“Ghosts” have invaded Kepuh, a small village on the island of Java in Indonesia.

Dressed in white funerary shrouds, the black-eyed specters hop through the nighttime streets, scaring residents into going home and pulling the blankets up over their heads. They are called pocong — lost spirits trapped on Earth, familiar in Indonesian folklore.

The phantoms aren’t actually the shades of the dead though. They’re actors, part of a novel program designed to combat the Coronavirus by literally scaring people into staying home.

Image: Adhietya Saputra

“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because pocong are spooky and scary,” Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of the youth group behind the initiative, told Reuters.

The program initially backfired, with villagers coming out at night to catch sight of the spooks, but it has since been changed so that the pocong don’t follow a schedule — the better to catch people by surprise and scare them into going home. So far, it seems to be working.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters, “and people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

You can check out the “ghosts” in action here: