Thai Ghosts

A Guide To Thailand’s Ghosts and Spirits
by Andrew Forbes

The Thai spirit world is populated by a plethora of ghosts, ghouls and demons – some good, some harmful, and some openly dangerous. Among the most interesting are:

Phi Peta – A hungry ghost. Everyone who is preoccupied with material attachments to the exclusion of the spiritual will be reborn as a Peta, having a giant belly and an mouth as small as the eye of a needle. Peta may sometimes be heard whistling at night, looking for people to make merit for them. This ghost is relatively harmless.

Phi Am – A ghost which sits on the chest or liver of sleepers, causing discomfort. It can be harmful.

Phi Chamob – A ghost which haunts the place where a woman has died in the jungle. This spirit does not do any harm.

Phi Ha – The spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth. This ghost is considered to be very violent.

Phi Krahang – This ghost appears as a man with feathers and a tail like a bird. It eats filth and glows at night. An unpleasant and frightening spirit.

Phi Krasy – This ghost lives inside a witch and leaves her body during sleep by way of the mouth. The Krasy is the colour of fire, has a head the size of an electric light bulb and a half-metre long bluish tail. A Krasy ghost likes dirt and does not generally harm human beings, although when it consumes entrails (hardly surprisingly) it can cause death. Krasy witches have a sleepy appearance during the day. Their eyes don’t blink and they can never look anybody in the face. Also, they don’t cast any reflection in the mirror. Before Krasy witches can die, they have to find somebody who will inherit the Krasy by consuming some of the old witch’s spittle.

Phi Lok – A ghost which haunts various localities. It frightens and misleads people, and can be seen as well as felt.

Phi Phrai – The spirit of a woman who has died in childbirth and whose body has been used to make phi thai hong lotion. A sorcerer must hold a candle under the corpse’s chin, and from the resultant melted oil essences are manufactured which drive men mad and attract women.

Phi Tai Ha – The spirit of a woman who has died of malaria. The ghost will also spread this disease.

Phi Thuk Khun – The substance of a living person which has to be sent out on astral journeys every week, or harm will come to its owner,

Phi Khamod – A spirit in the shape of a red star which, like a Will o’ the Wisp, misleads wanderers.

Phi Nang Tani – A female tree spirit which is essentially beneficent and may fill the alms bowls of itinerant monks.

Phi Pa – A forest spirit. Hunters may leave a piece of the foot, lip, tongue or eyelid of a killed animal to show respect to this spirit.

Phi Poang Khang – A spirit in the shape of a black monkey which likes to suck the big toe of people sleeping in the jungle. It is said to live near salt licks.

Phi Ka – These spirits are inherited through women and can be contagious. The Ka, if not properly treated (with raw eggs) will attack and possibly possess people without the owner’s knowledge. Perhaps understandably, ordinary people are said to be reluctant to marry into Ka clans!

Phi Hai – Hungry, amoral spirits associated with places where people have died an unnatural or violent death. Phi Hai are easily offended, and take every opportunity to possess people. Normally, they can be induced to leave their victim if suitable offerings are made, but on occasions an exorcist has to drive them out. In such cases, when incantations and lustral water prove insufficient, a whip may need to be employed.

Phi Pob – A malicious and very dangerous spirit which manifests itself as a beautiful woman. Phi Pob float through the air because they have no legs or lower body. They generally appear as a length of internal organs and intestines suspended from a strikingly lovely face – therefore, beware beautiful women gliding mysteriously by in long dresses! This type of ghost is probably more feared than any other species in Thailand.

Clearly, there can be no doubt that belief in ghosts and spirits remains widespread throughout Thailand….Chinese “bouncing” ghosts have long been a staple of Thai television and children’s fantasy. Muslim ghosts have appeared which can be driven off by flourishing a piece of pork (preferably a pig’s head) at them, and even vampires have made the long journey from Transylvania to Thailand. In this age of mass communication and international tourism, ghosts too – or so it would seem – have become world travellers!

Text of above article, copyright © Andrew Forbes / CPA 2003. Found at www.cpamedia.com.

15 responses to “Thai Ghosts

  1. JD, welcome on your first blog entry here! 🙂

    Interesting subject, those ghosts. Like you, I was taken aback the first time I saw a PhD student seriously worried about ghosts in the dark, in an abandoned reservoir. I guess it’s something associated with children’s imagination in the West.

    Since then, I got used to it, accepted it, but never believed it. However, I usually keep that to myself… 😉

    You wrote about ghost stories regularly featured on TV; I saw the same thing in magazines. At first I thought they are some kind of an occult literature, but then I realized it must be part of the ‘ghost culture’.

