During the Hungry Ghost Festival, spirits from the lower realms are released. But what about other notable ghosts and demons that haunt us all year round?
It’s that time of the year again – candles are lit, joss papers are burnt, and old superstitions are heeded. It’s the seventh month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, or more commonly known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, where spirits are released from the lower realms, and the living perform rituals to ease their suffering.
It should be noted that this is not a bad thing – from the point of view of the dead, it’s nice to go out on a month-long vacation from the recesses of hell, and they’re not there to haunt you, they just want a little bit of company.
Apart from these hungry ghosts that go on vacation once a year, what about other “full-time” spirits that have earned quite a bit of notoriety in Asian folklore? Here are seven ghosts and demons around Asia that you might want to avoid all year round, not just during the seventh month!
1) Shui Gui (Water Ghost) 🏊♀️
Origin of Shui Gui: Chinese folklore 🇨🇳
Why is Shui Gui notorious: Many spirits that roam the earth were a result of not being given a proper burial. Burials are seen as an important ritual that venerates the life that that person had, and not being honoured with a proper burial is like an invalidation of that one’s life. Shui Gui is the result of being drowned, and their body was never recovered, nor there was a proper memoriam for them. Should a person be drowning, Shui Gui is the one tugging at the legs of that person, or pushing their head down as that person tries to catch a breath.
How to protect yourself from Shui Gui, the Water Ghost: Always respect the water and its depths. A pool or that part of the beach might not seem deep but the tides might change its course and envelope you. It’s especially useful to avoid deep bodies of water during this month, even if you can swim.
2) Pontianak (Flesh-Eating Ghost) 🍖
Origin of Pontianak: Indonesian and Malaysian folklore 🇮🇩🇲🇾
Why is Pontianak notorious: As one of the more well-known spirits in Asia, the Pontianak is short for “perempuan mati beranak“, which literally means, a female dies during childbirth. This death is usually followed by a stillbirth, and it’s said that the pain is so immense that it follows during death, where the Pontianak wails in pain and inflicts it on others.
How to protect yourself from Pontianak: If you’re Muslim, you can simply recite the Ayat Al-Kursi to affirm the greatness of Allah and He’ll guarantee your protection. If you’re not Muslim, you can attempt to grab Pontianak by the neck and drive a nail down the navel. This will incapacitate and bleed it. Pregnant women are also encouraged to carry sharp objects to ward off Pontianaks.
3) Yuki-Onna (Snow Woman) ⛄️
Origin of Yuki-Onna: Japanese folklore 🇯🇵
Why is Yuki-Onna notorious: Yuki-Onna was said to be a beautiful, young woman who perished amidst a snowstorm (Elsa, anyone?). She is thought to be a bringer of blizzards, an expression of her wrath towards being abandoned, while her victims are often a result of the collateral damage she causes. Sometimes, she is said to have a merciful side, often towards children, as they encapsulate promise and innocence — two things she had in life but was taken away from her.
How to protect yourself from Yuki-Onna: The snow, while beautiful, is almost always barren, and its cold is biting. Respect Yuki-Onna’s need for solitude and serenity, and she’ll reward you with the beauty of the snow, but make it a party and a ruckus, she’ll release an avalanche to overwhelm you.
4) Yamauba (Demon Witch) 🌲
Origin of Yamauba: Japanese folklore 🇯🇵
Why is Yamauba notorious: Young women who were accused of crimes would flee into the mountains or forests. They live in exile and transform into Yamuabas over the years. Others say that in times of hardship, families would leave their elderly mothers deep in the forests to abandon them, and they transform into a Yamauba out of despair and anger, while practising black magic and eating humans.
How to protect yourself from Yamauba: These witch demons live alone in mountains and forests, frequently by the road path to offer food and shelter to travellers. If you feel that something is amiss, don’t accept random help from an old lady in the mountains or forests – lest you get eaten by her.
5) Krasue (Floating Head & Organs) 👩
Origin of Krasue: Cambodian & Laotian folklore 🇰🇭🇱🇦
Why is Krasue notorious: Krasue is said to be a product of an unsavoury individual in life, whose deeds include vice, fraud, and gluttony. Others say it’s the result of dabbling into too much witchcraft and having the ritual go wrong, such that in undeath, the head remains intact but only the internal organs remain. Krasue is said to be eternally ravenous for human flesh, making her just as deadly, if not more, than Pontianak.
How to protect yourself from Krasue: Her ravenous appetite leaves quite a mess, so be sure not to leave anything out at night. Krasue might just wipe her bloody mouth on your clothes, and it’s not a pretty sight.
6) Pocong (Wrapped Ghost) 👻
Origin of Pocong: Indonesian and Malaysian folklore 🇮🇩🇲🇾
Why is Pocong notorious: It’s said in traditional beliefs that a person’s soul will remain on Earth for 40 days after their death. If the soul is unable to let go of its earthly ties, it’ll jump out of the grave with its burial cloths and ropes intact. Usually when this happens it’s because of unfinished business with the living, and because its limbs are tied up, it can only hop to terrorise you.
How to protect yourself from Pocong: Pocong is much less deadly than Pontianak, but the defense for Muslims remain the same. Otherwise, you could try to outrun its hopping. Others also say that if you’re daring enough to hug a Pocong, and proceed to release its soul by unwrapping it, the spirit will bless you with immense wealth out of gratitude. If anyone’s tried it before, let us know in the comments below.
7) Bhoot (Ghosts With Backward Feet) 🦶
Origin of Bhoot: Indian folklore 🇮🇳
Why is Bhoot notorious: Known for their shapeshifting, Bhoot has one very obvious telltale sign: their feet are usually backwards. This, along with not casting any shadows and speaking in a very nasal voice, is characteristic of Bhoots, and their deadliness is dependent on their motives. This unpredictability is unsettling, because you never know what they want from you.
How to protect yourself from Bhoot: It’s said that their foot is twisted because the ground that they once walked on is sacred; so sacred that their cursed existence caused their feet to twist the other way. They’re also susceptible to water and steel, as well as burnt turmeric.
Hungry Ghosts vs You
As you get older, you pretty much realise that the root of evil is in the good, but something or somehow went wrong in the process of doing it. These ghosts and demons might seem daunting at first, but as soon as you understand their motivations and weaknesses, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them, much like the many problems of life!
While we wait out this seventh month, just sit tight and perhaps check out these notoriously haunted hotels in Asia and their horror stories or these creepy urban legends that haunt travellers?
For ghost hunters who can’t wait to hunt these ghosts when borders finally reopen, don’t forget to take your YouTrip card with you to buy your essentials when you arrive. I mean, you wouldn’t want to go hungry and rely on Yamauba to offer you food, right? And if you don’t have a YouTrip card yet, use <BLOG5> during your sign-up to enjoy a free S$5 in your account! 😎