The Jakarta city administration has moved with exceptional speed to cut down an old mahogany tree said to harbor two distinct forms of Indonesian ghosts.
The extraordinary turn of events has led the religious affairs minister to call on people not to be influenced by "mystical" stories and the National Police chief to appeal for calm.
The saga began when a pocong (shrouded corpse ghost) and kuntilanak (vampiric female ghost) revealed themselves to a child who reportedly made the mistake of relieving himself against the old tree in Roxy, Central Jakarta, on Nov. 26.
In the hysteria that has followed since, hundreds of people have begun visiting the tree with at least ten becoming possessed by spirits. Photographs and video purporting to be of both the pocong and kuntilanak are now circulating on the Internet.
Ferry Abdillah Kadir, a local official, told Detik.com that the sightings had drawn large crowds that had caused major traffic congestion. He said he had sent a letter of request to the Jakarta Park and Cemetery Agency to remove the tree.
Though the agency acted quickly and cut down the tree on Thursday, the spectacle is not over – speculation is mounting that the ghosts have simply moved to one of three neighboring mahogany trees, Detik.com reported. "Someone said the ghosts have moved to the other tree but we cannot cut down all the trees," Ferry said.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said people should not be influenced by the reports. "These kinds of things [pocong and kuntilanak] cannot be seen with normal eyes, especially in the afternoon," Suryadharma said at the Presidential Palace. "Therefore, people should not believe in mysticism."
National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo also commented on the issue. "People should remain calm," Timur said. "The National Police have taken action. Thank you."