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February 23rd, 2000

The Penanggalan

Forgive me in advance — this may be one of the more bizarre Pings you read.

In Asian folklore, there is a being named a “Penanggalan,” a woman’s head that floats around in the air, dragging her spine and internal organs with her. The word itself means “head with dancing intestines.” They feed on the blood of children, especially infants or the unborn.

A bit strange, but I’m not making this up.

I first saw a Penanggalan in the movie Le?k (aka Mystics in Bali). Le?k is a rare Indonesian horror film that features an American (or Australian, depending which dubbed version you see) visiting Bali to learn about black magic first hand. She runs into all sorts of mayhem, and while the movie isn’t particularly scary, the flying head is one of the coolest “bad guys” I’ve seen in a horror movie!

There’s a particularly disturbing scene in Le?k that has the Penanggalan sucking a baby out of the body of a mother as she gives birth. Interestingly, the scene itself is not at all gory, and the subtlety with which it’s presenting is impressive — the pregnant woman simply “deflates” while the Penanggalan rejuvenates itself on the newborn’s blood.

There’s only one other documented movie that deals with the Penangglan, and that is The Witch with Flying Head (yes, that is how it is gramatically presented). Apparently this movie is only available in a dubbed-Vietnamese version, but I’m really looking forward to seeing it if I can hunt down a clear copy.

For more information on the Penanggalan, check out, and for more information on these two movies, visit the Video Vulture on FFWD. -ram

Posted in Just Plain Odd

Ryan February 24, 2008, 3:31 am

By a crazy coincidence, Mystics in Bali is the disc I currently have out from Netflix and I’m in the middle of watching it now, eight years to the day after this Ping. I forgot how great this movie is.

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