If you’ve ever traveled to Thailand, there’s one thing you’re sure to notice. Thais are incredibly superstitious. From spirit houses lining the fronts of homes and buildings to haunted dolls believed to embody lost souls, Thai culture is full of supernatural beliefs and traditions. An integral part of those beliefs are ghosts, and in the spirit of the spooky season, we’re diving into the four most legendary Thai ghosts.
A beautiful young spirit is often depicted in a green traditional Thai dress. Nang Tani lives in wild banana trees called Tani. She is known to be a gentle spirit, sometimes even offering food to monks during their morning alms. Legends say, although she will only reveal her form during a full moon, Nang Tani will come out and punish bad men who have wronged women if given the chance. Her banana tree can be found in rural villages; however, her fruits will be inedible. Locals avoid cutting down her tree, as it will bring bad luck and probably a late-night visit from an angry Nang Tani.
The story of Mae Nak is not a ghost story as much as it is a love story. Mae Nak was pregnant while her husband, Mak, was away in battle. Left alone to care for herself and her unborn child, she painstakingly died while giving birth. As Mae Nak had yearned for Mak’s safe return, her spirit was unable to move on. With her spirit in such torment, villagers would hear Mae Nak sing a haunting lullaby as her infant gave out an eerie cry. Some claimed she would even call out her husband’s name, Pee Mak, with great sorrow, spreading fear throughout the village as they hastily locked their doors and windows, shaking with fright.
When Pee Mak finally returned from battle, the villagers kept Nak’s death a secret from him in fear that she would take revenge on those who dared destroy her long-awaited reunion with her husband. As the saying goes, “the soul has no secret that the behavior does not reveal,” her husband finally caught on and realized she was no longer a living person. The villagers, alongside Pee Mak, headed to the temple, where monks performed an exorcism ritual. Mae Nak was confined to a pot and thrown into a river.
Years later, she was accidentally released and wreaked havoc on the village again. In the end, her body was dug up by a skilled monk who chanted an ancient spell that finally put her soul to rest. Today, you can visit Mae Nak’s shrine at Wat Mahabut in Bangkok, where Thais often visit with offerings and wishes for fortune and luck—usually relating to love and romance.
Phi Nang Lum
Tai Hong is a term used to describe a ghost that died suddenly and unwillingly. Their spirit is filled with anger and unfulfillment, leaving them stranded in our world. Phi Nang Lum is considered to be one of the scariest Thai ghosts in modern history. Not only is she a Tai Hong ghost, but the nature of her appearance and way of haunting will also send chills down to the core of your soul.
Phi Nang Lum, or the ghost of the traditional Thai dancer, frequently lives on screen in many Thai horror films. But that doesn’t make her any less real off the screen. She is a horrific symbol that reflects the ever-changing Thai culture. Phi Nang Lum serves as a reminder to cherish, respect, and preserve old traditions and customs. Phi Nang Lum’s story’s common conception is that she was killed under unfortunate circumstances, ranging from a love triangle to jealous competition. It’s been told that she haunts by performing a terrifying dance for those who interfere. She appears draped in a traditional khon dress, with blood dripping down her face and severed body parts. She will appear along with the hollow sound of drums, accompanied by classical Thai music as she dances.
A favorite Northeastern Thai folklore passed down for generations is Phi Pop, a cannibalistic ghost that possesses a human body while eating her victims from the inside out. This Thai ghost is also likely to raid and devour the town’s livestock, feasting on all innards and entrails. It’s been told that Phi Pop used to be a person with immense power and sorcery but let that power go to their head. The person committed a forbidden act causing the black magic to backfire, which turned them into a cannibal ghost. To this day, Phi Pop ghosts are still blamed for unidentified deaths in some parts of rural Thailand and Laos.
Feeling inspired to recreate one of Thailand’s famed ghosts? Check out our make-up tutorial below:
Looking for more spooky Thai stories? Check out our blog post on Thailand’s most haunted places.