The Penanggalan Is Scarier Than Any Vampire You've Seen In The Movies

Vampires are old news. Zombies have had their day. We require more terrifying legends. Thankfully, the penanggalan is here to haunt our dreams. And man, she is freaky.

Origin Story

Penanggalans are terrifying figures from Southeast Asian legends. During the day they may appear as normal, beautiful women. So you might think, "Hey, this normal lady is totally normal and I might take her home and introducer her to Mom." But that would be a huge mistake.

At night, penanggalan heads detach from their bodies, floating around with all their guts dangling below. This severed head flies in search of victims as the entrails below glitter like firefly lights. Like lame old vampires, penanggalans eat blood. But they do it with a long, invisible tongue. Children and pregnant women are the Penanggalans' preferred prey.

Want to become a penanggalan? First, you need to make a bargain with some sort of dark, all-powerful creature (like the devil). You hold up your end of the bargain and the demon will give you magic powers. But fail to live up to the deal and you'll be cursed to become a penanggalan.

Defense Against the Dark Arts

Penanggalans are often employed as midwives. You can detect them because they lick their lips and avoid eye contact when delivering babies. Another dead giveaway? They smell of vinegar. That's because when her head goes on a midnight ride, she leaves her body behind. Upon returning home, she soaks her dangling organs in vinegar to get them to shrink and go back inside her neck hole.

To defend yourself against the penanggalan, stock up on sharp objects. Having thorns around your window means she wouldn't dare drag her organs through. Some pregnant women in Malaysia allegedly choose to sleep with scissors or knives under their pillows, just in case they need to slice through the guts dangling below the marauding head.

Let's say you're more proactive. How do you kill a penanggalan? Wait until the head and organs are flying around terrifying everyone. Find her body and fill the neck hole with broken glass. When the head returns and goes to insert the organs into the body, the glass will slice the organs to ribbons. Then say a snarky action movie hero catchphrase and walk toward the camera while an explosion happens behind you for some reason.

The True Origin of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves

Written by Ben Bowman February 24, 2016

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