A fascination with ghosts leads Thais to embrace Halloween

Thai culture has had a long legendary affection with ghost stories. Homegrown spirits have been the subject of folktales, theater, art and movies, including a movie that won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival a few years ago.

This is why Halloween has become a popular holiday in the Kingdom. Nowadays, it is common to see Thai children wearing costumes out trick or treating in Bangkok and other cities and towns on 31 October, while hotels and restaurants host Halloween parties.

Meanwhile, in northeastern Thailand, locals have long celebrated ghosts in the Pi Ta Khon festival, where people wear scary ghost masks and dance, sing and party to “wake up the spirits.” And nearly every Thai home has a spirit house on its grounds; a miniature Thai-style pavilion where offerings are placed to the property’s spirits, which are considered benign and not the spooky variety.

Thai culture has its own cast of scary ghosts and demons. Perhaps the most well known is Mae (Lady) Nak. According to legend, Mae Nak was the wife of a soldier who died during childbirth. When the soldier returned home, he was unaware that his wife had passed away because her ghost was inhabiting their abode. When he eventually realized the truth, he put the ghost in a pot and threw her in a river. But she escaped and went on a rampage until a Buddhist monk cast a spell for her spirit to rest in peace.

Thai director Nonzee Nimibutr brought Mae Nak’s tale to the big screen in 1999 with his film Nang Nak. It was the first Thai film to earn $5 million at the box office and received critical acclaim. A later film version of the story, Pee Mak Phrakanong, released in 2013, brought in over $30 million in earnings.

A new ghost story entered Thai culture in 2010 with director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Near death, the title character is visited by the ghosts of his late wife and son, who take him on a journey where he can see his previous incarnations. The film won the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Photo courtesy of https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2591862/?ref_=tt_mv_close