Creepy urban legends are things that both frighten and delight us. The stories vary from culture to culture, and transforms into something different with each retelling. Here are some of the most famous urban legends from throughout Asia.
10. The Sweet Girl of Ancol Bridge (Indonesia)
This legend revolves around the ghost of Maryam, a girl that is said to haunt Ancol Bridge in Jakarta, Indonesia. The locals believe that her ghostly presence in Ancol Bridge is the reason behind the many traffic accidents in the area.
The sad story of Maryam has its roots from a tragic incident that was said to have happened in the early 1800’s. The story goes that Maryam was a servant of a wealthy old merchant. When she was sixteen, her beauty captivated the wealthy merchant so much that he wanted to have her as a concubine. Such a fate was unthinkable for the young maid, thus she decided to run away instead.
While Maryam was wandering around, looking for a new place to stay, another rich old guy took notice of her beauty and made some advances, which Maryam rejected. Angered by her rejection, he went after her with some of his thugs. Poor Maryam was raped and killed by her suitor, who dumped her body in a nearby rice field.
There have since been many reported sightings of a ghostly woman near Ancol Bridge, whose presence is said to cause traffic accidents to any male motorists passing by.
9. Cosmetic Sesame (South Korea)
The story goes that there was once a girl who was extremely conscious of her looks. She was determined to always look beautiful, and would try any beauty secret at hand. One day, she heard about a new beauty treatment from someone who professed that it was very good for the skin, leaving it smooth and silky. The treatment involved mixing sesame seeds in the bath water and immersing in it for a couple of hours.
The girl was excited to try it out, and rushed home to give it a go. When several hours had passed, and still the girl did not come out from the bathroom, her mother began to worry. But every time her mother asked the girl to come out already, the reply would always be “just a moment.”
In the end, the mother could no longer contain herself and forced open the bathroom door, and was shocked at what she saw. The sesame seed had dotted her daughter’s body; it had grown roots and latched on to her skin between every wrinkle and every pore. The girl, mad with grief for her lost beauty, was sitting in a corner and frantically trying to remove the seeds with a toothpick.
8. Don Simeon Bernardo’s Tomb (Philippines)
In one of the cemeteries in Malabon, Philippines, a statue atop a tomb has been the center of national attention for decades, and is the source of a creepy urban legend that has terrified adults and youngsters alike. Don Simeon, who died in 1934, personally had the statue made by an artisan before his death, and had instructed his children to put it on his tomb. The statue depicts Satan triumphant over St. Michael the Archangel. What makes the whole thing even creepier is the stone tablet right beside the statue, which contains a dialogue between Satan and St. Michael, where Satan proclaims dominion over the world and mankind.
For such a deeply Christian country, the very thought of Satan triumphant and that someone even had the gall to make a statue of it, was just too much. Thus it spawned many stories that were passed around over the years.
The elderly folks living near the cemetery swear that the statue placed by Don Simeon was just a small thing to begin with, but it kept growing each year. Also, at night, the statue of the devil is said to come alive and haunt anyone who loiters around the cemetery. This is said to be the reason why the statue was subsequently encased in an iron cage – to protect the people from its devilish antics.
A documentary done by a national TV station about the statue and its owner had shed some light on the legend. As it turns out, the statue appeared to grow because the original statue was destroyed by vandals, and was replaced by a bigger one. Despite the efforts of the Bernardo family to dispel the rumors, many folks still believe the legend. After all, a good story is always worth believing over some dreary truth.
7. Curse of the Red Room (Japan)
It looks like monsters and paranormal forces that find delight in murdering innocent teens in Japan have gone online as well. The Red Room is an internet pop-up that announces your forthcoming death, and you can do nothing about it since no pop-up blocker can ever stop it from claiming its victim. So, if you are chosen as the Red Room’s next victim, the best thing you can do is compose a good goodbye letter to your loved ones, for death is sure to come shortly afterwards.
The cursed pop-up appears as a red window with Japanese lettering that translates to, “Do you like … ?)” accompanied by a cute but sinister voice reading it aloud. When you try to exit the window, things get worse; no matter what you do, the window cannot be closed. Each click of the mouse reveals more letters until the message will finally read, “Do you like The Red Room?” Once the full message is revealed, the computer screen is swathed in red and a list of names will appear on the red backdrop – names of the victims of the Red Room.
What follows soon afterwards is the victim’s death, by suicide. Why is it called the Red Room? Well, before the poor bugger farts his last fart, he paints his room with his own blood. How does he do it? No one knows. We’re guessing a squeegee, since they spread blood very evenly.
