By now, every Malaysian out there is familiar with the story of the Yellow Volkswagen of Karak Highway, right? How if you’re driving along Karak Highway (known to be haunted for its number of fatal accidents) in the middle of the night, a yellow Volkswagen would appear in front of you and if you try overtaking it, you would find yourself right behind it once more.
This urban legend is one of the many that have sprouted in Malaysia over the years. And while some of them might send a chill down our spine every once in a while, we have to ask ourselves this:
Where do these stories come from?
The Myth of Urban Legends
Despite its name, urban legends weren’t borne of today’s modern world. While the existence of the Internet has made it easier to disseminate these stories, urban legends have made its debut through the infamous word of mouth chain.
And, like an extended game of Telephone Wire, each of these stories gets twisted and turned with information that at the end of it, we won’t know which version is the real one either.
As for the true origin of these stories? Well, the likelihood that events of these stories actually took place might be slim to none, as we’ve always heard it through ‘a friend of a friend’. Being Malaysians, I’m sure we all have that go-to friend who’s chuckful of scary stories waiting to be told.
What is it with Malaysians and ghost stories, by the way?
In any case, taking a closer look at these legends, we’ll find a similarity between them and the old wives tales and superstitions that our very own Malaysian elders used to tell us when we were younger (or perhaps they still are):
There’s always a moral or lesson to be learnt.
Where Superstition and Urban Legends Cross Paths.
Just think about it.
Old wives tales and superstitions were told to us, in the hopes that our parents might scare us enough to behave ourselves for fear of being taken away by the strange man, or attracting a spirit from following us home when we don’t wash our hands and feet the moment we get home.
Although let’s be real here, how would washing our hand and feet with plain water somehow convince a spirit to stop short of our house gates?
Over the years, we’ve grown enough to know that superstitions like these have a more logical reason as to why we should follow them.
It’s for our own good.
That being said, urban legends are very much the same. Take away the over-the-top elements, the spooky settings and the build up of a typical story arc, what we’re left with is an observation of things that have happened in life and what we should do in order to avoid meeting the same fate.
The Fact of the Matter?
They’re just stories.
Think of it as fairy tales with a darker twist. Like if the evil stepmother and stepsisters from Cinderella were punished for what they did to her instead of disappearing from the storyline in the Disney movie. Though, if you’ve read the original stories from the Brothers Grimm or any other fairytaler out there, you’d soon see that they aren’t really the pretty picture the Disney adaptations have made them out to be.
When all is said and done, urban legends are an important aspect of pop culture and imbues the culture of the place they come from. They offer insight into our fears and the state of our society, presented in an easily consumable way to be passed on from one another.
Plus, who can turn down the fun of telling a story? After all, we Malaysians really do love a good ghost story, especially if it involves a ghost or some sort or other.
While telling ghost stories in the dark might be something fun to do with your friends, here’s something that Malaysians should be talking about more.