    Good topic, looking forward to read more.

  2. Nice blog entry, jd. Thailand is a living ghost world. Ghost believers aren’t as prominent in the West, at least not where I have been these days, save for those old old stories from years or decades ago. But Thailand has many.

    Even I get the chills just reading about it. Sometimes I’d read on the news about ghost stories. There are quite a few stories about all the ghosts of the tsunami victims, one a few months back showed a picture of a Thai doctor being snapped on someone’s camera phone and when the snapper looked on his phone, there was this man (blurry pic but he looked very dark like Indian or Malaysian, I’m not sure how to describe him) and his eyes were red and bulging and he had an angry look on his face. He wore a blue t-shirt and stood very closely to the doctor in the pic but no one was next to her. Seeing that picture really freaked me out. There are quite a few other ghost stories I’ve read and been told by my mother.

    Anyway, again, good blog. Keep posting.

  3. The Thais have some classic Thai stories and you ought to see this TV program thats broadcast at night about a bunch of ‘Ghost finders’ using hidden cameras! Quite a farce, if you ask me.

    Never written about ghosts but will do. Lotta funny stories going around.

    Welcome to thaiblogs.

  4. Due to a technical hitch on my part, page 2 of the ghost story posted by JD didn’t show. You can now read about the different Thai ghosts.

  5. Its easy to imagine ghosts if we are living in the rural areas, where it can be quiet and the forests and hills with the moon above, can project so many shuffling images at night-time. You can feel life in everything and … beyond. As against cities, where the lights are so blinding!!

  6. Very interesting comment, Trangam. This subject is so colored by our cultures!

    In my culture, the forests and dark quiet rural areas are places of rest, peace and comfort.

    I have taken two-week hiking trips by myself in the dark forests of the mountains of my state (Washington), and didn’t see another human being for 14 days. I also never had one thought about ghosts or spirits during that time. It was a refreshing, rejuvinating time to soul, spirit, and body!

    However, when I took my Asian guests on a camping trip once (they were hill tribe people from Northern Thailand who had immigrated to the USA), they were terrified to sleep overnight in a tent in the forest.
    I just couldn’t understand it!

    Amazing, our varied perspectives, isn’t it?

  7. I was told because I was born on a Tuesday, I am less sensitive to the supernatural and because of that ghosts don’t bug me too much. For all I know my mom and aunties could’ve made that up! Since my imagination usually runs wild, that’s probably a good thing. HAHAH. But I still haven’t had an encounter with the Netherworld. But I don’t disrespect what’s beyond either. Trying not to cosmically p*ss people off. 🙂

    I was an intern at Warner Bros. when BW got to Sundance and one of the guys there couldn’t shut up about it being footage. Totally bought into that, and sold it to us interns. So I saw it thinking it was real.

    Once the “truth” is out, Blair Witch was just silly. Except one part that REALLY scare me was when they found the cottage at the end. *shudder*

  8. JD:

    I, a fellow Washingtonian, agree with you on your comment (being in the woods for 14 days, no thoughts about ghosts).
    I would be very hard-pressed to even give spirits or ghosts a thougth out there; bears, cougars, bigfoot…another matter. 🙂
    I will tell you a movie that did freak me out a little about being out in the woods…”Blair Witch Project” Ewww…I get goosebumps just thinking about it!! Ever seen it? Freaky!

  9. any idea where i can get “Thailand, Into the Spirit World” book published around 98 or 99. It’s out of print and i would love a copy. All about the ghosts of Thailand. thanks.

  10. Hi there,
    I notice this is an old subject. However, I am doing research for a project involving tales of Thai ghosts and the superstitions surrounding them. WHile I have found out quite a lot regarding adult apparitions, I can’t seem to find any tales about child ghosts. Are they regarded as unlucky or lucky, malevolent or good by Thais? An old Thai folk tale about a child ghost would be perfect but am looking for anything that could help me.

    Thank you in anticipation!

    Roz

  11. Hey–I’ve just begun my research on the same subject, but I recall a story of a Thai/Lao ghost baby known as Goumonthong (or “Golden Boy,” because of the color of the preservative) or “Lok Grok.” This phi is a still born fully formed baby that is preserved, and given offerings, and in turn grants good luck and help/protection. A slightly different relationship than the wandering ghosts–more along the line of a ‘good luck charm’–but still considered a “phi,” I believe. Try a search for those terms, and see if anything comes up…

  12. muslim ghost? that’s new, since when do we associate a ghost with a religion?

  13. Thank you very much. Sunny article.

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