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The haunted Miri ferry that allegedly led to killing sprees in the 1940s

The haunted Miri ferry that allegedly leads to killing sprees in the 1940s

If you are not familiar with the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, it is the first known court case in the United States where the defense sought to prove innocence based upon the defendant’s claim of demonic possession.

Apparently, Johnson was possessed by a demon that had initially resided in an 11-year-old David Glatzel. The family had even enlisted the aid of Ed and Lorraine Warren (yes, the couple featured in Annabelle, The Conjuring etc.) and priests to perform a formal exorcism on David, after which it was believed that it fled and took up house in Johnson’s body, which later was claimed to have driven Johnson to stab his landlord, Alan Bono.

Johnson was eventually charged with a reduced first-degree charge of manslaughter for the killing of his landlord, serving five years of a 10-20 year sentence.

Meanwhile here in Malaysia, there was an urban legend back in the 1940s that a haunted ferry was the trigger behind a handful of murders.

The murder cases

In 1947, a Chinese Muslim man named Mat Aseng went amok. He killed eight persons and wounded four others.

The method of assault was not mentioned in the Sarawak Gazette report.

Nobody really thought much into it until the night of New Year in 1948 when a man named Abdul Hamid stabbed and killed a 19-year-old Malay girl living at Sungai Merbau.

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He escaped but eventually captured on Jan 3, 1948.

His defence was that he did it while suffering from a nightmare. The Miri Resident’s Court rejected his defence and eventually sentenced him to death.

Abdul Hamid later appealed to the Supreme Court but his appeal was dismissed.

The allegedly haunted Miri ferry

So what did these two cases have in common? Both men had the exact same job. They were both drivers working on the same ferry owned by Shell Limited Oil (S.O.L).

The gazette reported, “The Abdul Hamid killing immediately gave rise to a feeling, among the Malays, that the Company ferry was possessed of some evil spirits, and it was decided, that in order to prevent further troubles descending on the ferry crews, action should be taken.”

Hence, a “cleansing ceremony” took place under the permission of S.O.L.

The report further stated, “The ferry was stopped for about half-an-hour in mid-stream and all the ferry crew shifts partook of a makan selamat, “buru bala,” on the ferry and various prayers were recited.”

Was the ferry really haunted? Or was it mere coincidence that the drivers of the ferry committed murders in less than two years? Let us know in the comment box.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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