Thursday, 9 April 2009
Ghosts Of My Youth
Yes I am reminiscing but I am literally thinking of the ghosts stories that has appeared in my youth, a mind train that started when I saw the movie trailer on TV for a Thai horror movie that featured a haunted cinema. That got me thinking of a ghost story about the Odeon Cinema in Ipoh that somehow was built beside a Christian cemetery, at the rear of the Cinema if you see it from this recent photograph of the converted building. The story goes that at the reserved first class section located at the balcony area on the second floor, there is a row of seats at the back that is usually purposely left empty. This is because in the event of a full house that the seats are actually occupied, the poor patrons would be disturbed by their usual occupants, supposedly denizens from the cemetery that somehow spends their afterlife watching the most recent movies. Another version of the story says that there was only a particular ghost who had his favourite seat, so woe betide the unfortunate soul who happens to sit there. Nonetheless both versions of the story agrees that the ghost was quite benevolent, that in the event you vacate the seat, the disturbance will stop. I can vouch though that the many times we watch movies there as it was one of the cheaper cinemas in Ipoh, I do seem to remember that there was a particular row that is usually empty. Though instances of a full house are rare, it was noticeable because the cinemas then (as also now) usually fill up with the seats at the back, so when the last row seats are usually empty, it does pique your mind whether the stories are true or otherwise. Nonetheless I have never had the wherewithal to test the story, so I could never verify it though there were stories that some brave souls did try to test their machismo and was rewarded by leaving the cinemas with tears. God only knows eh!
Other than the usual run of the mill ghost stories that I have heard, I would only touch on those that may be particular to my region and at least there was one that I heard from my late grand-uncle who claims to have seen the giant or tall ghost called Bota who straddled the bridge that connected Bota Kiri and Bota Kanan one early morning, who had one foot at each end when he was crossing the bridge as he was commuting daily between Ipoh and Lumut then. So when he looked up, he could actually see the crotch of the gigantic ghost and I bet that was one ugly sight and the ghost must be one of the largest in record as he could span such a long bridge as shown in the picture. Again the ghost in this story was benign as he said the was just standing there, like a sentry and was not doing anything that may harm somebody. So since my family has always been taught to let things be if anything weird happens or "Jangan Tegur" in Malay, he just moved on and that was the only incident that happened during his few years of commuting. Anyway if you want to know more, Bota to the folks in the area that was named after the creature was supposed to be some sort of a soil based creature that only occasionally hunts for flesh for its diet, and if a human goes missing around there it was then attributed to the Bota but then it is usually because the human may have crossed some pantang/taboo or superstitious practices. So it may have been my grand-uncle's good luck that when he crossed path with the Bota, the creature was either not hungry or my grand-uncle did not break any pantang eh.
Many may have heard of Hantu Kum Kum or Hantu Stokin as these are ghosts that is known nationally but I think one that may be particular to Ipoh was the hysteria about a dog head ghost that was supposed to go around trying to snatch kids for dinner. The most frightening aspect of this story is that unlike regular ghosts, this one appears in the day time. So families were being panicked into keeping their kids in the house as the modus operandi is that the ghost is a man whose head turns into a dog head to chomp at a kid who he then drags away when he gets the chance. So pity the stranger who may come a calling to your door as they will be nastily turned away, but pity the kids like me more who until the story died out, was kept lock inside the house and could not even play in the compound, lest they be lured out. This story to me was definitely a hoax that if I remember correctly even got the Police issuing Public Announcements that the story was not true and no kids had gone missing due to any dog headed man but they are investigating cases of real kidnappings, such was the hysteria gripping the public. But in light of the recent missing children cases that has yet to be resolved, maybe such precautions are necessary these days anyway.
Another story was related to me by my own late father whose family house neighboured the village cemetery. He told me one night he was attracted by a light flickering within the cemetery so like a cat he went there to sneak a peek. Imagine his surprise when he saw a floating coffin on the way to a burial plot. It seems that the coffin was not actually floating but may have been carried by a procession of invisible people or orang halus in Malay, coming to the cemetery to bury one of their own. I never got around to ask what happen next and my father also did not say anything more about the incident except to remind me that there are many things in this world that we do not know about, and as long as we try co-exist peacefully nothing untoward will happen as demonstrated by the stories above. And if any thing that that looks like a ghost may actually try to harm us, these are most likely people masquerading as ghostly beings. And if something supernatural does try to disturb us, rely on God as it has been promised in the good book that they cannot harm us unless we allow them to do so, especially by showing fear to them. These are the lessons that I took to heart in my own encounters with the supernatural, but then these are stories that I will only tell my own children so as to impart the same lessons that I received from my own father.