Orang Minyak – Supernatural sicko or real-life rascal?

The black hand creeping through the bedroom window. That's how Elaine Khor remembers the her encounter with the Orang Minyak or Oily Man.

Elaine was assigned to a training session at a hostel in Malacca and shared a room with her colleagues. In the first three weeks of their stay, they discovered money and undergarments stolen from their room despite it being locked.

"We worked on the same shift so it was unlikely to be one of us. It was so strange to have your things stolen from you with no signs of break-in," this 34-year-old professional told Yahoo! Malaysia in an interview.

What was more bizarre, she said, was the frequent visits by a "black hand" - a black hand that was not connected to any human body.

"I was sleeping but woke up in the middle of the night feeling very uncomfortable. I then saw this black hand, a hand only, creeping through an open window, as if it was searching for something," she explained.

She started screaming and it disappeared. Her roommate witnessed a similar hand trespassing their room the following night. More strange things happened at the hostel, from increased "black hand" sightings to a bed being thrown to the ground in an empty spare room.

"We were tired of this charade. After seeing the black hand over and over again, we decided to fight it."

So one night, Elaine and her colleagues gathered some wood from a nearby construction site and decided to venture out to find the "source" of this hand.

The group of girls and boys then headed out of the hostel and started roaming around. Suddenly one of their roommates saw a black figure running by them.

"It went by so fast! The boys chased it but lost track of the figure, it just disappeared! Apparently the figure looked greasy," she added.

Supernatural or supercriminal?

Malaysians know the Orang Minyak as a supernatural being. But, in some cases, the Orang Minyak takes human form.

Legend has it that the Orang Minyak was a supernatural serial rapist who struck a deal with the Devil to gain supernatural powers by raping several virgins - some say 21, while others say 40 - within seven days.

This version of the supernatural being was used as a plot to produce a 1958 movie, Sumpah Orang Minyak or The Curse of the Oily Man, which starred the late P. Ramlee.

Another version of the Orang Minyak which emerged during the 1960s was described as a naked man covered in oil.

The greasy man appeared that way to make it difficult for people to catch or grab hold of him. His black camouflage also makes it easier for him to blend into the night.

In the human form, criminals take on this Orang Minyak disguise to prey on victims in women's dormitories or villages.

In September, residents in Taman Pinggiran Batu Caves Gombak captured a man, posing as an Orang Minyak. Police arrested the man believed to be a black magic practitioner.

Slimy and shifty

Evelyn Khoo remembers the Orang Minyak story as a shape shifting spirit. She recalls many reports of thefts at the village near her grandparents' home in Butterworth, Penang.

"It all erupted one night when neighbour said they saw a shiny black figure running away," she said.

Soon after, the villagers went out on night patrols equipped with machetes and sticks.

"I was 14 at that time and they told us the Orang Minyak can transform into a black dog or mosquito to deceive pursuers," Evelyn explained.

Her grandfather's dog was not spared. Some villagers nearly killed it thinking it was the Orang Minyak in a different form.

"More stories were told to us; that the Orang Minyak can transform into a mosquito and back into man, using that as an opportunity to sneak into out rooms to molest us! It was frightening!"

Many believed that in order to deter the Orang Minyak, women had to wear sweaty clothes to give the supernatural being the impression that men were in close proximity.

Another common remedy is to bite the Orang Minyak's left thumb and cover it with a batik cloth.

But, think about it. Would you want to go near a slimy, greasy, oily supernatural spirit?

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