The Oily Man

on Monday, November 02, 2009


"Oozing charm from every pore,
He oiled his way around the floor.
Every trick that he could play,
He used to strip her mask away."
lyrics from "You Did It" (My Fair Lady)

Those lyrics tell of a slick operator with perhaps too much grease in his hair, applying his smooth moves to charm and disarm the ladies. I have always liked those few lines of prose. I find it amusing. But this "oily man" is quite benign compared to the one that this post is primarily about.

Still in keeping with the Halloween spirit which is sticking around like peanut candy between the teeth, I am going to share with you the story of one of the Malay legends. I refer to the "orang Minyak" or Oily Man.

The Oily Man is basically a man who creeps about at night, completely naked and covered in black oil. The oil covering makes him hard to see in the dark and also makes him very slippery which helps him evade capture and also helps him squeeze pass tight spaces such as between the bars on a window.

There were in fact a rash of burglaries and rapes in Malaysia in the 1960s which were committed by men who had disrobed and covered themselves with oil and grease. Such cases still surface from time to time even till today. The perpetrators in these cases are entirely human.

However, the legendary Oily Man is said to be supernatural in nature. He is said to be able to be virtually invisible in the dark. Some say that he is also able to slip through spaces too small for humans to do so. It is said that the Oily Man had made a pact with the Devil. In return for giving him supernatural powers and wordly desires, the Oily Man must rape 21 virgins in 7 days.

A typical story would occur in a house or a dormitory where there may be more than one woman asleep in the room. The room may be locked and though the windows are open, they are secured with wooden bars or metal grilles. No ordinary intruder can enter but then the Oily Man is far from ordinary. He is able to slip through those bars while the girls sleep.

One of the women who is a virgin may suddenly awake to see a dark form over her with penetrating eyes which are visible even in the dark. She finds she can neither struggle or cry out. She is subsequently raped. Finally, she screams and her room mates rush to her assistance. It may be that they never see the orang minyak because it is said that he is able to make himself invisible to others apart from his victim. Alternatively, the orang minyak may be seen but he eludes capture on account of his slippery oiled skin and is able to escape via squeezing out through the window bars.

Till today, we sometimes hear of cases or incidents in female student or worker dormitories which are classified by authorities as examples of mass hysteria or are they really attacks by Orang Minyak.

15 comments:

Dr.John said...

I hope they are hysteria.

Owen said...

Strange legend, and rather unsettling... left me feeling a bit perplexed as to what possible purpose such a "legend" could have served, other than to seriously terrorize females, especially virgins... curious...

Joyce's Ramblings said...

Now that is a monster. Just reading put me in a scarey place. That does not help to keep young women feeling safe.

Molly said...

That is one creepy legend, and like Owen, I'm puzzled about what the lesson is supposed to be?

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Dr. John,
Mass hysteria amongst young Malay women in dormitory settings or residential schools is a fairly recurrent phenomena. Some attribute it to psychological pressure as many of these girls come from very conservative and protected environments and have difficulty coping with the wider world. But others insist that these are supernatural in nature ranging from curses by witch doctors, spirit possession and orang minyak. Although Muslim, many Malays also believe in these legends from their animalistic past.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Owen,
I guess that most of the old traditions in the Malay states are very much rooted in a feudal and male dominant system (with a couple of exceptions where the women are actually more influential but that is subject for a different post). And in a number of legends, virgins are prized for their various body parts. The only defence I can offer is that invariably the rape, murder or dismemberment of virgins are all attributed to those who practice dark sorcery which is clearly forbidden by religion. It is like describing virgin sacrifices in the Western culture for Devil worshipers.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Joyce,
Perhaps it was meant to scare young women into submitting to rules and regulations under the pretext that it will keep them safe from such fates. Kind of like the Boogeyman. But I agree, it is scary.

Molly,
I am not sure there is a lesson to be learnt. As I mentioned to the others, it is a legend that is a) rooted in a feudal male dominated past, b) useful in scaring girls to comply with rules and regulations and c) meant to describe the depravity of the evil forces in the world.

the walking man said...

Either way a bullet from the victim intended would ensure the oily man's life is ended.

secret agent woman said...

I have read that some cultures have legends that involve virgins being raped, as a way of explaining away pregnancies of unmarried girls.

Owen said...

Just came across this squirrelly looking fellow in India... is this a relative of yours by any chance... and while you're there, do look around a bit, Arnaud is doing some really good photos...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

That's a very scary story. Using it to make girls comply with rules and regulations doesn't make sense if they are merely sleeping when they are raped, but legends can be quite gratuitously nasty. There is no way the orang Minyak oozes charm from any pore.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Mark,
There isn't much of a gun culture here; i.e. there is gun control and few people have guns. We would certainly be surprised if the average young girl was packing some heat. I am rather thankful for this although it may solve the hypothetical problem of this mythological creature. :)

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

secret agent woman,
That is a very plausible explanation indeed. I can see that as a real possibility in the Malay cultural context. great suggestion.

Owen,
As usual, thanks for the info. I shall seek my Indian brother out.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hearts,
It is an evil creature. E'nuff said.

Jo said...

This is the same legend as the "shadow men". My brother used to see a shadow man every night. They are always described as having red eyes.

Eerie!

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