Jenglot of Indonesian Folklore
Click the image above for the full gallery.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might already know I have a haunted doll collection. I'm a big fan of creepy little dolls who tend to move on their own, wake you up in the middle of the night with an echoing giggle, or borrow a butcher knife from the kitchen. There are many different takes on haunted dolls, particularly depending upon the culture they're from. Most of mine are antique porcelain dolls with movable limbs and dead eyes; some even have music boxes and will play a song and dance.
None of my haunted dolls, though, are like the jenglot of Indonesian folklore. So, if you're into the idea of being chased down a dark hallway by a blood-thirsty doll, you're in for a real treat with the jenglot.
Pronunciation of Jenglot
Sadly, my go-to for pronunciations, Forvo.com, doesn't have an entry for "jenglot." I put in a request for it, but who knows how long or if someone who speaks native Indonesian will record themselves saying it.
October 10, 2022: Update - Someone Fulfilled My Request on Forvo! Hear a native Indonesian speaker say jenglot.
For all you English speakers out there, here's a rough idea of how to pronounce it:
Jenga (like the game) + Lot
Alternatively, CNN Indonesia has a video about jenglot, and you can hear the news anchor say the word twice in the first fifteen seconds. The video is under two minutes long and shows a jenglot. The full report is about the discovery of a jenglot by residents of Bulak, Surabaya, Indonesia.
Heboh Penemuan Jenglot (Amazing Jenglot Discovery) on CNN Indonesia
What is a Jenglot?
A jenglot is a small doll somehow created from a human through unknown dark magic. Jenglots are typically about 5 inches in length (~12 cm), retaining some of the human hair, skin, and nails of their former life as a human.
The dolls sit around and do nothing. At least until the keeper of the jenglot feeds it...blood. All it takes is to set a small dish of human or animal blood next to the jenglot and then walk away for it to feed in private.
After feeding, a jenglot will serve its master by providing protection, making them look beautiful, or serving as a good luck charm. Jenglot do have another use, though, one a bit more sinister.
Revenge. Jenglot will seek out the caretaker's enemies and take revenge for wrongdoing.
Jenglot are also said to feed on red saffron oil, but most accounts I found refer to only blood or a combination of blood and saffron oil. Some people believe jenglot are a complete hoax, but believers claim they are both real and really work.
Are the Jenglot a Hoax?
It depends on what you believe and what you mean by a hoax. As you've already seen, the physical specimens of jenglot are very much real, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are alive and drink blood. Over the years, numerous specimens of creatures have been discovered to be masterful creations by taxidermists.
In 2007, three privately owned jenglots were brought to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for DNA analysis to find out if they were some kind of rare, desiccated animal from an unknown species. The muscle tissue on the three jenglots was too dry to recover DNA from, but the team was able to extract DNA from hairs. Tests showed that the hair samples were all human and likely came from the same person. They even discovered that the hair had been cut and implanted upside down, so the cut end was in the skull of the jenglot, and the root end was hanging loose.
You can read the full findings at Analysis of hair samples using microscopical and molecular techniques to ascertain claims of rare animal species in the National Library of Medicine archives.
The analysis proved via the hair samples that the jenglot is not a new species, which suggests that the three jenglots tested were likely crafted in some way using cut human hair.
The analysis, however, did not prove that jenglot don't drink blood and go on revenge-fueled killing sprees for their keepers. 🤔
Whatever the reason, the jenglot exists for a purpose—one that those of us outside the culture they come from may never truly understand. Is the jenglot a hoax? No. Yes. Maybe? I say that again because there are plenty of instances of religious people trying to prove that people of another religion are wrong—using science.
Take the example from 2014 when Raëlian scientists stole consecrated hosts (sacramental bread) during communion in 5 different Catholic churches and then took them for DNA testing to prove they were still bread and had not turned into Jesus's actual flesh. I don't think anyone will be surprised to learn that the DNA tests showed that the bread was still bread. But that doesn't discredit the Catholic belief. In fact, the Catholic stance on transubstantiation is that the "substance" is changed and not the "accident."
"Aristotle made a distinction between the essential and accidental properties of a thing. Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic theologians have employed the Aristotelian concepts of substance and accident in articulating the theology of the Eucharist, particularly the transubstantiation of bread and wine into body and blood. In this example, the bread and wine are considered accidents, since at transubstantiation, they become incidental to the essential substance of body and blood."
— Straight off the Wikipedia
You can read more about the Catholic take on substance vs. accident via Theological Primer: Substance and Accidents by Kevin DeYoung.
Full disclosure: I am not and never have been Catholic.
What Do Raëlians Believe?
Raëlian beliefs and practices are the concepts and principles of Raëlism, a new religious movement and UFO religion founded in 1974 by Claude Vorilhon, an auto racing journalist who changed his name to "Raël". The followers of the International Raëlian Movement believe in an advanced species of extraterrestrial aliens called Elohim who created life on Earth. Raëlians are individualists who believe in sexual self-determination. As advocates of the universal ethic and world peace, they believe the world would be better if geniuses had an exclusive right to govern in what Rael terms Geniocracy. As believers of life in outer space, they hope that human scientists will follow the path of the Elohim by achieving space travel through the cosmos and creating life on other planets. As believers in the resurrection of Jesus Christ through a scientific cloning process (which includes memory transfer) by the Elohim, they encourage scientific research to extend life through cloning...
— Read more on Wikipedia
Disclaimer: I am also not, nor have I ever been, a Raëlian.
What I think often happens when belief systems clash is that people head straight for arguing using the straw man fallacy.
The logical fallacy of distorting an opposing position into an extreme version of itself and then arguing against that extreme version. In creating a straw man argument, the arguer strips the opposing point of view of any nuance and often misrepresents it in a negative light.
— Thanks, Grammarly!
PBS Idea Channel on YouTube also has a great video explaining the straw man fallacy: The Strawman Fallacy | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios
More About Indonesia
The Republic of Indonesia consists of more than 17,000 islands and is the world's largest archipelagic state, covering around 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers). With a population of over 275 million people, 1,300 ethnic groups, more than 700 distinct languages, and fossil records showing the area has been inhabited by several human species as far back as two million years ago, it should be shocking to precisely no one we don't know everything there is to know about it.
Learn a little more about Indonesia with some videos I hand-picked here:
- HISTORY OF INDONESIA in 12 Minutes
- 10 Amazing Places to Visit in Indonesia
- Short History On The Indonesian Language
I'm certainly not going to make a call on whether or not the jenglot are "real," but if I ever find myself in possession of one, I will absolutely feed it.
Relevant & Related
- Learn about Jenny Haniver—holy...freaky. (40-second video)
- A ghost exhibition in Malaysia that is said to have displayed jenglot
- Season 1, Episode 14 of Strange Encounters was all about a jenglot
- A film from 2011—Jenglot Pantai Selatan (Virgin Beach Creature). Check out the movie trailer here.
- One-man Swedish death metal band Humanity Delete by musician Rogga Johansson has a song titled The Jenglot on the album Never Ending Nightmares. You can listen to The Jenglot for free on YouTube.
- Watch as Jonathan Legg searches for a jenglot in Jakarta, Indonesia (~6-minutes). It's great to see non-curated shots of Indonesia as he travels around. He does mistakenly call it a voodoo doll, though, FYI.
- Interested in more stories around Indonesia? Check out my article about the Langsuyar of Malaysian Folklore.
- Learn about Tana Toraja ("The Land of the Dead") with Fearless and Far on YouTube. Warning: this video contains cultural rituals of the Torajan people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, including animal sacrifice. You have been warned.