'Ghosts' clad in bed sheets scare people into sticking to coronavirus lockdown

  • 02 May - 08 May, 2020
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Mag Files

Volunteers are dressing up as ghosts and lurking at night to scare people into sticking to coronavirus lockdowns in Indonesia and Malaysia. Wearing white bed sheets, the 'ghosts' have been seen jumping out at unsuspecting passersby in dark streets, standing on top of vehicles in deserted car parks and sitting on benches in public spaces. It is one of the most bizarre measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, but it reflects an age-old superstition in parts of Southeast Asia. Known as "pocong", the ghostly figures are typically wrapped in white shrouds with powdered faces and kohl-rimmed eyes, and they represent the trapped souls of the dead. Kepuh village, on Java Island has deployed a cast of "ghosts" to patrol the streets and promote social distancing. Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of a youth group that coordinated with police, said, "We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because 'pocong' are spooky and scary." But when they first started appearing this month they had the opposite effect. Instead of keeping people in they brought them out to catch a glimpse of the apparitions. The organisers have since changed tack, launching surprise pocong patrols, with village volunteers playing the part of the ghosts. One resident said, “Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes.”