Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O [P] R S T U V W X Y Z


Variation: Buo, Kuntilanak, MATI-ANAK, Pontipinnak
In the folklore of Indonesia and Malaya there is a vampiric demon known as a pontianak. When a woman dies in childbirth, as a virgin, or as the victim of a pontianak attack, she will then transform into this type of vampire unless specific burial rites are followed. Glass beads must be placed in the corpse's mouth, an egg in each armpit, and needles driven into the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
A pontianak can pass as a human woman except for a hole in the back of its neck and smelling exactly like the tropically sweet frangipani flower. It will also announce its presence with a call that sounds like a crying baby.
At night, it leaves its home in a banana tree and shape-shifts into a bird. Then the pontianak flies out looking for prey. Although any person will do, it truly prefers the blood of infants and pregnant women as it is filled with hatred for never having been a mother itself. When it finds a suitable target, the pontianak then changes back into its human guise and detaches its head from its body, dangling its organs beneath as it flies back to where it saw its prey. If it can, it will rip the unborn child right out of the mother's body, eating it on the spot.
The pontianak has a unique fear among vampire kind. It will flee in terror from anyone who manages to pull a HAIR out of its head. Also if a nail can be placed into the hole in the back of the neck, it will change into a beautiful woman and remain that way until someone pulls the nail back out. It is fortunate to know that the pontianak has these weaknesses, because there is no known method for destroying one.
Source: Laderman, Wives and Midwives, 126 ­27; Mc Hugh, Hantu-Hantu, 74; Skeat, Malay Magic, 326 ­28

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