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Penanggalan: A Disembodied Ghost Head with Entrails Still Attached

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The disembodied head of the penanggalan with entrails dangling below. Art by DoctorChevlong.

A penanggalan is a witch from Malay culture. The penanggalan is said to be able to detach its head from its body and float around in the night, searching for menstrual blood to drink.

The Legend of the Penanggalan

The penanggalan is known by several different names in South East Asia. It is known as leyak in Bali, balan-balan in Sabah, palasik in West Sumatra, kuyang in Kalimantan, kra-sue in Thailand, kasu in Laos, manananggal in the Philippines, and ahp in Cambodia.

A penanggalan is created when a witch meditates in a vat of vinegar with only her head exposed. Using a special technique the witch is able to separate herself from her body and float around as a disembodied head with her organs dangling underneath.

A penanggalan can be discovered once she has returned to her body as she will always have a strong vinegary smell about her.

The penanggalan goes out in this form under the cover of darkness seeking menstrual blood to drink. The creature also likes to consume fluids from the birthing process.

The penanggalan will hide under the house of her victim until everyone in the home is asleep. When the coast is clear she will use her long tongue to lap up the blood of the new mother or the menstruating woman.

According to the legend anyone who has had their blood consumed by a penanggalan will contract a wasting disease that is almost always fatal. Anyone that comes into contact with the pananggalan’s exposed entrails will develop painful, weeping sores. These sores can only be healed by a bohmoh, a Malaysian shaman.

How To Protect Yourself from a Penanggalan

The thorny leave of the mengkuang plant can be scattered aroudn the home to cause damage to the exposed organs of the penanggalan. The vines of this plant can also be wrapped around windows and doors to injure the penanggalan if it tries to come inside.

A pregnant or menstruating woman can also keep scissors or betel nut cutters under her pillow to ward off the penanggalan.

If you find the body of a penanggalan while she is out hunting you can kill her by pouring broken glass into the empty neck cavity or by simply burning the body. You can also turn the body over so that when the penanggalan returns, her head will be back to front, revealing her identity to the whole village.

A video covering the Penanggalan in depth

Have you ever seen a penanggalan? Let us know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article you may also be interested in La Siguanaba or Toyol.

Further Reading

Malay Spiritualism by Folklore History Series. Get it on Amazon.

(Affiliate link, we may earn a commission.)

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Ghosts

A Harbinger of Death in Wyoming

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An artist’s impression of the ghostly ship that appears on the Platte River in Wyoming.

For more than a hundred years, a ghostly ship has appeared on the Platte River roughly every 25 years. Each sighting has been said to predict the death of someone known to the witness who spotted the eerie vessel.

A Warning on the Platte River

Wyoming has its fair share of ghost stories and phantom tales, but one lesser-known legend is not only terrifying but also carries a reputation as an omen of death.

The mist rising from the water pouring from the Pathfinder Dam on the North Platte River might explain some things, but it doesn’t account for the chilling sightings reported for over a century.

Sightings of the Wyoming Ghost Ship

In 1862, a trapper named Leon Webber had the first documented encounter with the death ship. Initially, he spotted a massive ball of fog near the river. Curious, he approached and even threw a stone at the swirling mass. To his astonishment, it transformed into a sailing ship, its mast and sails glistening with frost.

On board, frost-covered sailors surrounded something on the deck. As they moved aside, Webber saw it was the body of a girl, whom he recognized as his fiancée. His shock deepened when he later discovered she had passed away on the very day he witnessed the haunting spectacle.

Another sighting occurred along the North Platte River in 1887. As the mist thickened on the river, cattleman Gene Wilson was rounding up his herd nearby when his dog suddenly began barking frantically. Startled, his horse refused to approach the riverbank and attempted to flee. After securing his horse to a scrub pine, Wilson cautiously approached the river on foot. He later described the sight as profoundly unsettling, saying it “sent shivers down my spine.”

There, almost motionless on the swiftly flowing river, was a fully-rigged sailing vessel seemingly crafted from the frozen, glimmering mist that enveloped it. Once again, a crew stood on deck, and this time the captain gestured for them to lower a frost-covered canvas suspended by ropes at its corners. As the bundle reached the deck and a sailor unveiled it, Wilson was chilled to the bone to see his wife’s face on the lifeless body.

The Platte River

The ship vanished when Wilson screamed in terror. He hurried home only to find his house reduced to ashes and his wife’s lifeless body lying about 100 yards away from the smoldering remains.

