Adi Rahman makes it a point not to tell ghost stories after dark.
“The community believes that the moment you speak about [spirits] it means you’re calling out to them, and they’ll come to you and listen to the things you have to say,” the veteran Ria 89.7 presenter/producer tells 8days.sg over Zoom. (For the record, our interview is conducted during the day, so we are safe…we think.)
Adi helms the supernatural-themed Malay podcast Misteri Jam 12 Original (Mystery Jam 12), or MJ12 for short, a spin-off of the highly popular Ria show, Misteri Jam 12 Gerun Malam (‘Fear of the Night’ in English).
The on-air version, which Adi once hosted, shares paranormal nuggets sent in by listeners, whereas the edgier, more adult-oriented podcast — launched in April — features interviews with folks who have a brush with the macabre. Saffwan Shah is the current anchor of MJ12 Gerun Malam.
As clichéd as it may sound, anytime you meet someone who dabbles in the paranormal (albeit indirectly), you’re obligated to ask them: Have you ever had a close encounter of the spooky kind? Boy oh boy, do Adi and Saffwan have stories to share.
“When I first helmed this show, which goes on air from 12am to 1am, I kept feeling something on my right, something standing there, observing me,” Saffwan recalls to us in a separate Zoom call. He reckons that it was the spirits’ cryptic way of greeting him: “Maybe they just wanted to say, ‘I’m here, too, but I’m not going to disturb you.’”
On another occasion, Saffwan swore he heard his name being called out during a recording session. “I’m not sure if it was me or some audio technicalities,” he adds. Turns out It was neither: when he listened to the playback, someone — or something — did faintly hail him in the background.
Adi has a similar audio-related experience while interviewing a former black magic practitioner. “I heard what sounded like other voices whispering into my headset,” he says, still quaking from the episode. It gets better: the lights in the studio started buzzing and flickering.
“I thought this only happens in the movies,” he laughs. “A skeptic might call this a technical fault but I believe, based on what the interviewee revealed, it was due to the presence of dark spirits that continue to stalk her despite having renounced black magic ties.”
Between Adi and Saffwan, the former is definitely the more garang one and by far the one with the more spine-tingling yarns.
For the on-air version of MJ 12, Saffwan is nestled in the safety of the studio, narrating the otherworldly tales DM-ed to him from listeners. He receives a lot of stories of delivery riders bumping into strange entities in the heartlands in the dead of night. Does he believe them? “I’m on the fence,” says Saffwan, who prefers to let the listeners be the judge.
Adi, on the other hand, has to get up close and personal with — whatchamacallit — interesting characters for his podcast, like the aforementioned erstwhile occultist. The subjects either reach out to him personally or through references. “They want to be interviewed, especially those who have repented,” Adi says.
It can get scary sometimes especially when interviewees prefer to meet him after midnight. Why? “It’s quieter, they said,” he says. Whatever the reason, Adi isn’t playing it safe. “Being the big hero that I am, I would take two or three of my friends along to make sure I’m alive at the end of the interview.”
Given that MJ 12 is limited to Malay listeners, have Adi and Saffwan considered doing crossovers with Love 972 Dennis Chew, who has his own spectral show Zhou’s Ghost Stories (or even Class 95’s Vernon A, who, ahem, claims to have the Third Eye)?
Not at the moment, says Adi. “We know what Dennis is doing but we have yet to get the opportunity to exchange notes.” But he’s looking forward to another collab: “I think Suria is interested in doing a series.” (Hello, English subtitles!).
For Adi, there’s more to the stories than just giving horror-starved fans the heebie jeebies: they are parables as well. “I used to narrate the story and people might think I made it up,” says Adi. “But on the podcast, it is about getting real people to share their side of the story.”
“When you talk about horror stories, it’s not just about all the ghosts and pontianaks,” he muses. “It’s also the evil things people do and how they live their lives hiding their evil deeds. I think that is scarier.”
Here, Adi gives us a taste of MJ12 by highlighting three cases that’ll send chills down your spine.
Story #1: Black Magic Woman
One memorable story is that of a Javanese woman who began her dark journey into the supernatural as a teenager. “I find it extremely rare to hear from the perspective of someone who is formerly devoted to black magic,” says Adi. “It’s also frightening to think she started at the age of 17 when she should be busy dating. At such a vulnerable age, we often hear stories of teenage rebellion, but never to a degree she wanted to become this powerful person.”
In the interview, she shared that her dark arts induction entailed staying in a Chinese cemetery for a week and drinking chicken blood. She was also not allowed to get married because she was supposedly betrothed to the Jinn that granted her the power.
Adi adds, “These stories also serve as cautionary tales, especially for parents of teenagers, on the importance of being there for your children, not just providing for them but also making time to get to know them, listen to them, and communicate with them well.
“This girl, at the age of 17 to 21, isolated herself from her family — locked herself in the room, didn’t talk to anyone. These years of isolation that she spent acquiring knowledge about the dark arts would then shape a major part of her adulthood where, for 30 years, she practised black magic. It was a great source of pride for her — she believed that her powers were being used to 'help' people. But it went both ways. Many people were harmed as a result of her actions too.”
