The Low-Budget Brilliance of Indonesia's Traveling Haunted Houses
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Travel

The Low-Budget Brilliance of Indonesia's Traveling Haunted Houses

Where else offers this many scares for less than Rp 20,000?
October 31, 2017, 9:02am

Fina knows she's doing a good job when the bodies start to hit the floor.

"There's a certain satisfaction to see a visitor pass out at my post," Fina told me. "It means it's a success."

Fina and her friends work at a traveling haunted house. It's basically a road show of terror, a carnival of the macabre that, for the month of October, turned what was once an empty space near the food court of ITC Cempaka Mas mall in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, into a scare factory.

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The haunted house is owned by Panic House Indonesia, a company that brings affordable scares to cities and towns across Indonesia. They were in Sukabumi, West Java, before this and once the halloween season wraps up in the capital, they will pack up their pocong costumes and hit the road again. They keep costs low—about Rp 15,000 ($1 USD)—to draw the crowds. By the time I visited the haunted house, at least 2,000 people were entering every weekend.

Fina was dressed as a kuntilanak, a ghostly apparition who steals children and makes pregnant mothers die. She's dressed in a dirty back shawl with corpse paint and a bloody red streak running down the right side of her face.

The ghosts and ghouls—there were three of them on staff when I went—know how to send the crowd into screaming fits. Some guests freak out and hit the ghosts. Or spit at them. And sometimes they can't find their way out. Fina told me that some people try to wander through the haunted house with their eyes shut the whole time. They eventually get stuck, but Fina and her fellow ghosts can't break character, so they have to instead up the ante to frighten them out of the room.

"We just scare them until they walk out of the attraction," Fina said.

But there are also times, she says, when things get real spooky in the haunted house. Fina told me that she's heard actual ghosts in the room with her. But she wasn't too concerned because the ghosts, according to her, seemed to be enjoying themselves too.

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"I heard a laughter near my ears," she told me. "I just took them as my own friends."

I went to the haunted house to take photos, but, for some reason, when I got the roll of 35mm film developed, half of the images turned out all blurry or washed out in solid colors. Was it the work of a ghost? A light leak? My own mistake? I'll let you decide. But, I personally, prefer the supernatural explanation. But thankfully, I was still able to salvage about half the roll.