Culture Lifestyle Weirdness

5 mystical things Malaysians believe… and their scientific explanations

This article was translated from Click here to read the original article in BM.


Ok, we know that Halloween was so last week, but we couldn’t resist writing this article. People have always been fascinated with the bizarre, the mystical, and the downright ghostly. Malaysians also can’t get enough of the creepy stories they read from Mastika and Russell Lee’s True Singapore Ghost Stories. In fact, Mastika still holds the record for being the number 1 and oldest magazine in the country. The pictures and titles on its cover always make our hairs stand and our hands just reach out to pick up a copy.

While we get that people have a fascination for paranormal stories, have you ever wondered if there is a logical explanation as to why these things happen? In modern times, it seems we have scientific explanations left, right and centre to make sense of any bizarre occurrences because, well, maybe people just have a need to make sense of things?

Among the many superstitions and beliefs in Malaysia, here are 5 that may have a perfectly logical scientific explanation……. OR DO THEY?? MUHAHAHAHAFFASSSA

omg something moved! Image from


1. Sound of marbles and children running from… the ceiling??

It was this little boy(s). Image from

A lot of people have reported hearing marble sounds coming from the ceiling, especially those who live in flats or condos, so obviously it could be the upstairs occupants right? Sometimes, people have even been woken from their sleep in the dead of night because they heard the sound of people ‘playing with marbles’. Or the sound of children running. Click here and here to listen to it.

But…who da heck plays marbles AT NIGHT? And kids, don’t ya’ll have school in the morning?! It’s would be 100000 times freakier if your neighbour tells you that nobody lives in the unit above yours! Then who or WHAT was playing with marbles and scampering around last night?

As it turns out, the sound of marbles and running kids is universal. Yep, Singaporeans too have reported hearing it in their HDBs! Actually, there is a scientific explanation to the phenomenon, it’s called ‘water hammer’. It occurs when a fluid (like water) in motion is suddenly forced to stop moving, for example, when the pump is shut down. The momentum of the fluid abruptly stopping creates a pressure wave that travels through the medium within the pipe, subjecting everything in that closed system to significant forces, thus creating a knocking sound.

So instead of freaking out that the meowing boy in Ju-On has moved into your ceiling, you should be worried that the water hammer effect could gradually spoil the pipe system in your building. Not to worry, there are several companies selling products to mitigate water hammer you could Google. But for condo we’re not sure la, maybe you might want to consult the management before doing any work.

Pheww! Now do you feel like you can sleep better at night?


2. Getting pregnant, but there’s NO BABY!


Image from

The news that a little one is on the way can be a joyous occasion for a couple and their family. Unfortunately, there are sad instances when women miscarry and so on.

Then there are pregnancy cases that are a little…mystical. That is, a woman does become pregnant but after a few months when an ultrasound check is done, there is no baby in the belly! People have come up with all kinds of weird theories, the most popular one is that djinns (jin in BM, or genie) have stolen the baby. Perhaps because someone made a pact with the spirits, or perhaps the parents have superstitious practices and such.

However, there is a scientific explanation behind woman’s circumstances. This is called a blighted ovum (also known as anembryonic pregnancy), which is a type of miscarriage. A blighted ovum happens when a fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo does not develop. Cells develop to form the pregnancy sac, but not the embryo itself, which is why the woman’s womb continues to grow, giving her the appearance of pregnancy.

blighted ovum ultrasound foetus baby

What a blighted ovum looks like during an ultrasound (left) vs normal baby development (right). Image from

Blighted ovums occur very early on in the pregnancy, within the first trimester, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. It’s apparently quite common, it is the cause of about 50% of first trimester miscarriages. It is usually the result of chromosomal problems – you see, a woman’s body somehow recognises abnormal chromosomes in a fetus and it is nature’s way of ending the pregnancy because the foetus will not develop into a healthy baby.