The woman has since severed her ties with the dark side after a string of incidents involving her family.
Adi says, "As a black magic practitioner, it was inevitable that she would cross paths with others— rivals, so to speak. A brush with one such rival led to her eldest son suffering some rather severe 'side effects'.
"Not only was he unable to excrete any waste from his body for over a month, but anytime he opened his mouth to speak, a feces-like smell would emit from his mouth. Feeling sorry for her son, she decided to give up black magic for his sake — but would fall back into it again a few years later."
When her family threatened to leave for good, that was when she finally took the road to repentance seriously and turned back to religion — something she'd been brought up with but had taken for granted — to rehabilitate and reform herself.
While she might’ve turned over a new leaf, the dark forces are said to have not given up on her. The woman shared that often while she is praying, a Jinn would appear in front of her, as if to deter her.
Adi can't attest to seeing any Jinn with her when he interviewed her, but he admitted that there was a particularly mysterious aura about her. In fact, he was amazed at how young she sounded for a 55-year-old woman.
But that wasn’t the weird part: he noticed she got “really, really attractive” and “younger” as the interview went along. His female assistant picked up on it as well. “’She’s pretty right?’, she said. ‘She is prettier than when she first arrived.’”
Oh, it got even weirder: they dreamt of her two nights in a row after the interview. “My assistant fell ill but I was okay,” he says. “I saw her at my front door in my dream. I thought it was just a dream, that’s all. Nothing serious. But she freaked me out.”
Story #2: Cradle to the Grave
Adi’s next morbid tale comes from a funeral officer who shared about the skin-crawling anomalies experienced while managing the burial of a spiritual guru (or silat teacher).
In the Islamic tradition, the bodies have to be washed before burying them within 24 hours. What happened was that there was an inexplicable smell of feces emanating from the corpse despite being thoroughly washed with soap and rubbed with perfume, Adi recalls.
On top of that, “the cloth used to wrap the corpse appeared to be insufficient — it didn’t seem to be enough despite the deceased being small and the amount of cloth used was thrice his size.”
That was just the beginning of the mystery. As the body was moved to the cemetery, the procession was met by a raging rainstorm. “As if matters couldn’t get any worse, the body became so heavy that not even 12 men could carry it. So much so that they had to use an excavator to carry it from the bus right to the grave.
“Because it rained, the burial plot became so waterlogged that funeral officer had to cover it with a lot of earth but for some reason, it could not cover it. They ended up just placing a cement slab on top of it and walked away. The moment they closed the grave, they could hear screaming. Only the officer was there because everybody had run away.”
Adi says, “I think this is one story that serves as a reminder in the Malay community that how you die reflects how you live — so when you die [a decent death], you’ll be received by the earth. The moment you can’t be buried means your sins are so great, too clogged up that even the earth is unwilling to keep you in."
Story #3: Blood Sugar Sex Magik
Up next, a story of how an outgoing woman became a recluse because of a spell cast on her by someone she once considered a good friend.
The hex is called ‘Blood Magic’, Adi says. “It causes the victim to suffer from frequent and heavy menstruation.”
In this case, the aforementioned woman menstruated for eight months straight. Things got so bad that doctors had to remove her womb. But still, she kept on haemorrhaging.
Eventually, the doctors suggested she get “some spiritual help” — and that was when she realised she had been hexed. How did she find out?
“When she went through that spiritual healing process, she had to fast and pray and she was told she would dream of the person who inflicted the pain on her and that was when she found out the [perpetrator] was her best friend.”
Turns out the victim and her so-called BFF were in love with the same man. “It was a love triangle gone awry,” says Adi, with a sigh. “It’s frightening to think that she was so blinded by jealousy that she would disregard their friendship and even family ties for the sake of revenge.”
Today, the victim doesn’t bleed anymore, but she still believes the hex hasn’t fully gone away. The man in the love triangle has died and she hasn’t seen her friend since she confronted her about the dream.
“When I met her, she looked like she’d just given birth to a 5kg baby and she could not walk properly,” Adi sighs again. “I felt bad for her.”
“I was very skeptical [initially],” he admits, “But she said, ‘If you don’t want to interview me, it’s okay, but hear me out first. I actually checked her records and I said, ‘Let talk about it.’
“She told me, ‘Trust nobody. You can trust someone but don’t trust someone with all your heart.’ This was someone who knew her date of birth, where she lives, her favourite food, the smell of her body. If they can access everything you have, you need to be very, very careful.”
Movie influences: A digital poster for Misteri Jam 12. A big fan of Korean and Japanese horror movies (notably, Na Hong-Jin’s The Wailing and Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water), Adi says, “I am learning as much as possible from the movie storytellers — like the use of sound effects — and how to incorporate these elements into my radio shows and podcasts to draw the listeners.”
Misteri Jam 12 Original are among the many podcasts you can catch on meLISTEN. Misteri Jam 12 Gerun Malam airs Mon-Fri, 12mn-1am; it’s also available for catch-up on meLISTEN.
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