Rural Legends

Correct me if I’m wrong but from my observation, it seems that the Chinese and Malay communities in Singapore also share a common belief or rather superstition about being wary of the presence of black cats in a funeral. Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to probe whether the reason behind this ‘wariness’ is the same.

Anyway, there’s a story from my hometown in Sabah. Almost like a folklore. This must have happened like more than 60 years ago. Story is passed down from father to son and so on and on.

In a remote village one day, a man passed away ( as all men tend to do 😛 ). Soon friends and relatives came to his house to comfort the man’s widow and children. It was their custom to observe 3 days wake. Hence, the body was placed in the open in the middle of the house ( I guess the living room ). Friends and relatives stayed with the family to guard the body until the burial day. The family slaughtered buffaloes, chickens etc to feed those who came. They stored the meats in their storeroom.

Unbeknown to them, while everyone was busy and distracted from guarding the corpse. The family cat, a black cat, leaped across the corpse. It is believed that that would cause the body to come ‘alive’. A living dead. Well, anyway, nothing happened. So come night, everyone went to sleep. Nothing happened. However, in the morning, one of the ladies in charge of cooking was complaining that someone had been pilfering their food. How inconsiderate they said. Instead of comforting the family of their bereavement, someone actually took the opportunity to fill up his or her own belly. Needless to say, no one owned up.

Second night, everyone went to sleep and again nothing happened at night. However, again on the next day i.e the third day, they found out that someone had been having late night snacks. Again no one owned up. On the third night, everyone again turned in to sleep but one boy couldn’t sleep. Perhaps anticipating the burial ceremony on the morrow. So he just lied down there with his eyes closed, trying hard to fall asleep for he was scared too. Wouldn’t you? Then, he sensed movement coming from the direction of the corpse. He took a peep and to his horror, saw the corpse sat up and then walked towards the kitchen. The corpse then proceeded to have its late night supper. He ate the meat raw!!?? The boy must had been scared shit and made some noise, for to his utter horror, the corpse turned and looked at him. The thing then walked towards him. The kid stood up, screamed and then ran for dear life. Everyone woke up and saw the thing chasing after the poor kid. It bumped against some of the men but simply ignored them and continued with its pursuit of the boy. It was chaos. Some brave men tried to help the kid. They tried to hold it and more than one beat the thing but it was too powerful for them. The kid ran out of the house and the thing ran round and round the house chasing after the kid. Then, one of the men remembered something. He saw some banana trees near the house and saw one group that actually form a Y shape. He told the boy to run towards the trees and to jump between the Y. He did and the corpse was hot on his heels but suddenly slumped lifeless when it was wedged between the banana trees. Reason: They believe that when a corpse comes alive, one of the ways to make it ‘dead’ again is to hit it or touch it with a banana tree trunk. The living corpse was not the spirit of the deceased that came back but actually was one of those wandering spirits. Probably lost souls that wanted a chance to be in the physical living realm again.


This one is another story from Sabah. Told to me by my late grandfather. A story told amongst the Tatana clan of the Dusun race.

Once there was this possessive husband. His wife was one of the prettiest women in the village. He thought that all the men in the village had their eyes on her and wanted to steal her away from him. His wife loved him very much but nothing she did could put him at ease albeit that she had bored him children. Thus, one day, he moved his family into the heart of the jungle where they would be far and away from the roaming eyes of the village men. He built a small hut and he farmed and hunted. It was a lonely way to live but they were happy with each other’s company and for once, they seldom broke into any argument.

Then one day, tragedy struck! The husband fell sick. The wife wanted to go out ( it’s a day’s journey out ) to civilisation to call for help but the husband assured her that all was well. Few days later, the husband succumbed to his sickness. As it was dusk, there was nothing they could do but wait for morning the next day when they could start the long journey out to ask for help. They placed the body outside of the house and locked themselves in as they were afraid. Come midnight, they could hear strange noises, the rustling of the bushes around their house accompanied by a foul decayed odor. The wife peeped through the small opening of their wooden window panel and saw a few horrible looking creatures, as tall as ten feet coming towards her dead husband’s body. These being are known to be able to tore a human being apart down in the middle and bend large trees as though they are only rubber bands.

There was nothing they could do but just prayed hard that the Jins wouldn’t come and harm them. They locked all the doors and windows. A futile and puny attempts. After that was done, they hid in a corner and kept very quiet. From outside the house, they could hear the ‘crunch’, ‘crunch’, ‘crunch’ sound of bones being broken or crushed. After a while, the sound stopped. When dawn came and they were sure that they were safe, they came out of their hiding. There’s nothing much left of her husband save for a few fingers and part of the head. They ran and ran away from the house and reported the whole thing to the village head.

You see, this is not some fairy tale. To the Tatanas, this is a true story. Well you decide. One day maybe you can go to their jungle and find out if its true.

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