Written by Geraldine Laetitia
A Toyol is a mythical creature from Malaysian folklore. It is said to be the ghost of a baby that died before it was born. In Indonesia, it is called the Tuyul. The name literally means “mischievous thief”. The Toyol is similar to a creature from Filipino mythology called the Tiyanak and the legendary Guman Thong from Thailand.
A Toyol is a dead baby that has been brought back to life by a Bomoh (a Malaysian shaman) or somebody who is familiar with black magic. You can create a Toyol by digging up a dead baby and using black magic rituals and incantations to re-animate it.
The Toyol looks like a mummified baby, with green or gray skin, a big, bulbous head, pointed ears, piercing red eyes and sharp teeth. Some say it resembles a goblin. It is usually kept in a glass jar and hidden away in a dark place until it is needed.
When you own a Toyol, it is like making a contract with the devil. The Toyol has a temper like a small child and must be kept happy, entertained and well-fed. You must make offerings to the creature, like toys, milk, candy, sweets and biscuits.
You also have to nurse it by pricking your thumb and allowing it to suck your blood. If you don’t feed it, the Toyol will forcefully suck blood from your toes or the toes of your immediate family members while they sleep.
People who create a Toyol use it to steal from their neighbors. In return for food and protection, the Toyol will lurk around the village at night, running errands for its master… errands the summoner would rather not be seen doing himself. Typical “errands” would include petty thefts or vandalism, which the Toyol can get away with because of its tiny size.
To protect yourself from a Toyol, you can leave marbles around your house or hang garlic over your door. This will distract the Toyol and it will start playing with these items until, like a child, it forgets what it was supposed to do. To keep your money safe from a Toyol, place it on top of some needles or under a mirror. Toyols are terrified of needles and are scared of seeing their own reflection.
Once you obtain a Toyol, not only are you stuck with it for the rest of your life, but all your descendants will also be condemned to own it. What happens at the end of the contract is not very clear. There are only two ways to get rid of it. You can either bury it in a graveyard and lay the spirit to rest or you can throw it into the sea.
In one Malaysian story, there was a young man named Bachuk who was very lazy and couldn’t hold down a steady job. He was also addicted to gambling and any money he had was squandered in the casino. He lived with his wife and her sister, and has a hard time providing for them because of his laziness and his gambling.
One day, he was searching through his dead grandfather’s possessions when he came across a dusty old suitcase. Upon opening it, he found it contained what looked like the withered corspe of a baby. Suddenly, to his horror, the baby opened its red eyes and began speaking to him. He realized that it was a Toyol.
“Thank you for releasing me,” said the Toyol. “But there are… conditions. I can obey your wishes and give you power. But… I must eat…”
The young man sent the evil imp out to creep around the village at night, stealing the possessions of his neighbors. As time went on, Bachuk became rich and nobody suspected where his money came from.
However, the Toyol began making more and more demands. Bachuk realized that it wanted a new mother. The Toyol demanded that he be allowed to breastfeed from Bachuk’s sister, sucking blood instead of milk.
Bachuk sent his wife and sister away to keep them safe and when the Toyol discovered this deception, it flew into a rage. The Toyol attacked Bachuk and sucked every drop of blood from his body until he was nothing more than a withered and dessicated corpse.
In 2006, a fisherman in Maylasia found a glass jar snagged in his net. Inside the jar was a small black figure that looked like a baby and had red eyes. To his horror, he was convinced he had stumbled upon a Toyol.
The fisherman gave the bottle to his local Bomoh and the Bomoh turned it over to a museum. The museum theorized it was some sort of fetish figure that had been used in a healing ritual, and had been cast into the water as part of that ritual.
Not knowing what else to do with it, they put it on display for a while and drew record crowds from Malay visitors anxious for a glimpse of the real supernatural. Eventually, the thing in the jar was returned to the sea… but not before hundreds of people had come to see it.
Geraldine Laetitia is SC's resident researcher and content writer. She spends her day dealing with medical research studies and protocols, crunching numbers and closing business contracts, and by night she documents haunting histories, legends and lore for this section of Supernatural Confessions.