Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.

— Stephen King, American author

About one week ago I stopped for a small chat with a worker near our office here.

He is a local who is employed by a welding company and stays at their premises behind the New Sarawak Tribune.

He told me about an interesting ghost or hantu (antu in Iban) story. At that moment he was standing with his back towards the back of our office premises.

“Encik, itu dari kanan saya (pointing to his right) orang selalu lihat satu lembaga hitam duduk dekat tong sampah.” He was telling me about a dark figure always seen seated at the staircase behind the premises next to two rubbish bins. So far, nobody dared to get near the dark figure that was seen there for a while and then disappeared, he pointed out.

He believed the entity to be antu as there was a tale saying an area nearby (where some empty discarded containers are placed) was where the body of a man killed during the Japanese Occupation was left unburied.

There have been various sightings at dusks of a headless figure going around the said area in the past. He even warned me not to get near the location, especially at night. The location is about 100 metres from our conversation spot and certainly further than that from where we struggle in front of our PCs daily.

There might be millions of ghost stories spread globally, including in our homeland. For example, several longhouses in Saratok do have ghost tales of their own about occurrences since long time ago up to the present.

In the latest incident in one longhouse in middle Krian, a man who allegedly challenged the antu kok lir (local term for the ghostly female predator/vampire) reportedly got sick and bedridden for at least a week, suffering from a swollen testicle.

It was not confirmed whether the haunting sound of the antu kok lir was from his deceased ex-wife.

A similar incident also befell a naughty elder (now deceased) in my Kedap longhouse, Saratok in the late 60s.

Very much earlier, in the early 1900s when they still hanged enemy skulls at the common gallery ruai, during a belian by one local shaman manang, who performed a nyumpit (blow piping) act during his cure, the dart from the blowpipe was found stuck to a smoked skull — the morning after.

This was really astounding as the manang was aiming at an entity outside the longhouse that looked like a prowling jaguar during the belian night, some hours prior to finding the dart being stuck to the smoked skull.

It was said the chanting session was held to cure a toddler who allegedly kept on seeing antu that resulted in her getting sick. Thereafter, the little girl was cured as no more antu disturbed her, said my late grandma when narrating the story.

In movies by P Ramlee, one of those featuring hantu is Pendekar Bujang Lapok.

Ghosts appear when Ramlee (played by P Ramlee himself) meditates to get a special skill at a cemetery but the various hantu (including one who plays a trumpet) do not really bother the character in the comical scene.

If you believe in ghosts, you’re not alone. Cultures all around the world believe in spirits that survive death to live in another realm. In fact, ghosts are among the most widely believed of paranormal phenomenon.

Millions of people are interested in ghosts all over the world. According to a US 2019 survey, 43 percent of Americans believe in ghosts.

The idea that the dead remains with us in spirit is an ancient one, appearing in countless stories, including Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a movie I first saw while in Form One (1968). It even spawned a folklore genre: ghost stories.

Belief in ghosts is part of a larger web of related paranormal beliefs, including near-death experience, life after death, and spirit communication.

One difficulty in scientifically evaluating ghosts is that a surprisingly wide variety of phenomena is attributed to ghosts, from a door closing on its own, to missing keys, to a cold area in a hallway, to a vision of a dead relative.

Another scene in Pendekar Bujang Lapok portrays one of these (doors and windows
closing on their own) when Sudin tries to sharpen his skill at an abundant and allegedly haunted premises.

A number of other scenes from various movies by the late Tan Sri Seniman Agung also feature scenes of ghosts but mostly given comical twists.

If I were to see a ghost of my father or mum, I will embrace it hoping it will turn to a good luck charm. Ghosts don’t scare me, men do.