Aside from being the country in Asia that has the largest economy, Indonesia is also known for its beautiful islands like Bali, its food, and its culture. What many do not know is that it is also the home of the Lawang Sewu or “Thousand Doors” in English, which is considered as the most haunted place in Semarang, Indonesia.
A photo of Lawang Sewu in the morning. (Link: http://travel.tribunnews.com/2017/06/24/lawang-sewu-tak-semengerikan-legendanya-begini-sejarah-asli-destinasi-populer-di-semarang)
History of Lawang Sewu
The Lawang Sewu was built back in 1917 by the Dutch East Indian Railway Company and it was originally their headquarters. It was an architectural wonder because the designer, Cosman Citreon, succeeded in marrying classic Indonesian styles and technological prospects.
Although Lawang Sewu is roughly translated as “Thousand Doors,” it only got such name because it actually has a lot of doors. Nobody has ascertained, however, whether there really are 1,000 doors in the building.
By 1942, the Japanese invaded Indonesia. The Japanese army soon took over Lawang Sewu and this might explain why it has become a haunted house to many locals in Indonesia. Accordingly, the basement of one of the buildings was converted into a prison and a lot of executions took place at that area. The basement had square concrete box-like spaces and reports claim that around six people are told to go in that space and hunch up together. When the rain would come, it will fill the area with water. This was one of the ways of killing their prisoners.
A photo showing the concrete box-like areas at the basement of Lawang Sewu. (Link: http://travel.tribunnews.com/2017/06/24/lawang-sewu-tak-semengerikan-legendanya-begini-sejarah-asli-destinasi-populer-di-semarang)
By 1945, the Dutch forces was able to oust the Japanese army from the Lawang Sewu. They then converted it to a means of transportation into the city. It had a built-in tunnel and that became their pathways. However, when a battle took place, a lot of Indonesian soldiers died while in the tunnel.
By 1992, this architectural masterpiece was declared as a Cultural Property of Indonesia. After 17 years, Lawang Sewu became very dilapidated because of neglect from the government and the pollution in the area. Most of the walls were cracked, mold and weeds grew all over the building, and mice and rats also started living at the Lawang Sewu.
A photo showing Lawang Sewu when it was not renovated yet. (Link: http://www.rojakdaily.com/lifestyle/article/1053/10-most-haunted-places-in-asia)
Later, it became popular as a haunted house to locals. The government then gave the renovations of the lawing Sewu a green light in an attempt to make it into a tourist spot. The renovations were completed in 2011 and has since been open to tourists for tours.
Lawang Sewu photographed at night after the renovations. (Link: https://merahputih.com/post/read/trik-menghindari-jebakan-pemandu-abal-abal-lawang-sewu)
The Ghosts Inside Lawang Sewu
Despite the efforts of the government to eliminate the notion that Lawang Sewu is popular for the supposed ghosts living there and paranormal experiences taking place in the area, many tourists actually take on the tour to see for themselves if the stories are true.
There are a lot of ghost stories involving Lawang Sewu and one of the ghosts who is said to frequent the area is the spirit of a Dutch woman. Accordingly, she committed suicide at Lawang Sewu but the reason remains unknown. A TV program once captured the supposed spirit of the Dutch woman.
Another ghost that is reportedly seen at the Lawang Sewu is a kuntilanak, a woman who reportedly died due to childbirth. She is described as half woman half vampire.
Spirits that are headless have also been reportedly seen in the halls of Lawang Sewu.
2007 Movie Based On Lawang Sewu
A movie based on the supposed haunted building was made in 2007 called, “Lawang Sewu: Dendam Kuntilanak (Lawang Sewu: Kuntilanak’s Vengeance).” It centered on a group of friends who decided to go partying one evening. They then find themselves inside the old building.
Per the movie, one of the people in the group decided to urinate inside the building. The spirits that reside at Lawang Sewu felt disrespected and the incident angered them. The ghosts featured in the movie are the Dutch woman and the kuntilanak.
A promotional poster for the Lawang Sewu-based movie. (Link: https://alchetron.com/Lawang-Sewu:-Dendam-Kuntilanak)
Lawang Sewu Today
Lawang Sewu today, according to tourists, isn’t as scary as it was years ago when it was neglected and left alone to rot. Now, the façade, the interiors, and painting, the stained glass, and more have been greatly improved to complete the goal of the government – to eliminate the creepy stories surrounding Lawang Sewu and convert it into a community center.
Several rooms on the ground floor of one of the two buildings is now full of historical documents and files in order to educate the visitors. It also shows a display of the railways in Indonesia.
A photo showing one of the trains at Lawang Sewu. (Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g297712-d379332-i327492626-Lawang_Sewu_Building-Semarang_Central_Java_Java.html)
Those who want to visit Lawang Sewu are recommended to go after 3 P.M. There are a lot of visitors waiting for their turn to get a tour of the supposed haunted building so it is best to avoid the hours that there are a lot of people lining up for the tour.
To get to Lawang Sewu, the address is: TJalan Pemuda, Komplek Tugu Muda, Semarang, Jawa Tengah 13220, Indonesia.