6. Maria Labo (Philippines)
Maria Labo, who is said to have lived in one of the island provinces in the Visayas, was once a happy wife to a policeman, and a mother to two sweet boys. But her husband’s salary was not enough to make ends meet. To help her family get by, Maria opted to work as a caregiver for an old man in town without knowing that the old man was an aswang. The old man was already frail and desperate to die, but an aswang could not die unless he bequeaths the curse to someone else. Taking the opportunity that comes with having a naïve village girl at hand, he secretly passed the curse on to Maria.
Several months after the old man died, Maria unemployed and hoping to give a better life for her family. She went to Canada as an overseas worker and returned after a couple of years. Maybe it has to do with the cold Canadian air and maple syrup, for it was only when she returned that the curse started manifesting itself. Her hunger for human flesh became unappeasable. When her husband went home one night, he found their house oddly quiet. He went into the kitchen where Maria was cooking dinner. He asked her where the kids were, and Maria merely pointed at the large pot atop the stove. When the husband opened the lid of the pot, he saw the kids (chopped and well seasoned) simmering away in thick broth, ready to be served for dinner. Enraged, her husband grabbed a big knife from the kitchen table and struck her. The blow wounded Maria’s face and forced her to flee the house.
This urban legend started in the early 2000’s and is still going strong, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao. It’s said that Maria is always on the move and never stays anywhere for long, out of fear that someone might notice she’s an aswang. Maybe a time will come when she’ll get bored of the Philippines and go somewhere else. Perhaps New Zealand will be to her liking.
5. Orang Minyak (Malaysia)
Orang Minyak (Oily Man) is a ridiculous urban legend that would make any self-respecting Japanese porn director angry for not thinking of the idea first and making a movie out of it.
An orang minyak is a regular chap who has learned some black magic and uses it to both rob and rub. With powers granted by Satan himself, he covers his whole body in a black oily substance that makes him practically invisible at night, and makes breaking and entering easy as pie. Oh, yeah, apparently the orang minyak can also crawl up walls and the sides of tall building, as well as jump long distances on rooftops, making him kind of like a sleazy Malaysian version of Venom.
The Orang Minyak apparently does not have the usual modus operandi of most monsters – he has no appetite for blood and guts – preferring instead to molest teenage girls and steal expensive appliances. He might not kill people, but who would not be scarred for life if you wake up one night with an oily man groping your privates and then stealing your laptop and new iPhone.
What makes thing creepier is that unlike other urban legends, the orang minyak is still pretty much active in his career, with sightings being reported as recently as 2012. In that incident, the orang minyak terrorized an entire village for a couple of weeks.
4. The Hello Kitty Murder (Hong Kong, China)
In 1999, Hong Kong was horrified to hear the details of a grisly murder that happened in a third floor apartment in Granville Road 31. The victim was a 23-year-old nightclub hostess, Fan Man-yee, who was abducted by three men and held captive for more than a month. During the time of her captivity Ms. Fan was tortured mercilessly almost every day until she died. Her body was chopped to pieces and disposed along with the household trash. Her decapitated head was then sewn inside a Hello Kitty doll, and since the media are not known for their subtlety, the crime was dubbed the Hello Kitty Murder by the press.
For several weeks, authorities were oblivious of Ms. Fan’s murder until a 13-year-old girl, a girlfriend of one of the murderers, went to the police complaining that she’s haunted by the ghost of a woman her boyfriend helped kill. The police just dismissed the statement of the girl, but she was persistent. Deciding that it would be less of a hassle to check the story than be berated by an angry teenager, they inspected the address given and were horrified with what they saw.
The suspects were quickly rounded up and given life sentences, but the story did not end there. In the months following the murder, CCTV cameras of nearby establishments captured images of a female form lurking in the shadows. Reports of eerie sounds and ghostly flames abound. Due to the ghostly haunting, the tenants moved out and no one else seemed interested to move in. The owner of the building was forced to close it down and finally demolish it in 2012.
3. The Midnight Bus (Beijing, China)
A young man was on his way home late one night. The streets were empty except for the occasional motorists, and the only one at the bus stop with him was an old man (some say an old woman). The midnight bus arrived and they boarded it without any fuss. The old man took a seat near the front of the bus while the young man sat a couple of rows behind him. There were no other passengers with them.
After awhile, the bus stopped and two new passengers climbed aboard and sat behind the driver’s seat. Several minutes later, the old man suddenly stood up and confronted the young man. He looked angry, and accused the young man of stealing his wallet. The young man was angry at being accused of something so preposterous. The argument became more heated until the old men angrily declared that both of them must get off the bus and settle their argument at the nearest police station. The young man at first did not want to go with the old man, but then relented just to settle the matter and prove his innocence.
