Roaming corona ghosts scare the inhabitants into their houses. Residents of the Indonesian village of Kepuh, on the island of Java, find it challenging to respond to the call to stay at home.
Even the chance of contracting the infectious coronavirus does not chase people into their homes. “They don’t want to live any differently, so it is difficult for them to stay at home,” says the village chief. And so volunteers are now throwing a different, spooky, bow.
According to village chief Priyadi, the inhabitants are insufficiently informed about how they can contain the coronavirus. To raise awareness about the virus, so-called ‘pocongs’ now go out at night.
These folkloric ghost patrols, also known as ‘veil spirits’, scare the residents of Kepuh to such an extent that they do adhere neatly to government advice. A necessary evil, it seems, but not everyone is frightened by the ancient superstitions.
“We wanted to do it differently,” said Anjar Pancaningtyas, leader of a local youth association, to Reuters news agency. That other approach was found in the form of the pocongs, ghostly figures who, dressed in white shrouds, with powdered faces and black-rimmed eyes, now make the streets (in) safe.
According to legends, the apparitions are said to be the wandering souls of the deceased. And the volunteers hope that fear of the walking shrouds will keep the villagers indoors.
The ‘promotion action’ of the young people was set up with the cooperation of the local police. “The pocongs are terrifying and therefore have a deterrent effect,” it sounds. Unfortunately, after a hopeful start, the horror-action backfired.
Instead of staying indoors, people took to the streets to get a glimpse of the apparitions. “Due to the enormous interest in the initiative on social media, more people came out to spot the ghosts,” said Pancaningtyas.
And so the young people changed their approach. Anyone who dares to take to the streets in the evening or at night runs the risk of being jumped by the mysterious ghost creatures. While the frightened night owls make a run for it, the pocongs slide back into the darkness from the moonlight. And that seems to work. “Since the pocong appeared, parents and children haven’t left their homes,” says Karno Supadmo, the villagers. “People no longer get together or hang out on the street after evening prayer.”
Approximately 4,200 coronavirus infections have so far been detected in Indonesia. The contagious lung disease has caused 373 casualties in the densely populated country, but there are fears that this number will explode.
President Joko Widodo has asked the Indonesians to keep their distance and pay attention to their hygiene, but he does not want to know about a lockdown. The University of Indonesia calculated that if more severe measures are not taken, there may be 1.5 million infections and 140,000 deaths by May.