Magic Money Boxes and Jenglot

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Conmen are still tricking gullible people into believing that money can be magically increased by mystical and mythical objects.

The government is this year spending about US$30 billion on education, but plenty of Indonesians still uphold irrational superstitions, putting them at risk of being scammed. In the most brazen cases, scammers are claiming that magic boxes and ugly, man-made dolls can make people get rich quick.

Haidori (46) worked as a driver in Banyuwangi, a small city on the coast of East Java province. Seeking to augment his income, he told people a Muslim cleric had taught him how to magically multiply money by tenfold.

On June 27, he gave a demonstration before two of his neighbours, Sujono (42) and Yayuk Ningsih (50). He put a Rp10,000 banknote into an envelope, which was then placed under a green prayer mat. The mat was carefully removed and Sujono was instructed to open the envelope, which now contained Rp100,000.

There was no supernatural power at work, just a simple “envelope switch” trick, in which the original envelope was concealed when the prayer mat was removed and a second envelope was left in its place.

Convinced of Haidori’s magical powers, Sujono and Yayuk handed over their savings of Rp13.7 million to be multiplied. Haidori said he would first have to use Rp9 million of their money to purchase a magical box from the Muslim cleric, plus he wanted Rp2 million as a fee. He later produced a small wooden box and claimed it contained the remaining Rp2.7 million, which would transform into Rp27 million after one month.

Before the month was up, Sujono ran into financial problems and asked Haidori for some money. Haidori reluctantly opened the box, which contained a Rp50,000 note and some dead flowers. Sujono was not impressed.

Haidori confessed he could not really duplicate money and asked for six days to return the money. He failed to do so and was arrested in late August.

Costly Coconuts

Many confidence tricksters in Indonesia pose as dukun (shamans), pretending they have the ability to miraculously double money. Such scams are often debunked, but people keep falling for them, so strong is the belief in supernatural powers.

In the Central Java town of Sragen, an unemployed man named Teguh Adreng Panggayuh (46) in April decided to try his luck as dukun. Recruiting a friend to help him, they targeted people who were in debt and desperate for money.

The pair first approached a woman named Kartini, telling her that if she gave them Rp5 million, they could magically increase it to Rp200 million. Unable to raise Rp5 million, Kartini introduced Teguh to her friend Jumadi (56). He and his wife agreed to hand over Rp30 million, which the conmen promised could be transformed into Rp250 million.

The ritual to multiply the money took place in a hotel room facing south (a purported requirement for the magic) in Kudus. Teguh and his accomplice armed themselves with various mystical props: a traditional keris dagger, incense sticks and some small statues. These included a metal statue of Nyi Blorong – a mythical Javanese half-woman half-snake, who reputedly seduces men and then leaves them with pieces of gold. Another amulet was a statue of horses pulling the carriage of Nyi Roro Kidul, the mythical Queen of the South Java Sea. Then there was a jenglot – a “shrunken human” – actually just a grotesque doll with long hair, long teeth and long nails. Superstitious people believe jenglot are vampire-like mini-humans, needing to be fed a drop of blood each day to prevent misfortune. These disfigured dolls are often made from human hair, monkey teeth and taxidermied animal parts.

Inside the hotel room, Jumadi and his wife and the two conmen sat in a circle with the props in front of them. Jumadi put his Rp30 million into a cardboard box. The phony dukuns recited incantations, then Teguh turned off the lights and asked the two victims to close their eyes while praying. He urged them to visualise their money growing.

When the ritual eventually finished after about two hours, Teguh taped up the cardboard box and gave it to Jumadi, telling him to wait 12 hours for the magic to work. Teguh and his accomplice then left, saying they had to cleanse their statues. After a long wait, Jumadi and his wife opened the box. It contained a green cloth and two coconuts.

Teguh was arrested in May, but his accomplice was not caught. Teguh said he turned to crime because he could not find a job and was unable to feed his family. He could be jailed for up to four years if convicted of fraud.

Tanah Abang

In Jakarta’s bustling market district of Tanah Abang, a dukun named Tukiyono “Yono” Ardiyanto (54) claimed he could use jenglot to multiply money.

Yono earlier this year approached a husband and wife, Mulyana and Tri Maryati, promising he could convert Rp10 million into Rp400 million. After they handed over their money, he gave them an old chocolate box containing a jenglot, and a wrapped shroud that he claimed contained their money.

Next, he took them to a river and instructed them to throw the shroud into the water. He told the couple to keep the jenglot and after 40 days, their money would magically return as Rp400 million. They even prepared some cardboard boxes into which the money would materialise. Sure enough, they ended up with nothing but the hideous jenglot.

Police said Yono had five years earlier conned the same couple out of Rp2.5 million, promising it would be multiplied.

Jenglot Jackpot

Sugiyono (50), a dukun from Cilacap, East Java, last year swindled about Rp5 billion from eight people who believed he could use jenglot to multiply their money.

One victim handed over Rp150 million, believing it would become Rp18 billion. The dukun kept asking for additional fees to make the magic work, until the man had given him Rp2.8 billion. Part of the rituals involved slaughtering goats and making incantations over jenglot.

It’s great that Indonesia allocates 20 percent of the state budget to education, but it would be even greater if children were taught that black magic and revolting dolls cannot multiply money.

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Kenneth Yeung is a Jakarta-based editor.