by Christopher Laursen
The uncanny experiences of an expatriate living in Bali: strange shadows that beckon to another dimension; and the kuntilanak, an apparition of a girl with long black hair, similar to the one in the horror movie The Ring.
article | extraordinary experiences
Shadows from the Multiverse & the Kuntilanak
December 28, 2012
Strange dancing shadows in the window that transform into something even more otherworldly and interact with a man lying in his bed. The alleged apparition of a woman who died in childbirth standing in the middle of the road late one night as he rides home on his motorbike. These are two of unusual experiences recollected by Vyt, an Australian expatriate living in Bali. Vyt's wonderfully engaging blog Borborigmus in Bali recounts his experiences since moving to the island in 2009 after over working for 30 years in Australian learning institutions. Bali, for him, has been a challenging but transformative experience from living in the "West." "I feel compelled to say at the outset that I am not a believer in paranormal phenomena," he begins one blog entry. "Sure, strange things happen – but in most cases there are perfectly rational explanations for these without invoking the supernatural. So naturally it came as a surprise to me to experience at first hand an event that still has me wondering." The experience he describes is among the strangest accounts I have read, and it all happened around one of Bali's most important holidays, Galungan. Occuring every 210 days (a single cycle in the Balinese calendar), during this week-and-a-half period the Balinese gods visit the Earth.  Decorative poles called penjor made of bamboo and dried rice plants are erected along the streets. It's the closest thing to Christmas in Bali - minus gift-giving - and I first experienced it upon my arrival in Bali in January. On the first night of Galungan in mid-October 2009, Vyt had a prolongued experience of strange shadows "flitting" across his window in the night while the curtain was drawn - a dance of abstract motion that culminated into something indescribable. "It was as if what was visible to me was a projection from another world, one that contained many more dimensions than ours. There were hints of coalescing shapes, colours that did not exist in this world, movements that defied physics. If you asked me to draw, paint or sculpt what I saw, I could not do it, simply because there are only three dimensions available to me, and I would need a lot more." And things only became stranger as the dance of shadows continued. Click here to read Vyt's full blog entry, "A Super Natural Experience," about the shadows in the window. Two years later, driving home on his motorbike in Seminyak, a coastal city in the south of Bali, he experienced something strange but altogether different. "It’s around midnight, and my headlight illuminates a young woman standing stock-still in the centre of the road. She has long black hair covering most of her face, which is slightly averted, but I sense that she is staring straight at me. Her dress is of pure white and imbued with a dazzling intensity. It reaches down to the ground, seeming to blend seamlessly into the very cobblestones of the lane." He did not stop and continued on his way home. In relating the story to Indonesian friends, they were terrified for it seemed that what Vyt had encountered was among the most frightening of Indonesian/Malay ghosts - the Kuntilanak, also known as the Pontianak. "Reputedly women who have died in childbirth and become ‘undead’, they terrorize villages as they seek revenge. Legend has it that they target passing men," Vyt writes. Indeed what he saw fits the atypical description of one of these apparitions, which is not unlike the creepy girl who haunted those who watched a videotape in the movie The Ring. At least 17 films have been made in Indonesia and Malaysia since 1958 about this type of ghost, and there are countless stories - written and shared orally. Vyt relates this fear of the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth to the many other fears and phobias he has seen Indonesian people display.  Such phobias certainly do seem to extend to the horrifying monstrous and murderous ghosts that inhabit the lore of Asian cultures.  The statues that adorn the temples and the costumes worn during traditional dances in Bali are so grotesque and humourous at the same time.  As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz had pointed out, the battle between good (enacted by the cartoonish creature Barong) and evil (through the freakish, distorted witch Rangda) is not necessarily resolved but ongoing.  Here in Bali, there is not such a defined line between light and dark - the two intermingle almost seamlessly.  They are a part of life.  And Vyt's experiences show how, as rational as one can be, on two occasions, he has been drawn into these less easily defined realms living in Bali. Click here to read Vyt's full blog entry, "Fighting the Fear Factor - Phobias in Paradise," for his observations on ghost lore and phobias in Bali. If you liked this article, you’ll probably also enjoy these other articles on Extraordinarium Journal: Throw a Fistful of Salt, Smash a Glass of Gin Surveying Hong Kong's Abundant Spirits The Ghosts of Gili Meno Japanese Yokai On-Screen
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A penjor adorns the roadside during Galungan, January 2012.  Photo by Christopher Laursen Kuntilanak feature prominently on ghost photo websites in this region, such as the above example from the website Selamat Datang di Dunia Kuntilanak ("Welcome to the Kuntilanak's World). The photograph shown in the thumbnail for this article (below) allegedly of a kuntilanak among a crowd of workers filling in for attendance originates from the website Foto Penampakan Hantu Dan Gambar Hantu (Ghost Photos & Sightings).
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