If you know a person who has experienced this, please don’t be the jin by telling her that a jin took her baby away, k. A miscarriage can cause emotional and psychological distress to the mother and she should be allowed to grieve without having to listen to comments like that.


3. Women experience hysteria because their periods make them spiritually weaker?!

hysteria school pahang

A schoolgirl from SMK Abu Bakar, Pahang had to be rescued by the bomba after she was stricken by hysteria. Image from

Once in a blue moon, the media reports outbreaks of mass hysteria in schools, especially asrama schools, and usually it happens to girls. It’s so bad that Universiti Malaysia Pahang actually started selling anti-hysteria kits for RM8,750!! We’re not even kidding.

Students have climbed a water tower, a school balcony and threatened to jump off, run amok shrieking and behaved like they were possessed. The worst case happened in Kelantan when more than 100 people, both students and teachers, were reportedly stricken by mass hysteria after sighting a ‘black figure’. They had to call in bomohs and everything.

kit anti histeria universiti

RM8,750?? Image from Dr. Anwar Fazal on Twitter

Historically, many cases of hysteria were thought to manifest more in women, with a number of symptoms, like anxiety, nervousness, irritability, shortness of breath, fainting, insomnia, and so on. The word actually originates from the Greek word ‘hystera’ for uterus. There is a view in Malaysia that might be considered quite controversial by some, which states that women become hysterical more easily because:

Rohani perempuan agak lemah berbanding lelaki. Ini disebabkan katanya, wanita merupakan kaum hawa yang sering meninggalkan solat kerana datang haid.” – Datuk Shamsuri Shafie, founder of Pusat Rawatan Islam At-Tobibi, quoted on Free Malaysia Today

Translated, he is saying that women are spiritually weaker than men, because when they have their periods, they do not pray and do not read the Quran (because in Islam, they are not allowed to during their menstrual cycle). He added that in their weakness, they are more easily kacau-ed by spirits which causes them to become hysterical. Guess what, it has happened in Western schools as well, in the UK and the US. A movie has been made about it called The Falling, of a girl who keeps fainting until it becomes and epidemic in school.

Dr M wants to open a new Malaysian embassy for Palestine. But don't we have one already?

What does science tell us about hysteria on the other hand? Hysteria is considered the earliest mental illness in the history of mankind. There are many causes, maybe psychological problems, maybe stress. It is considered a part of a somatic symptom disorder (SSD), which is, umm, a lil difficult to explain and also controversial because there’s NO medical explanation for it. A person could experience several bodily symptoms – eg. pain, neurologic problems, gastrointestinal complaints, even sexual symptoms, and anxiety disorder.

mass hysteria school

A teacher and some students trying to calm a girl down. Image from

But how do you explain how it spreads from person to person? Until 100+ people in Kelantan kena??!? Dun dunduuunnn… Chartered psychologist Alan Redman calls it “psychogenic illness”.

“What we’re talking about in these school cases, which are not that uncommon, is an illness that feels very real and which is transferred through psychological means rather than physical ones. The reaction is a bit like when you hear the word ‘itch’, and you start to feel it yourself.” – Alan explained on

He added by saying that it’s more likely to happen in schools because teenagers’ minds are more easily influenced, “Obviously, at school this process is heightened because young people, particularly adolescents, are looking for an identity more than most and are much closer to the people in their groups. If you look at research into psychogenic illnesses, it is much more likely to affect this age group, girls more than boys,” he said.


4. Lost in the jungle? Or kidnapped by GOBLINS??


Image from

Ahh Malaysian jungles, a place celebrated for its rich biodiversity, natural….as well as err supernatural(?) There are many taboos when it comes to jungles – don’t pee without asking for “permission”, don’t speak arrogantly, don’t take any “souvenirs” and so on. Some of us might laugh, but those who go jungle trekking have encountered situations right out of the X-Files show or something. To read all the hair-raising accounts, click here.

