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A pocong, also known as shroud ghost or hantu guling, is an Indonesian and Malaysian ghost that is said to be the soul of a dead person trapped in its shroud. Known in Indonesia/Malaysia 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 forever.
There are many variations about pocong appearances, but usually people describe pocong with a pale face and wide open eyes. Another variant consists of burned face pocong with glowing red eye, green face pocong with blank white eye, and flat faced pocong with a hole in their eyes area. 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 by floating above ground. This condition is often used to identify fake pocong.
The most favorite place of pocong is under a banana tree.
In some areas in Indonesia there are some pocong variants that developed from social beliefs. One of them is plastic pocong that haunt Jakarta. Plastic pocong is based on the story of a pregnant woman killed by her boyfriend. During the autopsy, blood keep flowing from the pregnant woman's remains. This situation made the hospital crew decide to cover the remains with plastic before burial. People believed plastic pocong appeared because the woman wanted people to release ties over the plastic cover.
In 2007–2008, the andong pocong story surfaced in Sidoarjo, where the ghost appeared as pocong riding a ghost horse-cart. The horse bell sound will be echoed before the appearance of andong pocong. The ghost often knocks on the door in middle of the night, and people who open the door when andong pocong knock will die by a mysterious illness. The andong pocong story originated from a bride that was killed during an incident while riding a horse cart, but some people also linked andong pocong with a black magic user.
Pocong Merah or Red Pocong is the most feared pocong variant because of its violent nature. The red color in this pocong is linked with anger and vengeance that is created the moment before the human died. Red pocong often appear attacking humans. Because of its violent and strong nature many people believe red pocong is the king 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.