Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hungry Ghosts Festival: Singapore's Halloween, Devil Woman


Cliff Richard's Version: Devil Woman. 
Beware, the devil woman... evil eyes. 
Official version.

 UP TO 1,300 VIEWS

My memory of the 60's does not bring back the frightening fun of Halloween because not many locals knew about it like they do today. It was confined amongst the Caucasian households while many Chinese homes followed the religious 7th Moon or Hungry Ghosts Festival where spooks and demons were the order of the season. And this year it's this month of August from the 3rd...

Again, my tale is not of haunted hospitals at Changi, the lady ghost at Bishan's MRT nor the kampong spirit at Bidadari that we read about in the newspapers but a psychological trauma I experienced as a child that even troubles me to this day (or night).

As a young boy, I had always been petrified and disturbed by an old folktale about skin coloured bats hanging upside-down from tree branches.

The Kalong Wheh-Wheh (above) is supposed to be a giant bat with a horrendous female face and large breasts.  Don't think of glamorous superhero Bat Girl here. Think more bat-like Pontianaks!

Devil woman you're evil like the dark coral reef
Like the winds that bring high tides, you bring sorrow and grief. (1)

These creatures hook themselves on wayside tree branches that grow along Singapore's old roads and dusty lorongs (lanes) in the 60s.  But here's something else. They only appear at twilight, symbolically a time and condition of decline.

So as darkness falls in Singapore these giant bats fill the evening sky and swarm onto large trees. Loud cries of "Wheh! Wheh! Wheh!" fill the air as they seek the comfort of the high shady greens.

"Be careful," my mother used to warn me, "the creatures spy on young children who are still not home for dinner when the clock strikes six. Be out there and you're in trouble!"

How they victimize their human prey is still a mystery to me. Mum never went beyond her horror story and left the rest to my imagination.

She did, however, explain that these giant human-like bats originated from Indonesia. Bat is kalong in the Indonesian language.

Apparently, they are also known as *Hantu Tetek (ghosts with breasts: image 2) in local Malay slang.  She uses them to suffocate her victims while others claim they are behind her. Others insist she is a Balinese witch.
"She doesn't suck your blood," mum emphasised, "but wrap you up close to her soft body and fly you away..."  By this time my whole being slumped in fear and my heart thumped with cemetery-like precision.

"OK mum, I won't be late for dinner."

She smiled.

Wonder if these creatures are still around today in our modern metropolis. The strange repeated occurrence of trees that fall during rainstorms in the evenings... Hmm!

It doesn't matter whether it's a Chinese ghost, English ghost or Malay ghost. They are ghosts! So be careful.

If you have Hantu Halloween Horrors, Hantu or Hungry Ghosts stories to contribute, please do.
She's just a devil woman
With evil on her mind
Beware the devil woman
She's gonna get you from behind. (2)

Careful of Hungry Ghosts everywhere. 

Don't play, play! Better pray, pray!
In South East Asian countries like Singapore and Malaysia, the 7th Month Festival is when the Hungry Ghosts wander the streets.


1. Devil Woman: by Johnny Lion.

2. Devil Woman: by Cliff  Richard.

Images: Google.
An original article.

Johnny Lion and The Jumping Jewels with Devil Woman. video by Donald Duck.

Images: Google
You Tube Videos: by Donald Duck and Peter Tan.

               Getai Show @ Bukit Batok Getai Seven Month Hungry Ghost Prayer


LJY said...

Thanks for putting up the poster, it looks great!

Best Regards.

GURU HAPPY said...

My Dear friend,

If I can make you, and whoever I meet, happy, I consider my work done, in this World.

Remember, the World's a stage and we're all actors & actresses! Each, and everyone of us, have a part to do.

Mine is to try, and make everyone I meet Happy. If that materializes I'm happy, if not I'll keep on trying !

Anyway, you've done a fantastic job, with your "Oldies But Goodies, Blog" and the Singapore government should recognise that.