It took another 25 years before the death ship reappeared. The third witness, Victor Hiebe, had no prior knowledge of the earlier sightings. While taking a smoke break from chopping firewood near the North Platte River, he struck a match to light his pipe and noticed a sudden bank of fog moving downstream towards him. As the fog neared, it gradually transformed into a sailing ship encased in icy mist, a chilling sight.

A sail initially obstructed Hiebe’s view, but he could discern a crew on the deck and hear voices. One voice claimed innocence while another asserted they were merely carrying out their duty. When the sail was finally raised, Hiebe was horrified to see a gallows on the ship’s deck with a man hanging from it. It was his best friend, whom he believed had been unjustly convicted of murder and escaped from prison. Later, Hiebe learned that his friend had been captured and executed on the very day he saw the death ship.

The Cheyenne Bureau of Psychological Research monitors reported sightings, and a few books have documented these accounts of the Death Ship on the North Platte River. Some suggest keeping watch for this eerie vessel during autumn, when it tends to appear. If you spot what looks like a ship in the mist on the North Platte River, it might be best to look away—you may not want to witness what’s aboard.

ENIGMA VIntage Narratives covers the story of the Wyoming Death Ship

Have you ever had a premonition of death, like the ones in the article? Tell us about it in the comments!

If you enjoyed learning about the Wyoming Ghost Ship you might alsoe be interested in
2026 Doomsday Predictions or how Katherine Hobbs predicted her own death.

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Ghosts

Crisis Apparitions

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Can we communicate with our loved ones telepathically during times of crisis?

In the early 1800s, Pastor John Frederick Oberlin moved to the town of Bande-la-Roche, France, hoping to educate the residents and relieve them of their superstitions. In the end it was Oberlin who was educated, becoming convinced that the apparitions residents saw in times of crisis were real.

Pastor John Frederick Oberlin and the Crisis Apparitions of Bande-la-Roche

John Frederick Oberlin, a well-known pastor, teacher, and philanthropist from the 18th and 19th centuries, completely changed the way of life in the Bande-la-Roche valley in the Vosges Mountains of Alsace. When he arrived in the area, he didn’t like the superstitions of the locals, especially their stories about seeing their dying family members appearing to them in spirit form before their deaths. Despite his efforts to educate them and speak against these beliefs, the reports of such sightings continued.

A significant turning point in Oberlin’s attitude towards the apparitions occurred in 1806 when a devastating avalanche struck Rossberg, burying several villages in its wake. The aftermath of this catastrophic event was marked not only by the physical destruction but also by an increase in the number of villagers claiming to have witnessed visions of their deceased loved ones.

As these accounts multiplied, Oberlin, the steadfast clergyman, found himself grappling with a growing sense of doubt. The sheer volume of testimonies and the intensity of the experiences described by the locals led him to reconsider his earlier dismissal of the supernatural. The tragic circumstances surrounding the avalanche seemed to challenge his previously held orthodox views.

In the face of mounting evidence and the profound impact of the disaster on the community, Oberlin began to believe that the villagers were indeed be perceiving spirits of the departed.

What are Crisis Apparitions?

In most supernatural encounters, the spirits involved are usually belonging to people who have passed away. Sometimes, however, the spirit seen is belonging to someone still living. What does this mean?

One idea regarding crisis apparitions suggests that when a person dies, their soul is released from their body. This liberated soul can then move freely across space and time. The belief is that the individual’s soul might want to make a final visit to say goodbye or provide comfort to loved ones.

In some cases, crisis apparitions involve a person who is still alive. For instance, someone might hear the voice of a loved one delivering a message or warning during a vision. According to a theory, when a person is in physical pain or danger due to illness, they might unconsciously project psychic energy to their loved ones. This projection could happen without the person being aware of it, driven by the challenging situation they are facing.

This type of crisis apparition resembles visions of those who have passed away. As the energy is sent to the receiver, their brain interprets it as an image of the sender. Researchers believe that some individuals may be more sensitive to this energy, increasing their likelihood of having paranormal experiences.

Other Notable Examples of Crisis Apparitions

A woman having an out of body experience is seen by her husband who was hundreds of miles away

According to Rosemary Ellen Guiley’s book, The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, (affiliate link) in 1863, a man named S. R. Wilmot and his sister, Eliza, sailed from England to New York. They faced a severe storm that lasted nine days. Wilmot, feeling seasick, stayed in his sleeping area for several days and nights. On the eighth night, after the storm eased, he dreamt that his wife, Mrs. Wilmot, visited him in a white nightgown, kissed and caressed him, and then left.