One thing is for sure, getting lost in the jungle is not a fun way to go. Some cases have shocked the nation, such as the time when 7 Orang Asli students were lost in the forests of Kelantan. Another was a teenager who got lost in Broga Hill for 7 days. Unfortunately we couldn’t find statistics of people getting lost in jungles in Malaysia, but we’ll wager it’s an extremely terrifying thing to happen, particularly when it gets dark. There could be lots of dangerous jungle creatures…then there might be supernatural creatures. Just ask Snow White, she knows:

snow white lost jungle forest

HALP GHOSTSS. No, tree branches. My bad

There could be 101 dalmatians why people get lost, though generally the more superstitious people believe that the victim has been taken by bunians (goblins)! In some cases where they never find the victim, we’ll never know what happened, but here’s an interesting scientific explanation to the movement of people in jungles. A new study found that people naturally walk in circles when their sense of direction is lost.

“So we sent people into the desert, we sent people into a big forest area and we measured their walking trajectories with GPS and, in fact, they did walk in circles.” – Jan Souman, Researcher at Max Planck Institute, NatGeo

hobbit running lost human bunian jungle

Ogiginal image from

Obviously if they walk in circles, they would get nowhere. So these lost people are just lost, not kidnapped by goblins or smurfs. This Australian got lost in Mulu National Park, Sarawak and when he was rescued 2 weeks later, he didn’t come across any bunian oso. He just talked spending a whole night wandering.

It is very easy lose one’s cool and start panicking, but if you do get lost, stay put. You will only make things harder for yourself and your rescuers if you don’t stop moving around. Perhaps it’s best to prepare with these tips before making any trips into the jungle.


5. Coughing blood because of voodoo and black magic!

Image from

In some communities, people believe in the power of dark arts and consult bomohs. It can be to ask for 4D number or a youth potion (susuk) possibly. Regrettably, people often use it for evil rather than good, for instance, to curse or kenakan those who have offended them. Haiyo why so vengeful? :-S

There are various types of santau – those which supposedly can induce long-term coughing, coughing up blood and worse, coughing glass shards! The aim is to make the target suffer, sometimes resulting in death. To do that, they will use voodoo dolls, or they could use bamboo sticks tied together, one person even used somebody’s Facebook photo to do it, whaddaheck, and then work a charm on it. D:

Not long ago, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) wanted to organise a seminar on santau. Ok that sounds ironic, Universiti Sains conducting a seminar on spells!? In their defence, they wanted to tackle it from a scientific angle, however netizens pooh-poohed the idea saying it was ridiculous and a waste of time, so it was canned. It goes to show though that black magic, voodoo, spells and curses are quite entrenched in society here.

From a scientific point of view though, it could be just poison or glass shards that someone gave to the victim which can induce a number of adverse reactions to a person, coughing aside. As for vomiting blood, there could be many reasons for it too – tuberculosis, internal bleeding, an injury in the digestive system and stomach ulcers.


Actually, Malaysians are quite a superstitious bunch

In this day and age, there are many people who don’t believe in magic and mystical stuff any more. There are lots of things now that can be explained logically with science… a jin didn’t steal the foetus, it simply did not form… the little Ju-On boy isn’t living in your ceiling, it’s water hammer that’s causing those marble sounds.

Regardless, old habits die hard, we guess. Passed down from generation to generation, some Malaysians still would not pee in the jungle without asking for ‘permission’ and bomohs’ business still strong. We scratch our heads and wonder at the experiences people swear to – eg. seeing apparitions and stuff, coz some people really believe they saw what they saw. For real, or overactive imagination? Who knows, you be the judge. Even Albert Einstein himself said this: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

Nevertheless, whether you believe in superstition or not, we know that science can’t explain EVERYTHING in this world. But it’s ok. Maybe there’s still a lil’ magic left in the world to fascinate us.

wendy pixie dust peter pan

Wheee pixie dust

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