Sunday, November 5, 2017
HGB Ep. 230 - Legends of Malaysia
Moment in Oddity - Flathead Lake Monster
Flathead Lake can be found in northwest Montana, on the southern tip of the Rocky Mountain Trench. It is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Flathead Lake is also home to a creature that is named for the lake. Those who have seen the Flathead Lake Monster describe it looking similar to the Lockness Monster with an eel-like or snake-like body. There are other reports that compare the monster to a giant sturgeon. Some say it is brownish in color, others say it is blue-black. The first sighting was recorded in 1889 by Captain James C. Kerr and his passengers as he steered the steamboat U.S. Grant around Lake Flathead. There is an average of one to two sightings a year. In 1993, a person reported seeing two monsters in Big Arm Bay. That same year, there were thirteen reported sightings. The most recent sighting was in the summer of 2016. If there is some kind of sea monster in the waters of Flathead Lake in Montana, that would certainly be odd!
This Month in History - Invention of Insulin
Suggested by listener Lori Gunter in honor of National Diabetes Awareness Month
In the month of November, in 1922, Eli Lilly Chemist George B. Walden discovered isoelectric precipitation, which made it possible to produce large quantities of highly refined insulin. The discovery of Insulin and the road to its man-made production dates back to 1869 when a medical student in Berlin named Paul Langerhans discovered tissue clumps in the pancreas, which were named for him, the Islets of Langerhans. Dr. Frederick Banting and his assistant, Charles Best, began experiments at the University of Toronto in a lab provided by J.J.R. Macleod in 1921 to see if they could isolate what substance was produced by the pancreas. Dr. Banting figured out that it was connected to the Islets of Langerhans and he began tests on dogs that eventually confirmed the existence of Isletin or what we now call Insulin. Dr. Banting and Best injected a severely diabetic dog with pancreas extract and prolonged its life. A biochemist named James Collip worked with the men to purify the substance and they tested it on a 14-year-old boy named Leonard Thompson. He had a severe allergic reaction and Collip purified the Insulin further. It worked like a charm. Eli Lilly then collaborated with the University of Toronto to figure out a way to produce Insulin commercially. Lilly research chemist George Walden developed the pure, stable form of insulin and a way to produce it in large quantites with isoelectric precipitation. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded in 1923 to Dr. Banting and J.J.R. Macleod. Dr. Banting was infuriated that Best was not mentioned in the award and he split his prize with the assistant. MacLeod split his prize with the biochemist Collip.
Legends of Malaysia (Suggested by listener Courtney Weaver)
Sabah is one of two Malaysian states located at the northern tip of Borneo. The island is shared with Brunei, Indonesia (Kalimantan), and the second Malaysian state, Sarawak. This is home to over forty different ethnic groups. Beaufort is a town located in Sabah and this is where our guests join us from. They attend SMKBeaufort and it is one of the oldest in town. There are many legends of ghouls, ghosts and creatures in Malaysia. Some of these are similar to ones discussed in our Legends of Indonesia episode. We are joined on this episode by our listener Courtney Weaver and her students Siti Nur Waheedah Binti Mat Lazim, Ainur Nadiah Binti Jaafar, Ila Afirah Binti Rozland and Ifi Aleeya Binti Rozland. These ladies will share these legends and some of their own paranormal experiences.
Brief history of Sabah: Tribal until it was annexed by the sultanate of Brunei. Brunei then leased the eastern section of Sabah to the Filipino Sulu Sultanate (leading to continuing conflicts in claims to this day.) British North Borneo Company and the Japanese occupation during WWII. Beaufort is a town located in the southern part of Sabah around the Padas River. It was established by the British North Borneo Company as a center of trade for rubber production. Along with Labuan, central to the Allied strategy to reclaim North Borneo from Japanese occupation. One of the towns most heavily impacted by fighting during this campaign. SMKBeaufort (our school) is one of the oldest in the town. It’s important to note the ethnic makeup of Beaufort, as this will influence the stories that we’ll be sharing. Beaufort is home to several communities including Bisaya, Tatana, Bajau, Murut, Buginese, Om, Brunei, and Dusun. There are also several Sarawakian (Sabah’s fellow Malaysian state on the island.) For example, Buginese and Om have Indonesian origins so you’ll be hearing some stories also common in Indonesia! Many of these stories have evolved as cultures have mixed in Sabah.
There are many legends in Malaysia, some of which are similar to Indonesia. Here are many of them:
Balan Balan - a living, vampiric creature that detaches its head at night and goes in search of menstruating and pregnant women. When the head is detached, the internal organs of the balan balan trail beneath it as it flies around. If the balan balan drinks your blood, you will become sick; unceasing menstruation or possibly a miscarriage. The best way to rid yourself of a balan balan is to find and burn the body while the head is detached; then the head will have nothing to return to and will be vulnerable to sunlight. These creatures pass as humans, and it is a genetic condition passed from generation to generation. There are two schools as to where the balan balan came from; one camp says that they have always existed; another claims that a pact made through black magic was broken and a family was cursed. Because the condition is genetic, the creatures spread across Sabah as the family moved. The origin of the balan balan is thought to be Kota Belud.
Gimbaran/Sahak - family spirits. A member of the family makes a pact with a spirit in exchange for protection and prosperity. However, if the master of the spirit passes, or the spirit feels disrespected, it can turn on the family. In this case the family is vulnerable to possession; in which case an exorcism will need to be performed. If you’re interested in learning more about this, watch Jangan Pandang Belakang (Don’t Look Back) , available on YouTube with English subtitles. ○ Malaysian exorcisms v. the exorcist. Several of the girls have experienced this type of haunting, and even witnessed the possessions.
