It was a dark and stormy night when TikToker Ahmad Bafadhal saw a white sheet hanging from a tree. He posted the clip on Tuesday (Nov 15), writing: “Pontianak spotted on a tree branch in the middle of a heavy rain at Hougang Avenue 8.” “Pure white cloth means it’s a stray Pontianak … Question is, does it not get wet in the heavy rain,” was the caption.
For the uninitiated, a Pontianak (Malay name) or a Kuntilanak (Indonesian name) is a female ghost common in Southeast Asian myths as a pregnant woman who died giving birth, usually, in white, who’s also said to be a bloodsucker. In other words, she’s the vampire of our region. Legend has it that when you smell a plumeria flower or a decaying dead body or hear a baby crying, a Pontianak is close.
She is said to be able to disguise herself as a young and beautiful woman, but her long, sharp nails and bloodstained dress are a dead giveaway. The Pontianak is also said to live in trees, especially banana trees. The video has gone somewhat viral, racking up over 150,000 views since it was posted.
Pure white cloth means it’s a stray Pontianak … Question is, does it not get wet in the heavy rain? #fyp #horror #tiktok #sg #tiktoksg #singaporetiktok #hantu #pontianak #pontianakviral #viral #scary #haunted #paranormal #supernatural
Commenters on the TikTok video, however, have taken a decidedly less ghoulish view.
One said that if she was indeed a mythical creature, she was just trying to get shelter from the rain, while another said she “washing her gown in the rain la.”
Others just appeared to find humour in the matter.
One commenter, however, asked for further clarification.
Others said they’ve had supernatural experiences in Hougang.
HISTORICAL CONTEXT: THE LEGEND OF THE PONTIANAK
The Pontianak has long been an integral part of Southeast Asian folklore, particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia. The term itself is derived from the Indonesian and Malay word “perempuan mati beranak,” which directly translates to ‘woman who died in childbirth’. The legend has persisted for centuries, serving as both a cautionary tale and a means to explain mysterious occurrences in rural areas.
The Pontianak is believed to announce her presence through a series of eerie signs. A fragrant aroma, typically of the plumeria flower, sudden shifts in temperature, or the unsettling sound of an infant crying in the distance. Over the years, these tales have not only been passed down through generations but have also been popularized in films, literature, and now, social media platforms like TikTok.
While many urban areas, like Hougang, have evolved rapidly with modernization, it’s not uncommon for ancient tales and superstitions to resurface, reminding residents of a past that’s deeply rooted in myths and legends. Whether real or imagined, the Pontianak remains a testament to the rich tapestry of Southeast Asian culture and its enduring grip on the collective imagination.