Orang Bunian – our neighbours in the supernatural world

A mother-to-be was in labour. Her midwife was urging her to "push" hard, hoping the newborn would be delivered smoothly.

But, there was no baby. Only the mother's placenta appeared. No child was born. What happened? Where did the baby go?

"In a case like this, the baby is most probably taken by the Bunian community," Malay animism expert associate professor Datuk Zainal Abidin Borhan explained in an interview with Yahoo! Malaysia.

No medical or scientific reason can explain this incident. But, if you believe in the supernatural world, you're might speculate this: The midwife attending to the delivery could have had spiritual powers and might have struck a deal with the Orang Bunian to offer the newborn in return for material gains or fulfilment of other requests.

Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia psychiatry department doctor, Ruzanna Zamzam said she has encountered such a case before.

The patient was a 43-year-old woman, named as S.U., who claimed to be four months pregnant. S.U had undergone all the necessary ultrasound scans and successfully recorded images of a female foetus in her womb. Her heavy figure made it difficult to judge her pregnancy, but, a few days before her due date, she claimed to have experienced a spiritual event. She was visited by the lady who was preparing her delivery. Subsequently, a man told her that she had lost her baby.

S.U then sought a medical check up, and this time the ultrasound revealed a non-pregnant uterus.

Similar social structure, different world altogether

The Orang Bunian supposedly resemble human beings and don't live too differently from us.

Zainal, who is from University Malaya's Malay Studies Academy, explained that the Orang Bunian community live in another dimension of reality. But, like in this world, they too have families and their own social structure.

There are no clear demarcations between our reality and the Orang Bunian's reality and you can't see their world with the naked eye. To enter their world, you must have the special ability to do so.

"Mediums or bomohs can "befriend" them. They are not spirits that you can manipulate or instruct like the Toyol or Jinn.

"There is a way of speaking to them. You can speak nicely to them by asking them to fulfil your requests, but if that does not work, at times you can also threaten them or make an offering or barter to come to an agreement."

Many believers of the Malay and Indonesian folklore say that the Orang Bunian is linked to the Minangkabau culture, originating from West Sumatra in Indonesia. The Orang Bunian is known to live in the forest or at foothills and sometimes near cemeteries and empty buildings.

Some equate this community to elves while others believe they are built on a royal social structure, with kings, queens and princesses' in tow. These spirits are known to appear during sunset.

The Orang Bunian are often used as a reason to explain cases of missing children or when people go astray in forests.

Movie director and actor Afdlin Shauki has admitted he has encountered one Orang Bunian-like incident.

While filming Misteri Jalan Lama at the Belum rainforest, he had ordered two busloads of costumes. Only one arrived at the location of the shoot. The other bus went missing, and the costumes were found scattered all over the forest. It didn't deter the crew from completing the shoot.

Folklore, fairytale or reality?

The rock on Pulau Aur or Aur Island, off Mersing has a story to tell. Known as the Batu Berhala, it

was formerly home to the Orang Bunian. Villagers believed that the Orang Bunian had hidden many goods from a shipwrecked Chinese junk in a secret cave within the Batu Berhala.

Those who wanted help from the Orang Bunian would have to perform specific rituals and offerings. Once the Orang Bunian was satisfied these rituals, a "door" to the cave would open and you could help yourself with the cargo. But these goods were only on loan.

However, many did not honour this obligation and fled with the lucrative items, causing the Orang Bunian to leave Batu Berhala after being disappointed with the human behaviour and disrespect for promises.

Crossing to the other side

Because there is no clear "border" between our world and theirs, the two often clash. There have been stories or known cases of people claiming to get married to a member of the Bunian community.

Sulaimah Abdul Kadir, a writer with Singapore based paranormal research organisation, Supernatural, had interviewed alternative medicine practitioner Madam Shann who claimed to have married a prince from the Orang Bunian community.

The incident took place in 2004 after Madam Shann had dreams about meeting a handsome prince from the Orang Bunian community at Gunung Ledang. She claimed she had married a prince by the name of Amiruddin Shah bin Hassan Shah, the only child of King Hassan, residing in Gunung Ledang.

Madam Shann had made the trip to Gunung Ledang with a group of friends and according to them, she disappeared for about four hours.

She also claimed that she had given birth to seven children through a "human relationship" she had with Amiruddin, who can appear as human only if he chooses to.

Some believe that the Orang Bunians live with us or among us, and sometimes in a parallel world.

Sceptics may ignore their existence, but no one really can explain these case studies and experiences. The believers would urge then to just be respectful of the Orang Bunian and mind our own business.

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