Tambuakar - A creature unique to the Padas River in Beaufort; with a few similarities to the Loch Ness Monster or Champy in Lake Champlain. The creature is supposed to look something like a dragon; and its anger is what can cause the Padas River to flood (Beaufort is extremely susceptible to flooding!). Often this is caused by the accidental consumption of the tambuakar’s children, which often appear like fish.
Pontianak - a female vampiric spirit believed in Beaufort to be the spirit of a woman who died while pregnant. They are supposed to have the appearance of a pale woman with long dark hair, red eyes, and wear white clothing smeared with blood. They are beautiful until they reveal their true form. They enjoy hanging out and in the leaves of banana trees during the day. As far as we can tell, this is in keeping with Indonesian tradition; however in Sabah the spirit preys on pregnant women in order to attack/steal their unborn children.
Langsuir - similar to the pontianak; only this is the spirit of a woman who suffered as a result of betrayal or heartbreak (murder/suicide). They haunt men; known to rip out their insides. If a man looks at a langsuir, she can suck out his eyes (for lack of a better term).
Penunggu/Djinn - The girls can better explain this; but there are many types of djinn; some good, some bad. I’ve been told that they can move into a home or building that has been unoccupied.
Toyol - a goblin like creature that commits minor thefts and petty crimes for the benefit of their owner. Mainly they’re only capable of low level crime but can be induced to murder with special rituals. They look like small bald children with greyish green skin, pointy ears and rows of sharp teeth. It’s essential to keep the toyol happy, or they will cause chaos in your life. There’s debate about whether, when the master dies the contract ends or if the contract is passed down from generation to generation. A person can be released from a contract through the work of a bomoh. There are stories of toyol sucking blood through the toes of their owners to gain strength.
Pocong - the soul of a dead person wrapped in its burial shroud. The pocong will come to people for help. However, as the spirit is wrapped in the burial shroud (tight around the legs and feet) they must hop or jump in order to move. Some believe that if you say the name, the ghost will get one hop closer to you. Some believe that this ghost appears 40 days after burial, the traditional mourning period, to tell loved ones that their spirit still has not been released.
Hantu Raya - a spirit similar to the Christian concept of a demon; acts as a double for a practitioner of black magic. The master of the Hantu Raya either made a pact with the spirit or inherited it from previous generations. The master must provide for the spirit and appoint it a new owner before their own death. Those who fail to do so will suffer in death or even become a zombie-like creature. The Hantu Raya will assume the form of this master forever after.
Mempagar Possessions - several of the girls’ previous school experienced a series of possessions they’re willing to discuss. They also discuss some school hauntings.
Bomoh/Bobohizan - witches or witch doctors in Sabahan culture. Bomoh is a more general name, while bobohizan are exclusively for Dusun. Visiting a bomoh or bobohizan is forbidden in Islam, however they can be visited for various spells and curses. There are good bomoh and bad bomoh. ○ 2015 Earthquake in Kundasang
In 2015, ten foreign tourists summiting Mount Kinabalu thought that it would be a good idea to strip off their clothes and pose naked at the peak of the mountain. Mountains are considered sacred places to Kadazan Dusuns; especially Gunung Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in Sabah and all of Southeast Asia. The mountains are considered resting places for spirits. ○ Climbing Gunung Wakid, the third tallest mountain in Sabah, I was told that I must be quiet and not speak ill of the mountain or the experience. Three days later there was a 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked Kinabalu and the Kundasang region, killing 18 people. Bobohizan and other tribal leaders were brought to the mountain in order to conduct cleansing ceremonies to pacify the spirits that the tourists had disrespected.
Bunian - “hidden people”; they’re almost exactly like people, only they live in a different dimension. They can cause people to become lost in the forest, and on a full moon, the bunian can dance in a circle around a person; preventing them from ever returning to our dimension. They live in homes much like traditional Malaysian style.
Mak Lampir - A witch known for her large (long) breasts; stories differ in that she may smother children with them. She is also known to hide children and kidnap them from their homes. Their location can only be revealed by prayers of an imam.
Head Hunting - The tribes in North Borneo (Kadazan, Dusun, Murut, Rungus in particular) were famous during the days of colonialism for practicing head hunting. There’s an awesome exhibit at the Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu devoted to the practice. From what I’ve gathered, heads were taken for several different reasons: prove victory in battle, as a manhood rite of passage, or for religious reasons. In some bands, a man could not marry until he had taken a
certain number of heads. Heads were displayed in places of prominence (homes or specified places in the kampung; in Kampung Sunsuron, near Tambunan, you can still see at the entrance to the kampung the reliquaries, for lack of a better term, where heads were kept to this day) and treated with great respect; following rituals for purification and welcoming the spirit were often treated as a member of the kampung’s ancestral spiritual community. They could be called on to aid the community in times of great need.
There are some specific time periods that spirits are said to be particularly active; one is around the time of Hari Raya, or Eid Aidilfitri. Another is around the time of the azzan (azzan being the call to prayer) for Maghrib (normally around sunset, the fourth of the five prayers). It is said that the ghosts do not cannot stand the sound of the azzan, and the howling and whining of dogs around this time is evidence of the spirits fleeing its reach.
Ghosts of WWII - during WWII, the Japanese occupied Sabah to access its natural resources as well as use it as a location for concentration camps. Sabah (Ranau/Kundasang) was the site the Sandakan Ranau Death March. Beaufort itself, being a railroad town close to Labuan, was key to the Allied strategy to reclaim Sabah from the Japanese. As such, there are stories of Japanese ghosts haunting the town.
This was a fascinating and fun cultural experience hearing about the legends of Malaysia from our SMKB Horror Club Creepy Girls! Are these just traditional stories handed down through the generations or did some of these creatures actually exist at one time. Do they still exist? That is for you to decide!