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Malaysia gallery seeks ghost busters

Friday 11 August 2006, 12:10 Makka Time, 9:10 GMT  
The paranormal is a controversial topic in mainly Muslim Malaysia
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A Malaysian museum will let a US research team from Ripley's Believe It or Not! conduct scientific tests on genies, ghouls and other paranormal items on display in an exhibition to determine whether they are real.
The three-month Mysteries, Genies, Ghosts and Coffins exhibition at the Sultan Alam Shah Museum in central Selangor state has drawn criticism since it began in July 4. Some accuse it of being un-Islamic, while others have denounced the items as fakes.
The exhibition has drawn tens of thousands of visitors. Officials say the approximately 100 items on display include a preserved mermaid; the shrivelled skeletal remains of a half-woman, half snake; a goblin trapped in a bottle; and other creatures from Malay folklore.
Amzah Umar, chairman of the Selangor Museum Board, said on Friday the organisers and the owner of the exhibits have agreed to Ripley's request to examine the items.
Ripley's Believe It or Not! is a franchise which deals in bizarre events, having started in 1918 as a newspaper cartoon panel featuring unusual and startling facts from around the world.
Umar said: "They have written to us for permission to analyse the items. A team from US will be coming to conduct scientific tests.
"This will put to rest any allegations that the exhibits are fake."
He did not say when the tests would be conducted.
Ghost hunter
Syed Abdullah Al-Attas, a popular ghost hunter and head of the Paranormal Seekers Malaysia group, on Wednesday lodged a police report against the museum, demanding the exhibition be shut down because the exhibits were merely replicas and animal carcasses.
The items belong to religious teacher Safuan Abu Bakar, who was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper on Friday that he planned to bring a langsuir - a deadly Malay banshee - to life in three weeks to silence doubters.
Organisers say the exhibition is
aimed at educating the public
"We are currently facing opposition from religious bodies but I will bring the exhibit to life. I will place the langsuir on a tree and bring it to life to let observers see it fly and screech," he was quoted as saying.
Safuan could not be reached for comment.
Amzah stood firm on the museum's decision to hold the exhibition. "Our exhibition is aimed at educating the public on the existence of the supernatural world. It is not against Islam, we should take it as education and entertainment," he said.
The exhibition is expected to end on October 4 but Amzah said the museum may close it by September 15 in advance of the Ramadan fasting month for Muslims, who make up about 60% of Malaysia's 26 million population.
"It's not proper to hold such an exhibition during fasting month," he said.
The museum has said it expects a million visitors to the exhibition.

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