Indonesian folklore features a wide variety of tales about animist ghosts and spirits. And the so-called ‘Pontianak’ (or ‘Kuntianak’) is perhaps the most notorious of all. In Southeast Asian cultures, swamps are considered eerie places where nature’s spirits dwell and spook the living. Legend has it that the area in Western Kalimantan at the crossing point of the Kapuas and Landak rivers was haunted by Pontianaks

 A vampire-like creature, the Pishachas in Hindu theology are believed to feed on the flesh of both the living and the dead. And horrifically, they are particularly fond of dining on pregnant women in India. Described as having a human-like form with protruding red eyes and bulging veins all over their bodies they are a particularly unpleasant looking demon.

 One of Saigon’s most famous ghost stories, The Daughter of Hui Bi Hua is the legend of the ghost of a young girl who roams the corridors of what is now the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Art at Pho Duc Chinh Street in District 1. Back in 1934, when the trio of buildings was first built, it was a home to the family and business of Hui Bi Hua, an extremely wealthy real estate magnate who was reputed to own about 20,000 properties in the city. The main building used to be the family mansion and it is apparently haunted by the ghost of Hui’s daughter.

 Known as the guardian spirit of cemeteries and graveyards in Myanmar, Ma Phae Wah has made her home in these lonely places of death. As with all Nats, she takes a human form, and appears as a woman with long flowing black hair. In the dark of night, at midnight (well like 4pm is time for tea, midnight is time for ‘Pee’…and no I am not referring to the trials of a troubled prostate, ‘Pee’ is the Thai name for supernatural spirit, and conveniently rhymes with tea) she hoists a coffin on to her shoulder and leaves the cemetery and heads into the nearby village or town. In her role as a harbinger of death, her long hair flowing in the spectral breeze that accompanies her shuffling gait, she seeks out the home of the soon to die.

 Thais believe that wicked people will be reborn as a truly terrible night creature called a Preta, the archetypal Hungry Ghost. These beings are the tortured spirits of once living people who are made to suffer greatly with an insatiable hunger usually for something disgusting. And for some more unfortunate Preta, it can be a desire to eat their own flesh.

 The quirky river demons as found in Japanese folklore. A culture rich in supernatural tales of ghosts and fantastic creatures, no list would be complete without the “Kappa”. Spirits of the natural world and ghosts are deeply imbedded in Japanese religion, history, and culture. And for this last offering for our Halloween edition there is even a sushi roll named after it — the kappa-maki, or cucumber roll.