Almost every Sabahan has heard stories about spirits on Mount Kinabalu, says Murphy Ng, who writes a Sabah travel blog at www.mysabah.com.
He says the most important rule of climbing Mount Kinabalu is not to make noise because whoever enters the forest is an outsider entering the “territory” of the spirits.
“Guides often tell students this but they won’t listen. And then some of them get harassed by black shadows or spirits during bedtime. I have heard many such cases,” he recalls.
“In one case, a Singaporean girl had fever and then her personality really changed. Later on, she was found to be possessed by spirits.”
Someone from Sabah Tourism has also told him that they sometimes get stones sent back by climbers.
“They had taken the stones from the mountain and then experienced strange bad luck. So they decided to return them,” says Ng, who has trekked for hundreds of kilometres in Sabah’s jungles.
Here’s a list of taboos from him:
If you see anything ugly or funny in a forest, don’t make fun of it.
“I know a fellow from Kuala Penyu who laughed at an ugly old tree,” remembers Ng. “Then he got lost in the jungle and almost died of dehydration. According to him, he kept following his ‘friend’ in front of him but actually it was a spirit disguised as his friend.”
Take nothing but photographs. Keep in mind that the forest is the property of “other” beings. That’s why workers of timber companies pray to the Datuk (Earth God) at their campsites. The spirits hate the loggers so much that the workers need the protection.
Careful where you pee
Old folks often advise people to say “excuse me” before peeing in the jungle, though there is nobody around. This is to inform any possible spirits around to give way.
Any language will work as “they” can read your mind. Never pee at termite nests, big trees or boulders, as these are known to be homes of spirits.
Based on the common beliefs of locals, the most haunted trees of Sabah are: bambangan, banana, banyan and bamboo. There are many ghost stories about these trees so if you camp in the jungle, stay far away from them.
“I have a friend who was a girl scout. One day, her hammock next to a banana tree was spinning like crazy and freaked everyone out,” says Ng.
“I once saw a fireball with a tail hovering in a bamboo forest. My late grandmother told me that it’s the spirit of the newly deceased.”
If you smell something very stinky or fragrant, so strong as if it’s just next to you, just keep quiet and move on. The same applies to any weird things you see or hear.
People start to complain in the jungle when they sweat or get tired. But remember, something is watching and can also hear you. Your negative attitude will be a magnet for negative energy.
Don’t abuse animals
Every living thing is a “citizen” of the forest. People may hunt them as food, but it’s unforgivable to torture or make fun of them.
“I was told that a group of hunters once caught and killed a monkey. They put a cigarette in its mouth and had a good laugh. That night an unusually strong wind blew away their camp.”
Do you believe?
“Call me superstitious if you want,” says Ng. “Well, many have broken the rules but nothing bad happened to them, so you can remain sceptical.”
But he adds that the rules are easy and won’t cost anything.
Though most Sabahans have converted to Islam or Christianity, most of them still believe there is another kind of “energy” in the forest.
“I’ve never been harassed by any spirits in the jungle,” says Ng.
“For me, I just respect the forest. Before I enter, I will ‘talk’ to whatever lives there, saying ‘I’m just a friendly visitor and don’t mean to disturb you.’ When I walk in the jungle, I praise everything I see.”