By Mariam Mokhtar
When Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir heard that a ‘pocong’ or ‘hantu bungkus’ (wrapped ghost) had been seen roaming around Kampung Raja Bashah in Kuala Kurau, he could not help but quiver with laughter, rather than fear.
According to the Sinar Harian Online, a Malay-language newspaper, the ‘ghost sighting’ in the kampong was linked to a development project in the area and had allegedly been started by Opposition members to play on the superstitions of the villagers.
Sinar Harian alleged that the appearance of the hantu pocong was “a bad omen to the villagers, that the project would bring bad luck”, implying that the Opposition was trying to influence the villagers’ response towards development projects in the area.
An amused Zambry had quashed the ploy saying that it made “no sense” and was “hilarious”. He believed that the Opposition was desperate to use superstition to tar the image of the state government.
He said, “Actually the kampung tersusun (planned village) development project in that village is an example of the state government’s concern towards the people’s welfare, when it agreed to build a new settlement once the (villagers’) current location has been taken over for the flood mitigation plan construction.
“The situation in the village now is very different from the time when I visited it for the first time, and I hope the people will evaluate the change that the state government is trying to implement wisely.”
Zambry may have brushed off the ghost sightings but last October, witnesses claimed that many of them were petrified and have refused to leave their homes after dark. An eyewitness, 52-year-old Mohd Desa Ahmad, said that news of the pocong had been spreading since July and that there had been three sightings since then.
Mohd Desa claimed that the pocong had appeared 10 metres from him, just outside his home whilst he was having a smoke. Another witness, 58-year-old Mat Salleh, said that he saw the pocong around 11pm, at the back of his home, when he went out to investigate what he thought was someone loitering near his home.
Old timers from the village recount similar stories that surfaced when the village was first opened in the eighties, when the nipah forests and jungle were cleared to make way for housing. They claim that many old unmarked graves had been disturbed and desecrated.
When contacted, a few Perakians who do not believe in ghosts and the supernatural have poured scorn on the sightings, whilst some have wondered if Kuala Kurau and other so called haunted sites in Perak could be made into a haunted trail, to attract tourists.
In London, the Jack the Ripper Tour, a walking tour through the streets of London where Jack the Ripper murdered his victims, is very popular. Various hotels in India have reported sightings of ghosts wandering aimlessly along their corridors and in Alcatraz, the infamous penitentiary is known to have cold spots.
There are several other haunted sites in Ipoh, such as St Michael’s Institution, Anderson School and the Brewster Road Convent. Ipoh’s Tambun Inn is supposed to have a resident ghost, as do many of the army houses down the road near the barracks, on Jalan Tambun.
In Batu Gajah, Kellie’s castle is reputed to be haunted as is Alma Baker’s house, where the “Lady in white” wanders around the grounds and house.
A former Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) boy once said that he was terrified when walking along the road which leads to the railway station because there was a ghost that used to disturb him as he passed one of the oldest raintrees.
A woman who lived along the road gave a different version of that story. She claimed that when she was a child, she and her sister had been trying to tackle the MCKK boys and would throw pebbles at them, to attract their attention. They dared not go out of the house to chat because of their strict father, but to their consternation, the boys would run away.
Back in Kampung Raja Bashah, Zambry and the Opposition might have another problem to deal with during GE-13 – pengundi hantu!