of fearing these spirits, locals residence honor their presence by keeping its environment protected and respecting their space. One place that has become a favourite to those willing to experience the supernatural first-hand is the Pasar Bubrah. Sitting right below the summit, this area is often used as camping grounds by hikers hoping to catch the sunrise. But just as they are about to doze off, the hustle and bustle of what sounds like a market fills the air, accompanied by a band of gamelans. And the strong winds that plow through at night ensures that campers think twice before leaving their tents.
Photo via yuliaslovic
Other mysterious hotspots on Mount Merapi includes a bunker where two guards were baked to death during an eruption.
Photo via jaredbrett
The crater of Mount Merapi is also believed to be a gateway into their kingdom, with no way out!
11) Hotel for Ghosts? Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel, Bali
Up in the mountains of Bali on the way to the iconic Bedugul Lake, something is stirring in the fog. It’s a ghost story some two decades in the making, and it’s soaked in skin-crawling horrors.
Photo via piet mulder, triplike1do
Some say the Ghost Palace Hotel (also known as PI Bedugul Taman Rekreasi Hotel & Resort), a construction perched on a hillside, was built by Tommy Suharto. Others say it was a crooked developer who tried to curse his rivals out of the way.
Photo via lifeintravels.ru
If you’re brave enough to explore this place, you’ll likely see the wandering spirits of victims, either laborers crushed in their rush to complete the construction, or competitors cursed to horrible deaths.
Photo via piet mulder
This hotel may never have been opened to the public, but who knows if it already has a full house every night?
This portion on Bedugul Hotel is written by Oceana Setaysha.
12) Bloodied War-torn Memories in an Old School: Tugu Complex, Malang
Lodged in the city centre of Malang, a piece of history that was once the pride of the city underwent an unexpected turn of events during the final moments of World War II, leaving behind bitter memories and unanswered questions.
All three schools in the vicinity were used as concentration camps by the Japanese troops, who made a system of crawl-spaces connecting them to a train station and the governor’s office. Legends say that two high schoolers’ attempt to explore the tunnels ended gruesomely, after one student rushed back screaming, too traumatized to speak. The other student was found two weeks later in a train station, in a disturbed state.
Another oddity that remains unanswered is what appears to be ‘blood stains’ on the floor tiles in several buildings, mostly found randomly splattered on the floors of SMA 1, 3, and 4. What is even more ambiguous is that every attempt to get rid of them (either by replacing the tiles or by laying another layer on top of it) is proven to be unsuccessful, sometimes with workers falling ill shortly after the job.
Photo via odith, hoosierparanormal.com
The Tugu Hall is believed to be the most sinister building in the complex. Although the blood stains have been concealed after the installation of wooden floorboards (with layers of sand underneath for some reason), the hall is restricted to visitors at night, just in case the headless ghosts of soldiers decided to appear.
Special Mention: The Land of the Living Dead: Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi
‘The Walking Dead’ does not refer to a television show in Tana Toraja. Instead, it is an annual ceremony of bringing the dead back to life.
As one of the most complex burial rituals in the world, death is actually celebrated by the Torajans. The more extravagant the funeral, the better. In order to achieve this, families would take months and even years to save up for a funeral, keeping their dead preserved in their homes, feeding, bathing and even occasionally taking them for a stroll outside.
Photo via laurenthetravelingteacher
A person is declared dead only after the ceremony has begun. Dozens of buffaloes and swine are sacrificed to feed the village to fuel an 11-day funeral of music and dancing.
Next, a parade takes the deceased towards a cliff where their coffins are placed on. For babies who died before teething, holes are carved out of a special tree to be their final resting place.
In another part of the tradition, which had been outlawed in recent years, family members would wash and change the clothes of the dead every year in a ceremony called the Ma’Nene.
Photo via findlaydonnan
But it doesn’t end there. The corpses are then taken to the place where they died and are walked back to the cliffs!
To replace this obscure tradition, wooden life-sized effigies are now placed on the cliffs, fully clothed and jeweled. The Torajans believe that these sculptures will provide the dead with a body to watch over them eternally.