18 Oct: The Black Magic Massacre

The East Java Ninja Scare – an outbreak of mass hysteria in East Java, Indonesia that led to hundreds of deaths – reached its peak with a massacre of suspected ‘sorcerers’ on 18th October, 1998.

Essentially a witch-hunt in which vulnerable misfits were targeted for slaughter by superstitious vigilante mobs, the violence nonetheless had its roots in the very real murder of some Muslim clerics by unknown assailants, and the disarray following decades of Indonesian dictatorship.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider the causes of this bizarre and scary chapter; explain how indigienous and Muslim practices combined in the East Java region to create a unique mix of beliefs; and discover how, despite the killings, the fervour and excitement had created a ‘carnival atmosphere’… 

Further Reading:

• ‘Hunting and killing ninjas in Indonesia’ (New Mandala, 2016): 


• ‘Fears of Sorcerers Spur Killings in Java’ (The New York Times, 1998): https://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/20/world/fears-of-sorcerers-spur-killings-in-java.html?searchResultPosition=1

• ‘The Turning Point’ (Journeyman Pictures, 1998):