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Haunted houses become spooky jails for quarantine violators in Indonesia

By Angela Casco

What do horror movies like The Conjuring, Insidious, The Amityville Horror, and The Haunting all have in common? All are set in houses supposedly haunted by evil spirits or ghosts with unfinished business.

These houses are usually abandoned, with paranormal activities happening only upon the arrival of a family that’s about to fall victim to a series of odd and unfortunate events.

Indo Haunted House Featured

Featured Photo by Anwar Mustafa/AFP

In Indonesia, however, these spooky, unoccupied, and often avoided houses are not merely movie material or inspiration for another horror story. A politician at the Central Java area of Sragen Regency has decided to teach quarantine violators a scary lesson—quite literally—by locking them up in haunted houses.

Sragen Regency head Kusdinar Untung Yuni Sukowati says the implementation of such rule is due to an influx of people to the area following lockdowns in the island’s major cities, including Jakarta. Some of the newcomers are not abiding by the 14-day self-isolation orders to help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

“If there’s an empty and haunted house in the village, put people in there and lock them up,” Sukowati has told AFP. This order to repurpose abandoned houses taps into the citizens’ widespread belief in the supernatural, which is key in Indonesian folklore.

As of writing, five people have been locked up in haunted houses.

In Sepat village, officials have chosen a “long-abandoned house,” which they have equipped with beds placed at a distance and separated through curtains.

Heri Susanto, one of three recently-arrived residents currently spending the remainder of their two-week quarantine in the village, says he has not had any supernatural encounters or sightings.

“Whatever happens, happens,” he has told AFP. “I know this is for everyone’s safety. Lesson learned.”

A politician at the Central Java area of Sragen Regency has decided to teach quarantine violators a scary lesson—quite literally—by locking them up in a haunted house.

Nothing new

Unusual or unexpected punishment methods for quarantine violators are not unique to Sragen Regency.

Indian police, for instance, have resorted to an old-school measure–requiring violators, both local residents and foreign tourists, to write the sentence, “I am sorry,” 500 times.

In the Philippines, local government units have also come up with unique ways to punish those who breach quarantine protocols.

Law enforcers in Cotabato City have penalized violators through push-ups by the roadside.

Authorities at a Davao del Norte town, meanwhile, have set up a dummy funeral complete with empty caskets inside their covered court as a “stark reminder of death” amid the pandemic for residents roaming around the streets with no valid reason.

In Pampanga’s capital, San Fernando, at least 35 first-time offenders of ECQ have been punished by making them plant vegetables in the city nursery.

A socially-distanced group prayer is Cebu City’s way to penalize quarantine violators.

While discipline is key to maximizing ECQ, others have deemed some methods as abusive of human rights like a barangay captain in Pampanga ordering three LGBTQ+ people to kiss each other and do a sexy dance in front of a minor, some Paranaque law enforcers detaining offenders by making them sit under the sun, officials in a Laguna village locking up five curfew violators in a dog cage, and a police official hitting a resident of the Muslim Town compound in Quiapo with a stick while shouting expletives.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), however, has clarified that while LGUs have leeway in enforcing quarantine, such cruel punishments are not allowed.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia has also said in a statement that ECQ violations “should not be automatically meted with arrest.”

“Arrests, including warrantless arrests, must be strictly done within the legal standards inscribed in the law,” de Guia has said in a Manila Bulletin report. “Further, the enhanced community quarantine continues to preserve human rights, due process, and the rule of law as fundamental principles of a democracy.”

Should there be more cases of abuse, DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año is encouraging everyone to “please report to the [agency] and we will act on it immediately.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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