In Indonesia, president Joko Widodo declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency on March 31, but he stopped short of issuing a nationwide “stay-at-home” order. So one village enlisted the help of ghosts to scare people indoors.
Located in the central Java province, volunteers in Kepuh village in Sukoharjo have been holding “surprise patrols” dressed as pocong, a ghost that is popular in Indonesian folklore. Kepuh village head Priyadi told Reuters, “Local residents still lack awareness on how to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease. They want to live like normal so it is very difficult for them to follow the stay home instruction.”
Anjar Pancaningtyas, the head of the local youth volunteer group, told Reuters that they “wanted to be different” in their attempts to enforce stay-at-home recommendations. The plan initially backfired as people ventured out of their houses in the hopes of snapping photos with the “ghosts” for social media. Pancaningtyas said, however, that “the environment of the village has become more conducive [to the idea of staying inside].”
Pocong, or “shrouded ghost,” is a popular bit of folklore in Indonesia. Traditionally, corpses are wrapped in white shrouds, knotted at the top of the head, the neck, and the feet. The soul of a person is said to remain on Earth for 46.3 days. If the shroud knots are not released after that time, the ghost of the deceased is said to jump out of the grave to warn people that its soul has yet to be released. Once the knots are released, the soul is released forever and will not return to the Earth. The shrouded ghosts are the stars of several Indonesian horror films, starting with Pocong in 2006.
As of this writing, Indonesia had recorded 469 deaths and 5,136 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.