Mike is a freelance writer exploring obscure media, wyrd tales, and cultural oddities.
Types of Ghosts in Thailand
Belief and fascination with ghosts is highly prevalent throughout Thailand, especially in rural areas. Many such tales are ancient in origin and have evolved over time, with many local stories being ingrained in Buddhist traditions. Other stories have been shared with or merged with neighboring cultures.
Many Taiwanese ghosts are similar in concept to Western phantoms in that they come into being when someone (or something) dies and frequent places such as burial grounds or abandoned homes. However, others are more similar to faery folk or otherworldly spirits. Others result from terrible curses that can sometimes be passed on to other people.
Since the 20th century, many of Thailand's more famous ghosts have become popularized in TV shows and films. As a result, many of these have become classic staples in Taiwanese culture, ensuring they will remain a crucial part of Taiwanese culture for years to come.
4 Eerie Taiwanese Ghost Stories
In this article, we will cover four specific ghosts:
- Nang Ta-Khain
- Mae Nak
A Krasue is a nocturnal female spirit that manifests as a beautiful young woman with internal organs hanging down her neck. Some tales suggest that, by day, a Krasue will live like a normal person in a stolen body. But, at night, her insatiable hunger leads her to leave her body and feast on the blood of animals. Other variations of the tale suggest she also has a taste for human flesh, especially unborn fetuses. It is also said that if a Krasue finds and eats a woman's placenta, that person will turn into a Krasue. As a result, people will often bury placentas in rural areas across Thailand.
So, how did this vile creature come to be in the first place? The story goes that a Khmer princess was to marry a Siamese nobleman following the defeat of her people in war. However, she secretly loved a man of low status. As a result, the two were caught and sentenced to death by fire by the nobleman. The princess had a spell cast over her (in some stories, she drinks a witch's potion), so the fire would not harm her, but the effect was delayed or didn't kick in on time. As a result, the princess burned until only her organs and head were left.
2. Nang Ta-Khian
A Nang Ta-Khain is a nature Spirit or forest maiden—similar to the concept of a fairy—that often manifests as a pretty, long-haired, and slender woman in a traditional Pha Tung skirt. A Nang Ta-Khain typically dwells within a Hopea odorata tree and is very protective of her vicinity. People say you can see where a Nang Ta-Khian lives because the area around it will be well-kept and tidy with no under-bush.
Though generally peaceful, she will run amok if someone disturbs, destroys, or un-tidies the vicinity where Nang Ta-Khain lives. As a result, according to tradition, if someone wishes to use a Ta-Khain tree for building or anything else, they must perform a ceremony to ask permission first. Once someone has used such a tree, Ta-Khain's spirit will mutate into something else, depending on what the person used the wood to make. For example, if they used the wood to make a boat, she would become a 'Mae Yaa Nang Ruea' spirit. Today, people revere Ta-Khain for her supposed ability to predict lottery numbers, and many make offerings hoping that she will reveal such numbers.
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3. Phi Phong
A Phi Phong is another ghost that appears just like a normal person during the day but turns into a deranged phantom at night. In particular, a Phi Phong is said to be a foul-smelling with a taste for eating anything unpleasant. A Phi Phong won't generally attack humans, though they are considered dangerous to small children and pets. And, if you annoy one, they'll curse your house by throwing bananas over it, rendering its inhabitants susceptible to disease. Also, according to legend, if you accidentally ingest a Phi Phong's saliva, you'll turn into one. Supposedly, the best way to get rid of a Phi Phong is to correctly identify one while it is in its human form.
In 2017, there was a rumor that Phi Phongs were rampant in a village in the Mueang Phrae district. In response, people hung amulets called Palad Khik in front of their homes and placed messages saying "no child or pets here" to dissuade the Phongs from seeking and stealing them away.
4. Mae Nak
According to Taiwanese folklore, the most potent ghosts are those of women who have died in childbirth. Mae Nak is one such phantom and arguably the most famous. The story goes that she died during childbirth while her husband was away at war. When he returned, Mae Nak attempted to fool him into believing she still lived, killing anyone who tried to warn him of the truth.
The tale varies depending on who is telling it. Still, in any case, the husband eventually discovers the ruse and flees to a temple, resulting in Mae Nak unleashing her murderous rage on the locals. Finally, the legend typically concludes with a monk putting Mae Nak's spirit to rest, either by ritual, trickery, or bargaining with her.
Bibliography and Sources
Johnson, A.A. 2016, "GHOST MOTHERS: Kinship Relationships in Thai Spirit Cults", Social Analysis, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 82-96.
Krasue (mysteriousbritain.co.uk, 2014). Accessed at https://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/folklore/krasue/
Mae Nak (thaiworldview.com, no date). Accessed at http://www.thaiworldview.com/bouddha/maenak.htm
Nang Ta-Khain (buddhamagic.net, no date). Accessed at https://www.buddhamagic.net/pantheon-of-deities/nang-ta-khian/
Phi Phong (humanlife.com, 2018). Accessed at https://humanlife.asia/thai-ghosts-phi-phong/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Mike Grindle