The next morning, William J. Tait, who shared quarters with Wilmot, mentioned seeing a lady visitor. Wilmot was surprised because Tait’s description matched exactly what he had dreamt. When asked, Eliza denied being the visitor.

Later, Mrs. Wilmot asked her husband about his dream, describing her own experience of going out during the storm, finding the ship, going to the stern, and entering the cabin. She hesitated at first when she saw Tait but eventually kissed and caressed Wilmot, just like in his dream. Mrs. Wilmot shared this vivid experience with her mother, insisting it felt too real to be just a dream and that she believed she had actually been on the ship.

A Man Sees His Wife’s Dying Sister-in-Law

“In the higher part of the door was a glass window, and I all at once, in the darkness, saw a face looking through that window. The face was very well known to me, though for the instant I did not associate it with the original, as she was 300 miles away. I instantly opened the door, found nobody there, and then searched the ivy with which the porch and house are covered. Finding nothing, and knowing it was impossible anyone could have got away. … I at once knew the face was that of a married sister-in-law of my wife’s. I told all our family of the circumstance directly I got home, and judge of our dismay when we had a letter to say she died at the very hour I saw her. Monday was the evening I saw the face, and on Wednesday, when we were at dinner, the letter came.”

W. Goodyear.

Apparitions of the Living Vol 1 p. 523

A Man Sees His Brother During a Near Death Experience

“It was either in 1874 or 1875. My brother was third mate on board one of Wigram’s large ships. I knew he was somewhere on the coast of Australia  …  I looked up, and, to my astonishment, saw my brother coming towards me from the outside door of the kitchen. … I noticed he was in his sailor uniform with a monkey jacket on, and the wet was shining on his jacket and cap. I exclaimed, ‘Miles, where have you come from?’ He answered in his natural ‘For God’s sake, don’t say I’m here.’ This was all over in a few seconds and as I jumped towards him he was gone. I was very much frightened, for I had really thought it was my brother himself; and it was only when he vanished that I realised it was only an appearance. … About three months afterwards my brother came home, and….I asked him in a casual manner if he had had any adventures, and he said, ‘I was nearly drowned at Melbourne.’ He then told me he was ashore without leave, and on returning to the ship, after midnight, he slipped off the gangway between the side of the ship and the dock. There was very little space, and if he had not been hauled up at once, he must have been drowned. He remembered thinking he was drowning, and then became unconscious. His absence without leave was not found out, so he escaped the punishment he expected. I then told him of how he had appeared to me, and I asked him the date. He was able to fix it exactly. … He had no recollection of thinking specially of me at the time, but he was much struck by the coincidence, and often referred to it. He did not like it, and often when he went away said, ‘Well, I hope I shan’t go dodging about as I did that time.”

Apparitions of the Living, Vol 2, p. 141

Billie Holiday Sees Her Mother at the Time She Died

Billie Holiday wrote in her memoir of a strange incident occurring at the time of her mother’s death. Her mom was very young when she had her, and they were close. In the middle of the book, Billie talks about a strange moment in a hotel room with her boyfriend after a show:

“I don’t believe in ghosts, but something weird happened that night… We were just sitting there when suddenly I felt my mother behind me, touching my shoulders. And I knew she was dead. I told Joe, ‘Mom just left, and she’s dead.’

‘You’re crazy,’ he said. ‘You must be losing it.’

‘Listen to me,’ I said, ‘you better be good to me because you’re all I’ve got now.’

Her mom wasn’t sick, and she was only 38, so nobody expected her to die. The next day, people acted strangely around Billie. She went up to the road manager and “told him Mama was dead and what time she died the night before…He blew his top, raised hell with everybody backstage. He swore somebody must have told me. But nobody had told me nothing.” The crew knew about Billie’s Mom but didn’t want her to know as it might impact her performance.

Knock Once for Yes Podcast covers the topic of Crisis Apparitions

Have you ever had a crisis apparition experience? Tell us about it in the comments. If you enjoyed this article you might also be interested in the phenomenon of paranormal apathy or twin telepathy.

Interested in Talking to Spirits? Try one of our paranormal communication apps!

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