Indonesia: Basement Ghosts is the second episode of I Wouldn't Go In There. It was blocked in Indonesia since September 6 (the premiere date) because of its reference to how Indonesian government still believes in ghosts and black magic. In this episode, the urban explorer Robert Joe explores one of Indonesia's most notorious buildings, Lawang Sewu.
In the last episode, Robert Joe, a Korean-American blogger and urban explorer, investigated the truth behind Hong Kong's Tat Tak School. This time, he arrives at Indonesia. Many people here are still heavily superstitious, including the President, who had said that he and his family once performed "black magic" for the elections. But he pays attention onto Lawang Sewu, a historic monument said to be haunted by many ghosts. And this is the testimony from one of them:"I started working at Lawang Sewu in 2007. Lawang Sewu is an old building, believed to be a haunted building with many ghosts inside.
It was night, around 11pm. I was escorting 5 university students. They took photographs and asked me about hauntings here. My answer was always: I hadn't seen such things.
I took them to the stairs. They went up to the second floor, to the dark corridor. They started to shoot and asked me to move away. Then we started to climb the stairs to the attic. They were looking around, I moved to the right side of the attic, without realizing that they didn't follow me.
Suddenly I felt something passed by each of the stairs. I noticed there was a lady walking towards me. She must be one of the guests. I talked to myself: Why isn't a guy leading the guest?I went blank. Suddenly my body felt very cold. I couldn't think at that time. I could only see a long hair and a face torn full of blood. She came closer and closer, I looked at the floor and found that her feet weren't touching the floor. That's when I realized that this is a ghost.'
I was very scared. I'm actually not a brave person. I was born in Java so I understand Javanese culture. And based on Javanese beliefs, there are lots of spirits in Lawang Sewu because of its past."
RJ heads to the streets of Semarang, hoping to know how Indonesian believe in ghosts.
Indonesia is the country with the largest number of Muslim, but behind this Islamic belief system, there are still superstitions in the local population, including Semarang. This massive port city is full of "black magic". And RJ wants an example, so he meets Andreas, someone who claimed that he has the "6th sense", and he draws pictures of ghosts on, or in, anywhere he sees ghosts.Andreas explains the main kinds of ghosts that Indonesian believe in: Genderuwo, a Sasquatch-like creature; Siluman, the ghosts of the gods and also who perform black magic; Wewe, naked women with large breasts;... He also gives Robert an astonishing information: there are 41 ghosts in Lawang Sewu. Those ghosts are drawn to Lawang Sewu because in this building, they feel comfortable and undisturbed. Back to the investigation room, RJ shows some magazines full of urban legends, which helps him to understand how Indonesian think about ghosts. Ghosts are like actors, and haunted places are their theaters.
He finds another witness. This time, the witness is part of a television crew who entered Lawang Sewu's basement to film ghosts, and surprisingly they captured one "Wewe" on tape. A ghost with long hair and she was wearing a white dress.
Robert Joe wants to find out why so many people claimed they have seen ghosts in the basement. Could this be inspired by its past?
He meets his local fixer, Letitsia. They decide to enter Lawang Sewu, but the entire Nat Geo crew is not allowed when they try to pass the security gate.
It's a dead end. Robert Joe needs to investigate without a visitation into the haunted building. He sees a locomotive, which could be an important clue, in front of the building. And he decides to talk with the tour guides who everyday lead tourists into this eerie structure.
The other storiesEdit
He immediately asks the guides the purpose of this building. So it was built as an administration center for the Dutch railways in Indonesia.
Robert wants to know more. He asks about ghosts here. Many of the guides have seen ghosts, even one was chased by a Genderuwo in the basement. What's more, all of them know that there is a ghostly Dutch lady who haunted the first floor of the structure.
He meets Sujiwo Tejo, a renowned performing artiste. He performs "Wayang Kulit", a kind of shadow puppet show. It depicts a battle between the dark side and the light side. And it turns out that the entire show is made of beliefs in supernatural forces: angels, gods, demons, and ghosts.
He now knows the main idea of Indonesian folklore. Back to Lawang Sewu, he finds a second eyewitness, who claimed to have seen a Dutch lady:
"My name is Nuryanto. And I teach at Semarang University, at a law faculty. I like the spiritual world. I think in Lawang Sewu, there are many invisible creatures, so many.
There was just one time, I was at Lawang Sewu, that I met a beautiful spiritual figure. Her name was Van Helen. So the first time I saw her, she was sitting alone quietly, drowning in her tears. She was on the balcony on the second floor, she was sitting on her rocking chair, sobbing.
I asked her once, twice, again and again, but she kept sobbing. She took her tide but finally started to talk and told me her story. Based on her stories, she was going to be killed and raped, while both her parents were no longer around. Committing suicide was a better option than being subjected to torture.
For me, Van Helen is a kind figure. I pity her, I really pity her."
So according to Nuryanto, this ghost was scared by something. She told that she was going to be raped. But what is really behind this? Robert Joe needs to investigate the past.
He knows from the first place that this was once a railway administration center by the Dutch.
The Dutch came here in the 16th century, and they brought their culture here, too. There are many buildings built from the Dutch colonial rule. They built and expanded the railway system in the 1860s to transport goods across Indonesia. So it's just part of a large system to make Dutch governors rich. But Javanese sufferings were countless. Almost every man must take part in the construction of this railway. They all use hands to construct.Indonesia was once a paradise for the Dutch. Until World War II broke out.
Japanese landed on Indonesia. The population thought these Japanese tyrants will give them freedom. And Robert Joe wants to know, when the Japanese came, where were the Dutch?
It turns out that there are many Dutch were sent to the Japanese army. Some tried to hide, but most of them were jailed. Thousands died from starvation and torture.It's also here that Robert Joe finds a stunning clue. The basement of Lawang Sewu was used as an ordinary prison under Dutch rule. But during the Japanese occupation, it became a torture center, only for those who participated in what was called the "Battle of Semarang": 15 October - 19 October 1945. Over 2000 Indonesian died.
But strangely, it happened after the Japanese had already surrendered to the Allied Forces. So why did this war break out when WWII already ended?
He contacts historian Jongkie Tio, who answers his final question. The Indonesian want the Japanese to leave Semarang, but the commanders here wouldn't leave without permission from the government. So they tried to stop the Indonesian, and a war broke out, killing over 2000 local people.
RJ meets a veteran of the Battle of Semarang in 1945. He tells Robert that the locals tried to use every kind of weapon they had to fight against the Japanese, but they didn't succeed. But finally the Dutch came back, replacing the Japanese and finally took control of Indonesia all over again. The Indonesian, again, became the slaves of Dutch colonial rule, until they stood up and claimed independence.
The conclusionEdit"My investigation began with a question: why did so many people believe Lawang Sewu was haunted? What really happened there?
That question led me to something far more epic: a tale of true horrors. The story of a colonial conquest in Java, and people subjugated. The mystery of a fierce battle that left thousands dead. For the Indonesians, it was the beginning of their struggle for independence. And it would be some time yet for they could realize that dream."