The Flying Head

Time again for another vampire myth. This particular vampire species differing greatly from the classic western image of a alluring caped being of the night. No, i’m afraid the Penanggalan is nothing like that at all.

The Penanggalan is a dreadful vampire from Malaysia (different from the other Malaysian vampire I covered before). This is a very unique creature being that it is nothing more than a floating head and neck and has intestines dangling beneath it.  Now,  before you start picturing a head rolling around the feet of would be victims, this vampire can fly.

This bodiless vampire is female and always female. And like so many vampire myths from around the world this female became a vampire because she died during childbirth.  Although, depending on the area the myth is a bit different. Some said that the head was controlled by a hostile spirit or created by an evil sorcerer. Others said that a woman became a Penanggalan by being surprised by a man during religious penance. She was SO surprised that her reaction was ripping off her own head and pulling out her intestines…yea, that’s how I react when surprised too…yeaaa totally. Anyway, these disgusting dripping intestines would cause sores if they so happened to drip on a living person. The Penanggalan also uses mass amounts of vinegar to shrink its intestines, so that they will fit in the head/neck. Also, these intestines just so happen to glow in that dark.

The Penanggalan feeds on children or on babies still in the womb. Sometimes it likes to torment a child by crying out “Mengilai!” whenever it is born. This horrible beast drinks so much blood from a child that it reduces it to little more than an empty shell. In some versions of the myth this vampire did in fact have a body but left it to feed. Once it finished feeding the head would then return to the body to reattach itself.

Because of this vampire and its love for children, women in childbirth decorated their home with special leaves, thistles with sharp thorns from the jeruju. The thorns will entangle the Penanggalan’s intestines, holding her until sunrise when she is most vulnerable. If left in sunlight for too long it would shrivel up into nothing and of course die. It can also be killed by destroying the heart inside its abandoned body.  This may sound simple enough but this monster is highly dangerous, especially when captured. The Penanggalan is incredibly vicious and will attack anyone who attempts to hinder it. Its teeth are incredibly strong and its eyes can shoot hellish fire. In some versions of the myth this vampire can shoot deadly venom that would paralyze anyone that came too close. In yet another version the Penanggalan had a deadly cry that could stun a person, once stunned the vampire would then feed on the person before flying off.

So what have we learned so far? That Malaysia has some very odd vampire myths, much different than the vampire lore we are so used to .

– Moonlight

By Moonlight

Moonlight (aka Amanda) loves to write about, read about and learn about everything pertaining to vampires. You will most likely find her huddled over a book of vampire folklore with coffee in hand. Touch her coffee and she may bite you (and not in the fun way).


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  2. I had actually never heard of this kind of vampire! It sounds crazy, but for some reason, it could even be true! =P Hehe. I have a feeling I’d be pretty freaked out if I met a flying head with intestines hanging down from it… x)

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