Halloween is mostly a do-it-yourself affair in Jakarta. Luckily for us, there are plenty of haunted houses to choose from. Last year we went to the famous House in Pondok Indah, where a fried rice seller is supposed to have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. This time we decided to find the Potato House, where a small child allegedly tumbled into a pot of boiling potatoes. (I wonder if these stories are just elaborate warnings against eating too many carbohydrates? If so, they are falling on deaf ears in Jakarta.)
When the ghost is present, you're supposed to be able to smell boiled potatoes, and hear a child crying.
We planned to go in late afternoon but were delayed by a thunderstorm, so we arrived on the cusp of the evening. We had a street name, but no house number. As soon as we started asking around, though, nearly everybody knew right away what we were talking about.
This guy, who has a kiosk on a nearby corner, seemed reluctant to tell me the story but confirmed the broad outlines when I told it to him. While I was talking to him, Chad was talking to the kiosk owner next to him, who said he'd heard the story but didn't believe in ghosts.
Finally we hit the jackpot. A local guy said he not only believed the story, but he had seen the ghost. And it wasn't just one ghost, it was several. He pointed to the area where they appear.
"You can see them around 1 a.m.," he said, "especially on Fridays. But you have to have a sixth sense. I'm not afaid; I'm used to seeing them."
The ghosts are from times past, he said, not the contemporary era. They are men, women and children. "They don't shout or speak; they don't approach me; they don't bother me." We were welcome to come back and look for them, he added, but "if you get scared, don't run." We assured him we were not the sort of people to do that.
By then it was almost too dark for pictures, but I eked out this last one with my cellphone. I like the way it came out, with its grainy texture and weirdly red fence. It makes the place look a lot creepier than it actually was. When we go back to see the ghosts, I'm sure it will look creepier still. But don't worry - we won't run.