On Ghosts


Tim Connors, 130 TESS

In my classes, we have a jar reward system. When the students are participating and paying attention, they fill up the jar with plastic eggs. When the eggs get to the top, we watch a movie. Ninety percent of the time, we watch a ghost movie. During the movie, some students watch transfixed. Some squeeze their friends when a ghost appears. Some look away, plug up their ears, and watch other students’ reactions. Some cry. Some shake. Some laugh. Some have discussions about the ghosts’ origin. Some compare Thai ghost movies to American ghost movies. And some leave the classroom paranoid, declaring they will not walk anywhere alone for the rest of their life.

Ghosts are real here. People will pray and give offerings to ghosts for good fortune. They will ask about ghosts in your house. They will assume that the reason you’re not sleeping is because of ghosts. Even the most skeptical believe. If ghosts exist, no one wants to be the cursed example that proves their existence.

Several sources trace the prevalent belief in ghosts within Thai culture to animism. Animism is a belief that spirits are present in everything—trees, an arrangement of rocks, swamps, rice fields, houses, everything. It’s a belief that predates the spread of Buddhism in Thailand. Ghosts are a logical extension of that belief.

My favorite ghost is Pii Graseur: a woman’s head that floats around at night, looking for flesh to eat. Oh, and her respiratory, digestive, and pulmonary systems are prominently dangling from her severed neck. During the day, horror of horrors, she’s an ordinary looking woman who acts zombie-like. Pii Graseur will eat anything: humans, animals, even excrement. Also, don’t leave any clothing out overnight. This ghost uses it for a napkin after her meal.

Pii Graseur is usually the result of botched witchcraft, ingesting the blood or saliva of another Graseur, or when a woman who has killed someone is reincarnated.

There are a slew of Thai series and movies that feature this ghost if anyone wants to see it in action (and see some cheesy head floating special effects).

There’s also Pii Grahang: a male contemporary of Pii Graseur who flies using rice baskets like wings on his arms; Pii Pret: a tall creature who is incredibly hungry, but has only a pin-hole sized mouth; Kong Koi: a toe sucking vampire who hops around on one leg; the famous Mae Nak: a mother who died during childbirth while waiting for her husband to return from war and continues to wait; and Pii Bob: a ghost that eats people from the inside out. They are a creepy rogue gallery of spirits.

Ghosts are not only evil. There are kind ghosts, too. You may have ancestral spirits looking to aid their future generations. Pii Nang Thani will provide bananas and water to weary travelers and monks provided you do not destroy her banana tree or have a history of abuse towards women. The ghosts of stillborn babies, when placated, can provide enormous luck. There’s even Pii Kii: a ghost that lives in bathrooms, and after a brief chat, will help “eliminate” bad luck.

Ghosts are sometimes more than ghosts. Some suck blood. Some resemble zombies in their injuries and resurrection. Some are simply flesh-hungry monsters looking for something to eat.

When my counterparts ask me what ghosts there are in America, I’m not sure how to reply. In the US, I segregate monsters, creatures, and aliens from ghosts. I fear I’m a bad cultural representative when all I can think of are poltergeists, house ghosts (same thing?), revenge-seeking ghosts, ghosts who died violently, and Slenderman (which is cheating, because I think he’s more of an otherworldly being and owes his origins to the internet rather than any cultural origin in the US).

My counterparts, in return, reel off tens of much cooler ghosts with better names that haunt Thailand.

I’ve gone running at 2 a.m. before. We had a field trip that left at 4 a.m., and I wanted to work out before sitting on a bus and train for twelve hours.

On the run, I was paranoid. I heard footsteps, rustling plants, and distant howls. Sometimes, I mistook a trashcan, a driven stake, or a cloth hanging on barbed wire for a person. Or a ghost.

It made me realize… I have no plan if I encounter a ghost. Run. That’s it.

After some light research, I found a few answers. Pii Graseur, to start, is a horrible incarnation to be haunted by, but, luckily, there are measures one can take.

  1. Build a barbed wire fence around your home. Pii Graseur will avoid constructions like this because its dangling viscera may snag on the wire.
  2. Find and destroy the host body. The Graseur’s host body is left alone while the head and organs float around. If the body is destroyed, the Grasuer will suffer torment before being destroyed as well.
  3. Fire!!!!

For ghosts, generally, you could call a witch doctor (Maw Pii) or a Buddhist monk. Or, there are preventative measures. Don’t bend over and look between your legs, don’t whistle at night, don’t desecrate sacred areas, don’t go anywhere at night alone, don’t cause trouble, don’t draw attention to yourself. In short, don’t do anything “strange,” be as quiet, non-confrontational, and unassuming as possible… is the best advice I found on avoiding ghosts.

If all else fails, get out of the country and pray that ghosts can’t follow you. I’m hoping Thai ghosts are stuck in Thailand until they learn how to acquire a passport, but you never know. You might bring a horrifying souvenir back with you. Might not want to lead with that when your relatives ask how service was…

Read Tim’s previous articles and contributions.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s