JERUK PURUT – JAKARTA’S MOST NOTORIOUS CEMETERY RELOADED
The last retreat of numerous Indonesians, Jeruk Purut, is a hotspot for restless spirits and all sorts of shady creatures. The most prominent ghost, a headless priest, is, however, the trademark of the cemetery. A whole series of myths and legends are being told of the infamous pastor, who usually appears at night accompanied by a black dog. But what’s behind all the hype and how the stories actually affect local daily life and the physical space as kind of screen for local folkloristic beliefs?
JAKARTA’S MOST GRUESOME CEMETERY AS GREEN OASIS TO UNWIND AND RECHARGE
While locals report nightly creepy atmosphere on the cemetery, Jeruk Purut, is a truly harmonious green spot of land during the day. If you have enough of skyscrapers and crowded shopping malls, this cemetery located in South Jakarta is the right choice to go. The hustle and bustle of the big city can be quickly forgotten when strolling through the 9.12 hectare site. While the cemetery gardeners are unhurriedly trimming the grass of the graves to the required length, street cats enjoy a sunbath on the memorial stones. So if you don’t have a problem with direct confrontation of the mortal side of our existence, you will find here a secret spot for taking a breather from the fast pace of the big megacity. Looking for Jeruk Purut’s spooky characters, we are not able yet to find the reason for its reputation. On the contrary – it makes us experience a peaceful hangout place for a Sunday’s walk to escape the busy metropolis. We will change our mind, when visiting it during night-time…
GOSSIP AT THE CEMETERY – INSTANT COFFEE AND GHOST STORIES
While taking an instant coffee break in front of a traditional mini shop (warung) at the cemetery, we learn more about circulating horror stories from the locals. Iwan, a nearby Indonesian, willingly chats about some insider stories. Working as an event planner for funerals, Iwan is closely connected to the cemetery and its myths. When we ask him about the legend of the headless priest, he explains, that there are two different versions of the story. The first tells about a priest who has abused young girls and finding out about it, the local community tortured and beheaded the pastor. The second version is less spectacular and tells about an unlucky accident. In any case, his spirit haunts the cemetery until today. While Iwan narrates the local ghost stories with a lot of humour, a group of Indonesian women gets mightily amused while listening. Talking about the most creepy ghosts works perfectly together with joking, laughing and kidding at the same time. The women inform us, that it’s not only the pastor haunting the cemetery. Actually it is an explosive mix of pocongs, kuntilanaks as well as different jins animating this fascinating place. However, Iwan objects, that there aren’t as much ghosts as before anymore. Many trees have been trimmed or even removed, so that the cemetery has lost its attraction for supernatural beings. Indonesians believe that ghosts live particular in spots between trees. Nevertheless – Jeruk Purut remains a favourite place for young Indonesian’s test of courage. Especially on Thursday night, the intensity of spirits is increasing and the cemetery is not only haunted by ghosts, but moreover by numerous teenagers and adrenaline junkies searching for adventure. Iwan therefore recommends, to come back Thursday night. No sooner said than done.
BAPAK OOK’S CALLING FOR BEING THE CEMETERY’S KEEPER AND HIS SIDE JOB AS GHOST-TOURGUIDE
After some research in advance, we found out that Bapak Ook arranges informal guided tours through the cemetery grounds every day at 23:00. So when we arrive, a group of youngsters between 11 and 18 years are already waiting for Bapak Ook with excitement. The cemetery keeper still takes a nap before he gets up at night to stay awake until the early morning. Bapak Ook is already the third cemetery keeper of his generation. Not getting any monetary compensation, his willingness to keep an eye on the cemetery is predetermined and voluntary. It’s a matter of family and honour. A responsibility, he cannot easily escape from. During the day, Bapak Ook works as a florist for funeral bouquets. But due to the increased popularity of Jeruk Purut, he meanwhile is also able to earn some small pocket money by arranging nightly ghost-tours. The guided tours are based on a voluntary donation by tour members and lead to four different spots with increased supernatural activities. In a jocular way Bapak Ook tells that his son, who will continue the tradition of duty on the cemetery after him, is currently on training and still scared of this place. During a tour it already happened, that he ran away anxious because he spotted some creepy ghost. The ghost-tourists, which he left behind, weren’t amused by this behaviour. “He’s still on training”, Bapak Ook then tried to calm down the disgruntled costumers.
GHOST-HUNTING – THE INDONESIAN WAY
Bapak Ook has spent his whole life on the controversial cemetery and therefore knows this place like the back of his hand. And you can easily see that while chatting with him. Fiercely gesticulating, he holds a glowing cigarette in his left hand, while he uses his cane as a pointing stick in his right one in order to locate the whereabouts of different kinds of spirits. Pocongs, Kuntilanaks and other ghosts are scattered mainly in dark corners and close to trees. Especially Kuntilanak likes to hang around between trees. Bapak Ook keeps us off from sitting down on a gravestone under a tree. He has spotted a red Kuntilanak there, the queen among the Kuntilanaks. The sexton then usually leaves us alone for some time with the Indonesian teenagers and the local ghosts at certain spots. When we are gathering together again on a more neutral place, everybody is excitedly discussing what he/she has seen or heard. Listening to tooth grinding, seeing dark shadows or falling stones, that angry ghosts sometimes like to throw – a tour at Jeruk Purut can be experienced by all senses. At the last location spot Bapak Ook recommends a single stay in the dark for a self-chosen period of time. For safety he suggests not to get lost in daydreams, because ghosts can easier take control over you when your mind is not focused. Moreover he advises to call for him or calmly leave the place when a black shadow is getting darker and closer to you. For additional protection, Bapak Ook is carrying a mix of ash and other ingredients in his pocket, which he spreads around the lonely person in a circle. While we are willing to take the final courage, the Indonesian teenagers obviously already have enough of ghost-experiences. They suddenly say goodbye disappearing in the dark of the cemetery. Despite professional ghost-guiding, we were not able to spot the infamous headless pastor and his black dog. In any case, we definitely would like to return to this fascinating place and possibly explore new corners with Bapak Ooks son and lure the timid priest out of his hiding place – but above all the ghost stories we want to just chat with Bapak Ooks family and learn more about how it feels to live in close relationship with a certain space like the Jeruk Purut, that Bapak Ook and his son are pre-determined to be responsible for during their whole life.
COULD WE AWAKE YOUR INTEREST FOR INDONESIAN SPIRITS AND INDONESIA’S MOST HAUNTED PLACES?
Jeruk Purut is opened daily 24 hours and can be visited by everybody. Bapak Ook gives daily ghost-tours from 23.00 until 6.00 in the morning at Jeruk Purut. Everybody who’s interested can join and for a small donation he will bring you to the top spots on the cemetery. He’s explaining everything in Indonesian Language, but anyway, due to his lively way of telling about activities at the cemetery, we would recommend to join even without knowledge of the language. Moreover we currently plan a ghost-tour for small groups to 2 or 3 different spots in Jakarta (with English translation). If you are interested, leave us a message on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see what we can organize for you! In addition, there are many other places in Jakarta to explore. Here we have created a ghost-map with the most famous haunted places; well-known for their paranormal activities: