February 8, 2016
While Thailand unquestionably has its beautiful beaches and a stunning diversity in fauna and flora, plus a rich tapestry of cultures, it also has its fair share of Ghosts and things that go bump in the night.
If you have been lucky to spend time in this magical Kingdom, then you will have without doubt (if unknowingly) witnessed its people’s fascination with spirits and ghosts. From the many Festivals which include a history of fertility rites and offerings to the spirits, ghosts and gods, to the Spirit houses which you will see in homes, the work place and along the side of the road right across the country, we even have our own park attractions depicting hell and torture. To the trees, boats and vehicles that are adorned with brightly coloured ribbons and last but not least to the Yantra tattoos and amulets that are worn by so many of its people.
To top all that Thai’s have our own superstitions, lucky and unlucky colours and days along with many fables which combined with the occult, spirits, deities and ghosties seem to influence so much of life here. It is this mass of beliefs that most outsiders find so difficult to understand, especially as it appears to sit so smoothly with the Thai peoples strong religious believes expressed in their Buddhist faith.
This powerful belief in spirits can be seen in Thai corporate bodies such as Thai airways when in recent times one of its aircraft skidded on the runway at Bangkok, and in the state railway when things were not going to plan and they suffered a number of train crashes, in both instances Monks were asked publically to perform rituals to appease the spirits who it was decided had reeked these mishaps.
While it is true that every culture has its own set of ghouls and ghosts we like to think here in Thailand we have more than our fair share, listed here are just a few of the most common ghosts and spirits found in Thai folklore across this wonderful country.
Spirits or ghosts are known generically as phi (ผี) and are to be found, in certain trees, burial grounds near Buddhist temples, homes and also within mountains and forests. The list while not complete is in the main in alphabetical order excluding the first two demons that are probably the most feared of all these super natural beings.
Phi Krasue (กระสือ)
The Krasue (also known as Phi Pok) is a ghost known by many names in neighbouring; Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia and Malaysia, in all these countries the entity is a nocturnal female spirit which manifests itself as a woman, usually young and beautiful, with her internal organs hanging down from the neck, trailing below her head. The spirit moves about by hovering in the air as she has no lower body, her teeth are found to be like pointed fangs similar to a vampire.
There are a number of stories around the origin of this spirit the oldest is from the ancient Khmer culture. It tells of a Khmer princess becoming a Krasue after being burnt alive. The story goes something like this; the princess was to be given in marriage to a powerful Siamese nobleman after the defeat of her people in battle. But she was already in love with another man of lower status; after they were caught the offended Siamese aristocrat sentenced her to death by burning. Shortly before the execution the princess asked a Khmer sorceress to cast a magic spell over her, so her body would be unharmed by the ensuing fire. The spell did not work as hoped and her body was engulfed in flames destroying all but her head and body organs
The un-charred remains were cursed to continue living as a Krasue ghost. A modern version of this particular Phi Krasue’s legend was enacted in the 2002 Thai horror film Demonic Beauty
The death of a great number chicken in mysterious circumstances at a farm in Nakhon Luang District, Ayutthaya Province, on the night of 4 October 2015 was blamed by local villagers on the activity of the Krasue. See new article in Thai Daily News. To see other news reports for the previous year on ghosts in Thailand click here
Phi Krahang (กระหัง)
Phi Krahang is an evil male and nocturnal ghost which manifests it-self as a shirtless man, wearing a traditional loincloth and who flies in the night sky. They are said to haunt the same type of areas as the Krasue (above) and so are often mentioned in the same breath as the female ghost but unlike her the Krahang lives the life of a normal villager during the day
Krahang use two large Kradong (กระด้ง), round rice shallow baskets attached to his arms to fly. It will also ride a Sak Tam Khao (สากตำข้าว), a long wooden pestle traditionally used as a rice pounder.
The preferred diet of the Krahang and his sometime companion the Krasue is filth and human waste, some say the spirit is not happy about people touching his behind, for fear of his true nature being discovered
Ghosts Spirits and Thai Folklore
Phi Am: A ghost which sits on the chest of people while they sleep, causing discomfort. This entity can be extremely dangerous.
Phi Braed: A male or female giant ghost that has a huge sucker for a mouth, this ghost has a taste for parents which it will kill.
Phi Chamob: A ghost who haunts a part of a jungle where a woman has previously died, the good news is these spirits are fairly harmless.
Phi Chao Kam Nai Wen (เจ้ากรรมนายเวร): Is a ghost that maintains ill will towards a person due to the wrongful deeds the latter committed to them in their former life.
Phi Duat Leut: With the traits of a vampire this ghost sucks the blood of its victims.
Phi Ha: The spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth. This ghost is considered to be very violent. The most famous spirit being Mae Nak Phra Kanong
Phi Hai or Phi Tay Hong: These particular hungry and amoral spirits inhabit places where a person has died an unnatural or violent death. They are easily offended, and take every opportunity to possess people. It is said those possessed by a Phi Hai can normally rid themselves of the evil spirits by making them an offering or taking part in an exorcism, however if this fails they have to resort to using a whip to drive the sprit from the body.
Phi Ka (ผีกะ): This unpleasant spirit originating from Northern Thailand has 6 variations
1) Phi-Ka-Phranang (ผีกะพระ-นาง) is the most famous ghost as it is the particular spirit that actors offer sacrifices to.
