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Lawang Sewu – A Dutch Heritage

Lawang Sewu (“Thousand Doors”) is a landmark in Semarang, Central Java, Indonesia, built as the headquarters of the Dutch East Indies Railway Company. The colonial era building is famous as a haunted house, though the Semarang city government has attempted to rebrand it.

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The name Lawang Sewu is from Javanese; it means “Thousand Doors”. The name comes from its design, with numerous doors and arcs. The building has about 600 large windows.

The complex consists of several buildings, two main ones named A and B and two smaller ones named C and D, on Pemuda Street. The l-shaped A building faces the Tugu Muda roundabout. There are two identical towers on A building, which were originally used to store water, each with a capacity of 7,000 litres (1,800 US gal). The building features large stained-glass windows and a grand staircase in the center. There was also once an underground tunnel connecting A building to several other sites in the city, including the governor’s mansion and the harbour.

The B building is located behind A building. It is three stories in height, with the first two floors consisting of offices and the third holding a ballroom. The building, with high, large windows, also has a basement floor that is kept partially flooded to serve to cool the building through evaporation.

In front of A building stands a monument to five employees killed during the Indonesian War of Independence.

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Lawang Sewu is said to be haunted, with many tourists visiting to see the ghosts. Among the ghosts reported to inhabit the establishment are a Dutchwoman who committed suicide inside and “headless ghouls”.
In 2007, a horror film entitled Lawang Sewu: Dendam Kuntilanak (Lawang Sewu: Kuntilanak’s Vengeance) was released based on the legend. It told the story of a group of high school students from Jakarta who were trapped in Lawang Sewu after several had to urinate and featured ghosts of a Dutchwoman, a man with a ball and chain wrapped around his leg, and a kuntilanak.

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