The third book in the No Worries series. Skylab and Kev still feature large. We have some new characters, Gail and James Kennedy. They are going through some ‘difficult’ times. Can Skips brother, Gatts help? Or, will we have to rely on Skylab?
You will have to wait. I can’t give too much away, but Philippa and Nick and their ‘ghostly’ guardian are in the middle of the bad things that happen!
Thailand is known around the world as the Land of Smiles, but just as prevalent as the cheery grins are the widely-held belief in ghosts. Some of these old tales have a base in medical fact.
Phi Am for example
Anybody who has ever suffered from sleep paralysis may want to stop reading now. Phi Am is a ghost who is said to sit on the chests of people whilst they sleep, causing discomfort and even death. A way to combat them? Put on lipstick. Phi Am doesn’t attack women, and those who believe in her existence put on lipstick before sleeping to trick Phi Am into thinking they’re female. She’ll probably see right through it if you have a beard, though.
This was the comments of a patient who suffered one night.
“It was gone, but I was still screaming. Its form is hard to describe now, thinking back to the night when I woke up terrified in the dark. I remember some sort of floating orb with a red, ghoulish face surrounded by black smoke. I can’t help but describe my demon as an evil-looking Right then and there, as I leaned up in bed, I understood why peoples across culture and time have said they’ve been visited by demons in the night. It would have made a believer out of me too, had I not known about the visceral, unforgettable experience of sleep paralysis.”
If you’re sleeping well, the brain and the body usually get along. After drifting off to sleep, the brain eventually reaches the only stage we can remember: the REM (rapid eye movement) stage, characterized by rapid movement of the eyes underneath their lids. Here we dream, then to make sure those dreams aren’t copied by our bodies, the brain releases two chemicals, a neurotransmitter called glycine and a nerve receptor in muscles called GABA, that paralyze the muscles we can move voluntarily.
For whatever reason, despite the wonderlands of imagination dreams transport us to, the experience of sleep paralysis has surprisingly common themes. There is usually an overcoming sense of fear and dread accompanied by the vision of some dark, humanoid figure on or around the bed.
If an Indonesian suffers from sleep paralysis they call it “digeunton,” meaning “pressed on.” In Hungarian, it is called “boszorkany-nyomas,” or “witches’ pressure.” In Turkey, it is “Karabasan,” in Thailand, it is a ghost of the “Phi Am” folklore, and in the southern United States it is “witch riding.”
Given how terrifying sleep paralysis can be, the supernatural explanations are understandable. There simply isn’t another apparently conscious experience like it. While many people who have had sleep paralysis will only experience it once or twice in a lifetime (for others with chronic conditions like narcolepsy it can occur much more frequently), the event is debilitating. A demon stepped out of the ether and into your bedroom. It doesn’t matter if it won’t again; knowing that the portal is open and what can come through is enough.
As everywhere in the world Thailand is no different there are many horror stories some based on the truth, with a touch of exaggeration.
Before we go further with this tale you should know a few spooky words.
The Thai word for ghost is ผี pǐi.
The word for spirit is วิญญาณ win yaan.
Now if you’ve been in Thailand a while, the Thai attitude toward spirits is quite similar to Thai attitude to a human being. Some to be trusted and respected and some can’t be trusted and should be feared.
We all love tales of ghosts, don’t we? Growing up with a little sister it was always fun to tease her with haunted bedtime stories, her fear of pǐi is all because of me. Hee Hee!
This a ghost story that has been told and retold for several decades. It was said that the story originated in phrá ká nhǒng district of Bangkok. At that time, the district was still undeveloped similar to present-day rural Thailand.
There was a young couple, the husband was named Maak the wife was called Naak. One day when Maak was notified for military conscription and he would have to be trained in the capital for one year. So he had to leave his two-month pregnant wife behind with tears and sadness.
Maak then said goodbye to his weeping wife and told her to take good care of the unborn child. From that day, Naak waited for the return of her husband, several months had passed without any sign of his return.
At the time of the delivery of her child, Naak suffered acute pain and eventually died during labour along with her unborn child.
In Thailand, they call this type of death as dtai tang klom. Which means to die during pregnancy and her ghost will usually be fierce. Maak was not informed of the death of his lovely wife.
With a strong attachment to her husband, the ghost of Naak refused to go anywhere. She waited for the return of her husband at her own home. After her death at night-time, anyone walking past her house would either hear the lullabies sung by Naak from a long distance away or see her ghost holding a baby in her arms. In the temple, no one had the courage to go near her grave. The macabre horror terrified the people around there especially when dogs howled in a chorus. Some people who ventured near enough to challenge her spirit, meeting her face-to-face was said to be suffering from a high fever and falling hair. The news of her fierce spirit spread like wildfire. People were scared of her ghost so much so that her name made their hair stand up.
Once, there was an exorcist who wanted man prai, (an oil extracted from the chin of human corpse) to be used as a love potion, as he thought that if he could get it from a dead pregnant woman, his love potion would become more potent. So he made a ceremony and recited his magic spell to make her corpse sit up so that he could use the candle to warm her chin. Unfortunately, his magic spell was too weak to overpower the spirit of Naak, so he desperately ran for his own life otherwise he would have been strangled on the spot.
Since that day, the villagers had to live with fear and horror. The disturbance of her spirit made her a fiercer ghost.
