Remember when your momma told you to stay indoors once it gets dark? Well, she was probably right after all. Vampires are nocturnal hunters who feed on warm, fresh human blood. So, the next time you decide to walk down the cobbled streets past your bedtime, don’t be surprised if you find yourself prey to these deadly hunters! They would jump at the chance to stick their razor like fangs into your neck, leaving you as pale as ghost. So much for wanting a peaceful death.
In Southeast Asia, things are a little different. These vampires feed on flesh, blood and faeces. Pregnant women and their unborn children are also considered a delicacy. So, dive into exciting tales of regional folklores and check out Southeast Asia’s versions of these thirsty bloodsuckers! Featuring gory, mysterious, and magical stories which are sure to entertain, shock and confuse.
Spirit: Krasue or Phi Pop
Manifesting itself as a young and beautiful woman, the krasue roams around with her exposed internal organs hanging down from her neck as she haunts the night in the absence of her lower body. Also known as the phi pop, this nocturnal female spirit has an appetite for cattle, human guts and faeces.
When it’s time to indulge, pregnant women and their wombs are considered the equivalent to the modern day classic pairing of caviar and champagne. With the help of an elongated tongue, the krasue reaches the placenta or foetus and treats herself to a feast. Following that, she returns to attach herself to her body before the sun rises.
Legend has it, the Cambodian arb is a Khmer princess who was sentenced to be burned alive when her wealthy Siamese husband found out about her affair with another man of a much lower class (smells like a Bollywood movie plot, eh?). To cheat death, the princess sought a local sorcerer to cast a magical spell to protect her from the flames. Unfortunately, the spell could only save the top half of her body, giving birth to the sinister arb who haunts the night with her grotesque dangling intestines.
The kesu in Lao shares similarities with her Thai and Cambodian ‘sisters’. The distorted nature of this spirit shadows the country’s turbulent past. The kesu, an innocent woman dismembered and possessed by an evil spirit, and Lao, a country recovering from colonisation by the French, a Japanese invasion, a civil war, as well as a not-so-covert operation of a decade long war by the Americans, perhaps the two have more in common than they realise.
Source: via Astro Shaw
Malay folklore usually describes the penanggalan as a midwife who worships the devil to gain her power. After breaking a pact to abstain from eating meat, she is cursed to live with only the top half of her body –fitting considering ‘penanggal’ means ‘detach’. This demonic spirit also stinks! After spending the night out on a hunt, the penanggalan dips its entrails into vinegar to ease the process of transferring them back into her body, which might explain why local tales often describe a horrid vinegar stench when retelling the myth.
This satanic spirit is known to haunt the roofs of houses where women are in labour. It screeches when a child is born! To keep this thirsty bloodsucker away, villagers often place sharp objects such as broken glass on windows, or pineapples below the homes, as most Malay village structures are built on stilts.
Not all Southeast Asian spirits are women, some are possessed little boys! The bajang is a Malaysian vampire that is just as deadly as the penanggalan. Created by a sorcerer from the remnants of a stillborn baby, this creature is driven by the desire to harm. Closely related to the female langsuir who takes the shape of an owl during the night, the bajang is the male version who takes the shape of a cat and attacks pregnant women, mostly. Once it has fed on its victims, the nocturnal hunter returns to its master and is kept in a chest.
Spirit: Leak/ leyak
The leyak is believed to be exclusive to Bali. To fuel its practise of black magic, this vampire hunts for pregnant women and the blood of their unborn children. It also haunts graveyards and feeds on corpses. The fiercest leyak is goes by the name of Rangda. Known as the leyak queen, she is the incarnation of Calon Arang, a legendary witch who terrorised Java during Airlangga’s reign in the late 10th century.
So, the next time you visit Bali, you’ll do well to remember there’s so much more to this gorgeous paradise than sun, sea and sand!
Malaysia and Indonesia
Video Game: Tainted (2017)
Source: via cutecenter.nus.edu.sg
The Southeast Asian vampire’s tale isn’t just confined to the silver screen, now there is an actual video game too! Designed by 15 final year students from The Institute of Technical Education College in Singapore, ‘Tainted’ was inspired by popular Malaysian and Indonesian folklore about the Pontianak, a spirit of a woman who is believed to have passed during pregnancy.
‘Tainted’ is a first-person 3D game, which enables players to experience this supernatural force using visual-auditory-olfactory interactions. Now you can experience the pontianak through your sense of sight, hearing and even smell! The objective of the game is to not get caught by the satanic spirit. As soon as the thirsty bloodsucker gets close, an ultrasonic diffuser releases a banana scent which perfumes the air while the console’s LED indicators go off.
So, there you have it, 7 Southeast Asian versions of the vampire. Bloodthirsty, demonic, horrific, and even stinky! If you liked this article, check out GOASEAN’s Strange Encounters for more supernatural stories.
Written by: Sandeep Dhanoa
Sandeep Dhanoa is a content intern at GOASEAN, is pursuing a major in Communications at Monash University Malaysia. KL born and bred, Sandeep believes “tomato ketchup should no longer exist in our lives”.
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