When they got off and the bus zoomed away, the young man was startled to see that the old man was no longer angry — in fact, he looked relieved. When he asked the old man what it was all about, the old man answered: “I just saved both our lives.”
To which the young man responded with a confused “Huh?”
“Did you see the two passengers?”
“Yeah, so what?” replied the young man, still miffed and bewildered.
“Well, unlike you, I took a closer look. They have no feet; they were just floating on air. Those two were ghosts!”
The next day the news was all about the midnight bus – it had gone missing along with its driver. For several days, the police tried to locate the bus, and finally found it more than a hundred kilometers away from its regular route. Inside the bus was the badly-decomposed body of the driver. The authorities were even more perplexed and horrified when, upon checking the tank, they found blood instead of petrol.
There are several versions of this legend going around, but this is one of the more famous versions. There is even a version with the murdering ghost being that of a young girl and another with Qin Dynasty officials. Take whatever version will suit your fancy, but one thing is clear: bus rides in Beijing may be worth more than the fare.
2. Tomino’s Hell (Japan)
Another creepy tale from Japan and, like the Red Room, it involves a curse. The legend is about “Tomino’s Hell,” a poem in a book called The Heart is Like a Rolling Stone, written by Yomota Inuhiko. It is said that anyone who reads the poem aloud will be cursed to suffer just like Tomino. Some believed that the curse is only to suffer terrible accidents, while others say death will surely follow. Hardly anything is known how this particular urban legend sprouted from the darkest pits of Japanese imagination, but the mystery only adds more creep factor to the whole legend.
The poem itself is a horrible read. It conjures very dreadful and very graphic images that slowly shred apart the reader’s heart (unless, of course, the reader has no heart to begin with). If anyone wants to read the English version of the poem, you can read it here.
There are some foolhardy individuals who read the poem aloud and later claimed to have suffered no ill effects. However, there are those (and there are a lot of them,) who say otherwise. If someone reading this wants to tempt fate and try out if the curse is true or not, make sure to read it in the original Japanese and tell us how things work out afterwards. Best of luck!
1. Mae Nak Phra Khanong (Thailand)
There once lived during the reign of King Mongkut (1851-1868) a beautiful girl named Nak, who was married to a man named Tid Mak. The love between Nak and Tid Mak bore fruit, and soon Nak was heavy with child. But as the Fates would have it, Tid Mak was called to serve in the Army, forcing him to leave his pregnant wife. While Tid Mak was away, Nak suffered a fatal complication while giving birth and died along with her child. But due to her deep love for her husband, Nak refused to cross over and instead remained as a ghost in their house.
When Tid Mak returned home, still blissfully unaware of his wife’s death, he found his beautiful wife and child waiting for him. Not wanting his husband to know of her deathly situation, Nak killed anyone who attempted to warn her husband that he was living with a ghost. And for a time they lived a life full of happiness and love, plus the occasional brutal death of nosy neighbors.
But Nak could not have it her way for long, as fate again intervened to stop her murdering shenanigans. One day, as Nak was preparing lunch for her husband, she accidentally dropped a lime off the porch. She quickly reached out to catch the lime, but in her haste she overstretched her arm, elongating it to inhuman proportions (apparently, Thai ghosts are like Mr. Fantastic). Unbeknownst to Nak, Tid Mak saw the whole thing and at last realized that Nak was a ghost. Fear gripped Tid Mak, who did not wantto spend his life hitched to a ghost. He fled their house that night and took refuge inside a holy temple so that Nak could not chase after him.
When Nak realized that Tid Mak had fled, her grief knew no bounds. Grief quickly turned to anger and she went on a murdering rampage. Her neighbors got the brunt of her wrath, and dozens died by her hands. Wanting nothing more to do with her, the neighbors hired an exorcist to lock her up in an earthenware jar (Asian Ghostbusters-style) and toss the jar over the canal. For years afterwards, the village was at peace.
But the story does not end there — several years later, someone accidentally fished out the jar from the canal and unwittingly released the ghost of Nak. The one who vanquished her this time was the famous Buddhist monk Somdej Toh, who imprisoned her spirit in the bone of her forehead and bound it on his waistband. The priest from The Exorcist should really take a lesson from this guy.
When Somdej Toh died, the relic was said to have passed on to the Royal Family to make sure Nak would not be released to do harm ever again. Imagine that — she has the Royal Family as jail wardens.