• Lawang Sewu: a thousand door, a creepy rumor

    One of the famous landmarks of Semarang is Lawang Sewu- a former office building of NISM (Nederlands Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij) which was one of the biggest train companies in Indonesia established in 1863. Standing tall till now, Lawang Sewu was built in 1904. The massive buildings complex took 3 years to complete. The building was by the drawing of Prof. Jacob F. Klinkhamer (TH Delft) and B.J. Ouendag from Amsterdam.  The myths and stories of Lawang Sewu and its beauty are the reasons why we chose it as the destination of our ET6 students’ field trip this term.  One famous myth is that the basement is haunted, because in the Japanese occupation the place was used as a very uncivilized jail. Who knew what things were done there, history did not note them very detailed and reliable, but the chill of the place could shiver anyone imagining the situation like years ago.

    We started the tour by paying the ticket of Rp 5,000 for students and Rp 10,000 for adults. In group, we have to hire a guide. The guide cost us Rp 30,000. The first place we visited was the small building behind the main building. The European architecture is obviously seen here. It is the museum held artifacts of Lawang Sewu construction history, blue print drawings, and materials used – imported from Netherlands. We were fascinated by the detailed engineering of the building depicted by the blue prints. The bricks used to build Lawang Sewu indeed were made in Netherlands and each has special stamp. The rooms were large and quiet. The guide kept teasing us  by asking “Did you see something?”

    The second place we went to was the right wing building. This building is the one equipped with basement. The guide took us to see the mockups of the whole Lawang Sewu complex. We then understood why people dubbed Lawang Sewu or thousand door building when we were standing and stared at the doors connecting rooms along the building, the big arc windows and the cowboys sling doors (removed). When we stood on the connecting doorway, we can see through all the doors lead to the end of the hall. We don’t know why but it felt a bit creepy. After that we went upstairs to the hall, then visiting the ex toilet. The toilet was designed separately from the main building connected by a bridge, maybe this way was intended to keep sanitary, a very careful thought. Unfortunately the place was not kept well, in fact all the sanitary equipments like the washing sink and men toilet were still originally imported from Netherlands. On and on we go, we were amazed by the details of the building.

    After all, the basement was really made us curious. It took us sometimes to decide whether we go in or not. When we walk in the right end of the building with the basement, we were curious to see an open big door leading to a small basement. The basement down there was filled with water. It was a small room. We were wondering what room it is when another guide (not ours) came and brought two guests and explained that the room was one of the basement intended to cool the whole building (that’s why it is filled with water). Then when everyone was left, and we’re going to leave the place, I decided to take the picture. I was sure that I took the picture right in front of the place (because I just want the picture of the place, nothing else).  We had to pay additional Rp. 10,000 to go inside with our guide as well as the boots and spotlight. It was a thrilling trip. We went through the basement tunnel with water as high as our ankle in the dark. We shivered when we saw the former jail in the Japanese occupation. These jails were so small and spooky giving us goosebumps. The trip ended in our breath of relief as we saw the old train in front of Lawang Sewu, next to the tomb of the unknown heroes. The train is intended to remind people that Lawang Sewu was a former train company while the tomb reminds us that by the blood and sacrifice of souls this nation was built and thus the responsibility is ours to make this country as what those heroes dreamed of.

    End of the story?...not really...:)

    .....almost a week later, remember about the picture I took in front of the singled out basement? When I uploaded the picture in the PSTC account, Ms Anna made a comment about a creepy hand. I was really sure I didn’t see any hand before. Then I checked the picture, and voila, you can see the creepy weird hand there! When I showed the picture to my colleagues, Anggra and Ika, both of them did not see the hand as the first image, but they saw the screaming face on the door. ..Can you see it, too?

    by: Ms. Irene Indriasari


    1. I am very proud we had building like lawang sewu , but I hate the negative side like why the creepy story more dominant than the history

    2. I think lawang sewu is one of the Icon in Semarang we have to keep it. and I agree with hani's opinion. you'd better to explore the history one.

    3. I had visited lawang sewu, the guide had said that the basement was also used to jail and there are parts that are used to decapitate prisoners convicted. Maybe that's the reason why when the photo taken there and then printed will show terrible things or unexpected.


    4. Why the creepy story should be the negative side? Indeed it was a part of history where slaughtering and murder happened there. I have explained the history, and what I told here about the creepy story was a real experience. I think that will make Lawang Sewu so unique. People will come not only for the real story but also for the myth. What is more interesting than teasing someone's nerve and experience yourself? It's a positive sign for tourism. If you go to Kamboja, people even pack the scary story (real murder) of Red Khmer victims and it is a major tourism attraction. It is an advantage, not a slight of negative side, because history has also its dark spot.

    5. Gusla Shidiq N_ET 6 / Star 2September 11, 2012 at 7:39 AM

      I think the creepy weird hand is just your friend hand that is accidentally taken, but I believe that the screaming face on the door is true. Well, I also ever went there when it isn't renovated yet and I think it is not as scary as you said. I do agree with you that the creepiest place in Lawang Sewu is the basement because people said that a lot of prisoners was killed there and their spirits are inhabiting that place.

    6. Sewu Lawang is a Dutch heritage and iconic semarang. So, we must keep and preserve it as a cultural arts Semarang.
      -Namira Aulia-



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