In the West we have the headless horseman, but in Malaysia we have the ‘headless ones’ or ‘hantu tenggelung’. The Malaysian headless ghosts are quite harmless as they mainly appear beneath a bridge searching for their lost heads. It was once a popular local belief that whenever a bridge is built, one man shall be beheaded and his head is used to support the building of a bridge.
This was quite a popular legend amongst Malaysian folks in the 70’s as the government started to build many bridges for the linking of cities and villages. Stories were told to warn kids so that they would not go out of the house after night because the bridge contractors would patrol the streets to abduct unwary folks. These abducted folks would then be beheaded for the sake of bridge building. Whenever there are accidents during bridge constructions, people would hint that some unfortunate folks in the area would be sacrificed.
There are many beliefs concerning these headless ones. Many people believe that these headless souls only haunt a place for not more than 100 days. Some people say that the headless spirits only appear during full moon or during drizzling Friday night. Yet many people believe that only one or two person amongst a group of people can see these unfortunate spirits and that these spirits would only appear when the surrounding is in pitch dark.
Other versions of headless ghosts were the beheaded victims of Japanese Imperial Armies or those who had lost their heads in some freak accidents. My friend Ms Wong had a face to face encounter with a headless ghost when she accompanied her mom and her sister to Penang many years ago. They stayed in an old hotel near the jetty. At midnight, strange things started to happen: the TV was turned on and off repeatedly. Ms Wong was so frightened that she pulled her blanket to cover her head and subsequently dozed off. The next morning, her sister told Ms Wong that she saw a headless Japanese lady in kimono sat on Ms Wong’s belly while holding its head with its left hand and combing its hair. This incident has caused Ms Wong to have phobia to stay in old hotel.