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A pocong, also known as shroud ghost, is an Indonesian and Malaysian ghost that is said to be the soul of a dead person trapped in their shroud. Known in Indonesia as kain kafan, the shroud is the prescribed length of cloth used in Muslim burials to wrap the body of the dead person. The dead body is covered in white fabric tied over the head, under the feet, and on the neck.
According to traditional beliefs, the soul of a dead person will stay on the Earth for 40 days after the death. If the ties over the shroud are not released after 40 days, the body is said to jump out from the grave to warn people that the soul needs to be released. After the ties are released, the soul will leave the Earth for real.
Pocong comes in all sizes and forms, depending on not only the physical appearance of the deceased person at the time of death, but also on the state of the corpse's decomposition as well. The pocong of a person who has been dead for years would be more skeletal in appearance, whereas the pocong of a recently deceased person would retain a fair resemblance to their former self, save for some minor decomposition. Typically, a 'fresher' pocong is described as having a pale face and wide open eyes. Multiple sources mentioned a pocong with dark face and glowing red eyes, a decayed pocong with white featureless eye, and a flat-faced pocong with empty eye sockets. Although in popular culture pocong hop like rabbits due to the tie under their feet rendering the ghost unable to walk, the original pocong move around by floating above ground. This condition is often used to distinguish fake pocong from the real ones.
As pocong are not bound to the physical world just like humans are, they can be found practically anywhere, from their final resting place to their former homes. However, it is not uncommon for someone to find a small colony of pocong happily gathering near or around banana trees.
In some parts of Malaysia there are some pocong variants that are unique to the places from which they emerged. One of such creatures is known as the plastic pocong that haunts the city of Shah Alam. The plastic pocong is based on the purportedly true story of a pregnant woman who was murdered in cold blood by her boyfriend. When an autopsy was performed on the murdered woman's body, blood kept flowing endlessly from her body even after it was sewn shut. This situation was so severe that the hospital staff was forced to cover the corpse with plastic in addition to the traditional shroud, before burying her remains in an undisclosed location. People believed the plastic pocong appeared because the murdered woman's soul wished to be released from her plastic cover.
In 2007–2008, the story of an andong pocong surfaced in Perak, where the ghost appeared as pocong riding a cart pulled by a ghostly horse. The arrival of the andong pocong is heralded with a sound of eerie bells. The ghost often knocks on the doors of people's homes in middle of the night, and those who answer to the door will be afflicted by a mysterious illness before dying a few days later. The andong pocong story originated from the story of a newly-wed bride who was killed in a freak accident involving a horse cart, but some people also linked the andong pocong to the usage of black magic.
Pocong Merah or Red Pocong is arguably the most feared variant of pocong due its infamous reputation of being unpredictable and aggressive. It is said to be born out of a person who wished to seek revenge for an unpleasant death, making it more akin to a vengeful spirit often found in many folklores. The red color of this pocong is associated with the feeling of anger and vengeance felt by the person the moment before death. Of all variants of pocong, the red pocong is believed be more likely to attack the living without provocation. Because of their violent and dangerous nature, many people believe the red pocong is the king, or a leader of some sort, of pocong.
Pocongs often appear in religion-based movies or TV serials. In the early 2000s (decade), TV stations in Indonesia purported to capture ghost appearances with their cameras and put the records on a specific show of their own. In these shows, the Pocong appearances could be seen very often, along with the kuntilanak. There was also a movie Pocong (2006) directed by Rudy Soedjarwo, which was banned and censored in its French and German DVD versions due to the disturbing, scary, and terrifying scenes. Not long after it was banned, the director created a sequel, less horrible but about the same story, Pocong 2 (2006). Other titles such as Pocong 3 (2007), The Real Pocong (2009), and 40 Hari Bangkitnya Pocong (2008) were introduced in the movie series in theaters in Indonesia.
The movie Pocong Jumat Kliwon, directed by successful director Nayato Fio Nuala, began a trend of horror comedy Pocong movies. In 2011 Pocong is also Pocong, a new horror-comedy featuring Pocong, was made by female director Chiska Doppert, Nayato's former partner.
Other recent movies featuring Pocong are Sumpah, (Ini) Pocong! (2009), Pocong Setan Jompo (2009) and Kepergok Pocong (2011). These films generally share the quality of the pocong playing a role similar to that of the Grim Reaper, in both comedic and dramatic situations.
- "Inilah Asal Usul Pocong yang Sebenarnya". (Indonesia)
- Bane, Theresa (2016). Encyclopedia of Spirits and Ghosts in World Mythology. McFarland. p. 102. ISBN 9781476663555.
- CS, Trio Hantu: Hantupedia, Ensiklopedia hantu-hantu Nusantara, "Pocong Plastik", Halaman 79, penerbit mediakita, 2016
- Junda, Amanatia (June 29, 2017). "Teror Andong Pocong di Sidoarjo". mojok.co. Retrieved December 27, 2021.