2) Phi-Ka-Dong ( ผีกะดง) is ferocious, and usually goes to hunt in groups. However, its saliva is believed by some to be able to treat particular diseases.
3) Phi-Ka-Arkom ( ผีกะอาคม) a kind of ghost that was once a human but who violated a tradition. In the distant past, before an academy would accept you as a student, they would conduct the Keun kroo ceremony. If they failed to conduct the ceremony it was believed the students would be cursed and become a Phi-Ka-Arkom.
4) Phi-Ka-Takood (ผีกะตระกูล) is ghosts that protect fields and so makes them more fertile.
5) Phi-Ka-Taihong (ผีกะตายโหง) is a person who died unnaturally, but they do not know that they are dead.
6) The last type of Phi-Ka ghost is the Nokkhaophika (นกเค้าผีกะ); it has an owl as a symbol. If the ghost comes to a village in the evening, a lot of owls will cry out unnaturally.
Northern Thai people are said to be reluctant to marry into clans called ‘Ka’!
Phi Kee: You should consult this spirit when waking from a bad dream and before going to the toilet. By asking the spirit to allow your excrement to go peacefully you can offset bad luck and I assume avoid being sh_t on!
Phi Khamod: This spirit takes the form of a red star and misleads travelers.
Phi kong koi (ผีกองกอย): Like the Phi Poang Khang this little devil sucks the blood from the big toes of sleeping people leaving them to die. Those that live in the Jungle know when this one one-legged spirit hops towards them in the night as it has a distinct cry which sounds similar to “kong koi, kong koi!” and therefore its name. It is said that by making a loud noise and shouting the spirit can be frightened off, when departing it makes a sound like the shaking of leaves on a tree blown by a gust of strong wind.
Phi Krasy: This ghost dwells inside a witch and leaves her body during sleep by way of her mouth. A Krasy ghost while they like dirt generally don’t harm human beings, although when it consumes entrails it can cause death (really!). Krasy witches have a sleepy appearance during the day, their eyes don’t blink and they can never look anybody in the eyes, they also don’t cast a reflection in the mirror. The spirit itself apparently has the head a size of a tennis ball which in turn is orange in colour; they also have a tail that can be up to half a meter long. Before the witch dies her spittle must be consumed by somebody else if the Krasy is to be passed onto a new host.
Phi Lok: A ghost which haunts various localities. It frightens and misleads people, and can be seen as well as felt.
Phi Nang Ta-kaen: Is the ghost of a beautiful young lady, who haunts the Hopea tree, it is for this reason many Thai people don’t allow it to grow in their gardens.
Phi Ngu (ผีงู): Also known as Phrai Ngu (พรายงู) or Ngueak Ngu (เงือกงู), is a ghost that may appear in snake form, human form or a combination of both.
Phi Nang Tani: Another female tree spirit this time taking up residence in banana trees and often appears on a full moon. She is regarded as a good ghost known to give bananas out as food and fill the alms bowls of monks.
Phi Pa (ผีป่า): Is the generic term for spirits that live in the forests, Thai hunters often leave some of their kill to show respect and appease this spirit, often leaving the lip, eyelid, foot or tongue of the prey they have killed.
Phi Pawb: This is a mischievous ghost with a wicked sense of humor and is the spirit of somebody who had died violently; it likes nothing more than to sit on the shoulders of its victim to make them appear to be lop sided.
Phi Preta (or Pret): Is a hungry ghost and is celebrated in Southern Thailand in their ‘Hungry Ghost Festival’ . It is said that anyone that is more preoccupied with material things and excludes the spiritual side of life, will be reborn as a Preta. They have an enormous appetite for almost everything, food, money, power or sex. They are invisible to the human eye, but some believe they can be discerned by humans in certain mental states. They are described as human-like, but with sunken, mummified skin, narrow limbs, enormously distended bellies and long, thin necks. This ghost while ill tempered and aggressive due to the fact they are always unsatisfied is harmless.
Phi Phrai: The spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth and whose body has been used to make a phi thai hong lotion. The lotion is obtained by a shaman/sorcerer who will extract essential oils from the dead female by putting a lighted candle under their chin. The resulting oil is believed to have the magical ability to drive men to the arms of the woman that administered the concoction.
Phi Phraya (ผีพราย) Female ghost that live in the water
Phi Poang Khang: Poang is the name of an area of forest where the earth is salty, (also known as a salt lick), while Khang is a langur or long-tailed monkey. Phi poang khang is therefore a phi in the shape of the animal dwelling near a salt-lick. It is said that this phi, unlike the real monkey, has a short tail and its upper lip bulges, revealing its upper teeth. At night it comes down from the trees in which it lives to suck blood from unwary people sleeping nearby. Like a vampire the person in receipt of the ‘Toe Job’ eventually becomes weak and dies
Phi Pob: A devious and dangerous female ghost that that devours human entrails while leaving the host alive. Victims will pretend to be ill but will steal uncooked meat to eat at night.
Phi Tai Ha: Is the spirit of a woman who has died of malaria, this ghost will take delight in spreading the same disease.
See more on what some may term ‘occult festivals’ and further beliefs in the Kingdom click on any of the posts below