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Seven Floors Above A Cemetery

I just learned that the apartment block I live in was built over an old cemetery. My taxi driver nervously told me, after dropping me off near the old run down lobby. The news does not come as a surprise, but confirmed why the building has so many churches.

Indonesians believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night. One Indonesian friend told me after visiting the States that, “Americans believe in UFOs; we Indonesians think that is strange yet we all to some degree believe in ghosts”.

This belief often determines where people live, particularly confirming why when people ask me where I live, they look at me strangely when I tell them. I cannot laugh at this belief and believe ghosts are possible, even professing to having my own ghostly experience.

Yet here I am in a building, one of the first apartment buildings built in the Big Durian. Obviously, once a symbol of the new prosperity that now is a little run down, even spooky if you notice it when you drive past it. Still skeptical, I asked the security guard about the apartment building and he confirmed the taxi driver's story.

The old lady who runs the store in the lobby added to the story, telling me that part of the cemetery contained the unnamed graves of the dead. The nameless people buried without any known family. No wonder many apartments were empty, even if the rents are very reasonable by Indonesian standards.

Being a foreigner, many Indonesians will shyly avoid the subject of ghosts, but will freely discuss the subject with each other. Many expatriates dismiss it as superstition, as Indonesians tend to be superstitious people. But I am one foreigner that likes to keep an open mind about most things.

One time I was staying in a room in the city center and expatriates lived on the third floor. The “second wives” of Indonesians lived on the second floor. Friday night was the only night that the car park was always full - at least until midnight.

I always had an uneasy feeling in the kost, although it was luxurious by Indonesian standards. One night, I did not want to go out and party after a hectic week. I had a rare night in. I felt uneasy all night and fell into a restless sleep, only waking up a few hours later feeling unusually cold.

Looking behind me, I saw the shape of a beautiful girl sitting there in a nightdress brushing her hair. I froze for a moment, but she was still there brushing her long dark hair; then suddenly there was nothing. Thinking it was nothing at first, I lit a cigarette, put on a DVD and noticed my neighbor was playing late night porn again.

Shrugging off the experience, except remembering the deep beauty of the woman by the mirror, I said nothing about it. A few days later, the Indonesian girlfriend of one of my neighbors, ran out of her room screaming. I was on the balcony; she sat down breathlessly, her boyfriend was probably still in Blok M. I went over as she looked very upset and sat down with her. We talked, then she whispered softly in my ear…”A girl was in my room, then disappeared”. At the end of the month, I moved out never mentioning the incident in my own room.

Back to the apartment, the lobby always felt eerie late at night. Occasionally, I would arrive there after a night out, the air seemed thin, misty even being a large mostly empty lobby. The old lady minding her store would be sleeping with her head on the table, her fat daughter reading a book. Both security guards were outside chatting on the wall near the car drop.

I usually would walk in, bid everyone good night and head for the creaky old lifts that take me to my bit of space, in this crowded city. I have never sensed anything strange, never had an uneasy feeling or felt uncomfortable. But you can bet from now on, I will keep one ear open and wonder if underneath the lobby the graves were moved or still lay under the concrete.

by Mark W Medley

Copyright © 2008, Mark W Medley, City of Dreams: An extraordinary journey, inside the heart of Indonesia's capital - Jakarta