Cheers and keep smiling.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you both for support.

And Happy this note is an acknowledgement of your contribution to the blog. You have sent so many interesting and informative stories that keep us happy and smiling.

Happy Halloween (if you celebrate it).

YOSRI said...

I never heared of Hantu Tetek using her huge breasts to suffocate people to death. That I know off, it was claimed that this ghost would hide children under/wrapped in her breast so that the child cannot be seen by people looking for it, even if they walk right in front of the child. It was claimed that the child can see the person who is looking for him/her but cannot communicate. Usually used to frighten children as not to continue playing at sun set.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The whole point of this ghostly tale is definitely to discourage children from playing outside during sunset. Nothing else.

BTW, the version I heard as a child is different, that the ghost is a flying bat and has not been documented elsewhere on Websites.

(Above reply by YOSRI is from World Horror Stories on the Internet.)

Simin Wang said...

Dear Andy,

I am a producer at Channel NewsAsia, and I'd like to get in touch with you because I am working on a show about Singapore in the 60s. Can you email me back when you see my message? Hear from you soon!

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ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

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chakap chakap said...

Just as the Americans have Halloween, the Chinese have the Hungry Ghost Festival (also known as Zhong Yuan Jie in Chinese), when the souls of the dead are believed to roam the earth.

According to custom, these ghosts can get up to mischief if ignored so all sorts of offerings are made during this period, which is the seventh month in the lunar calendar.

And as if satisfying the ghosts’ appetites for money and food wasn’t enough, taking care of their entertainment is also important.

Large tents are set up in open fields to host raucous dinners and auctions in heartland estates. There are performances such as Chinese operas and 'getai' (literally ‘song stage’ in Chinese, or live stage performances), which feature tales of gods and goddesses, bawdy stand-up comedy, as well as song and dance numbers.

Everyone is welcome. Just remember not to sit in the front row, unless you want to rub shoulders with the ‘special guests’.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

The West calls it Halloween. We call it Hungry Ghost. Careful when you go home late. They lurk everywhere...

DICK YIP said...

No longer fearful in the night. Today, Pokemons more powerful ! Even at night...!

LINA KOH said...

Even they become Pokemon zombies. My area are full of Pokemon catchers/zombies thinking they're playing Pontianak Go.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Lina. It's true. They turn to zombies. Dick Yip doesn't know yet. He hasn't seen the worse. He's intoxicated by durians. Hungry ghost month. Don't pray pray.


In the 60s there were ghostly tales of the Pontianak.I remembered once people gathered around the St Anthony’s Convent to get a glimpse it of the Potianak.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

That's interesting Stephen. Could you elaborate on this? The only Pontianak I've met was on the screen. She was pretty scary. (Thanks to the other FB friends who LIKE this post, Stephen included.)


I too was among the Pontianak watchers.However to my dismay ,couldn’t see one.

DAISY KOH said...

Rumour about pontianak in the 60s at Siglap Road near where we stayed ... and orang minyak


I kind of like this time of the year. We have "Obon" custom which is quite similar to Hungry Ghost festival. . There seems to be something that makes me calm, spiritual and feel happy to think about ancestors, where I came from with looking up at the sky that is getting clear and high as the scorching summer is coming to the end.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks, Daisy.

Been in Siglap for many years. I could only see the coconut trees. :-) But yes, there was a Kampong Siglap not too far from the beaches of Katong. Lots of female sirens with long hair who disturb the fishermen and sailors those years.

Thanks, Hiroshi,

Interesting information. I need to read about OBON custom. It's true that each race and religion has its own tales of the spirits. Believing them or otherwise, we just have to respect these beliefs and the supernatural. Appreciate your contribution, Hiroshi.

Unknown said...

Dear blog readers, do you all notice, all these devil & ghostly stories came about after the 2nd. World War /Japanese Occupation periods. It began with the parents way of keeping children indoors after dark.


Neil Sedaka called the young Pontianak the “Little Devil “.