Then came the day when Maak was discharged from military service. The delighted young man hurried to go home to meet his dear wife and his child. At sunset, he reached home and met his wife and a child waiting for him. He was very pleased to be able to be reunited with them and hugged both of them. His wife already prepared dinner for him. Maak was now the happiest man on earth, as he could now live with his family. He lived with them for a few days without seeing anything unusual. He only wondered that why his wife rarely went outside and did not let him accompany her while going out.
Despite her effort to blind her husband from reality, she could not prevent him from knowing the truth of her death. So when Maak had some work to do in the village, he met many of his friends who came to greet him.
Suddenly, one of his friends expressed sorrow at the loss of his wife and a child. Maak was deeply puzzled to hear it and insisted that he still lived with his wife and a child happily. His friend tried to convince him that everybody in the village knew about her death and he himself helped bury her body with his own hands. Tired of convincing Maak, his friend finally suggested that in order to prove it Maak should believe in the old sayings that by nature a ghost would not smile or blink their eyes. Above all, the ghost had no reflection in the mirror. (Just like vampires). A friend suggested that he should follow his advice.
On the way home, Maak thought of the words of his friend all the time he was walking home and it seemed inconceivable that as he lived with her all the time and he could touch her body but, at the same time there was no reason for his friend to deceive him either. To find out the truth, he would observe the movement of his wife from now on.
At home, his wife was busy preparing food in the kitchen. He told her a joke and tried to make her laugh, but his wife did not share the joke with him. He looked into her eyes and was surprised to see that his wife did not blink at all. Now he began to have some doubt on the well-being of his wife but again consoled himself it was just a coincidence. To make further proof, he looked for a mirror but could not find a single one in the house.
While stepping into the kitchen again, he saw Naak pounding nam prik (a sauce of shrimp paste and chilli eaten with vegetables and fish) and unexpectedly the lime used as ingredient fell to the ground. Naak suddenly stretched her arm through the floorboard of their elevated wooden house to pick up the fallen fruit on the ground. He was stunned to see the shocking scene which upset him. The frightening husband could not imagine as to how he could spend his love life with a wife who now turned to be a ghost.
Late at night, Maak was still haunted by the horror scene of the evening. He stayed awake thinking of how to escape from his ghost wife. Naak herself noticed the strange behavior of her husband and suspected that he probably knew about her death and was prepared to escape from her. So she did not allow him out of her sight. To be able to escape from his ghost wife, Maak pretended he needed the toilet, which was outside the house but Naak wanted to accompany him.
To convince his suspicious wife, he told her to tie his waist with a string that would enable her to detect his movement. Immediately after his wife agreed with the idea, he walked straight to the water jar downstairs and released the water from the hole which he had punctured during the daytime. The falling water made a noise similar to that of him peeing. He then untied the string from his waist and tied it with the water jar and ran away from home quickly.
After the long disappearance of her husband, Naak became suspicious of him so she pulled the string that was still tight and called his name. When there was no answer from him, she went out to meet him only to find that her husband had already disappeared. The sad and furious ghost hurried to follow her husband who now took refuse in the consecrated assembly hall amidst the Buddhist monks who were chanting. Since it was the holy place, the ghost or any evil spirits could not enter the area. Naak just sat crying for her husband and promised that she would not harm anyone if he agreed to come out and lived with her. He refused her plea and urged her to leave him alone as they were now living in a separate world. He would make merit for her spirit so that she would be reborn again and not to worry about him.
Unable to persuade her husband to come along, Naak then transformed herself into an ugly ghost with a tall body and threatened to strangle to death whoever was an obstacle to her love life. To calm down her spirit, the abbot then told Maak to accept the truth that she was dead and could no longer live in the human world. She should abandon defilement as death was a natural occurrence to all beings on earth.
The furious ghost then told the abbot not to interfere in her personal affairs and warned him to be involved only with his religious duties. Since Maak did not want the monks to be troubled because of him, he ran away from the consecrated assembly hall and sought protection in a bush of the camphor-plant which is said to be inaccessible to a ghost. Unable to approach her husband, Naak could only cry for him and waited for him to come out till daybreak.
Since then every night a ghost of Naak would terrorise the villagers so much so that they had to live in horror. No one could suppress her spirit even the capable exorcist had to run for his life.
Sometime later there was a Buddhist monk Somdej Phra Puttajarn from Thonburi who volunteered to put her tormented soul to rest.
Whatever may be, her spirit now lives in peace, people from near and far come to seek spiritual help from her and urged her spirit to help in time of need.
A fear of mirrors!
Could this be a feature in the third book in the series NO WORRIES?
So far in ‘Children With No Worries’ we start with a clarification of why the kids are like they are.
There are murders galore, and not committed by the little ones, at least not yet.
We have a blissfully happy couple enjoying a beach holiday in Hua Hin. Sadly it all goes wrong! One of them becomes a murderer, and hopes the other gets the blame.
Will this have anything to do with mirrors?
Catoptrophobia or eisoptrophobia, which are the actual medical terms for straight-up fear of mirrors; I’ve been known to waste massive amounts of time using mirrors to do respectable, adult things, like having a shave, I know you would laugh if I said ‘doing my hair’.
Many people, well a few anyway, get scared when placed in a dark room with a mirror.
Why are they fearful of darkened mirrors? Possibly they think that some vengeful ghost is going to come out of the mirror. Or do they think they will accidentally look into a mirror and see that a vengeful, Ring-style ghost just waiting to pop out and eat their brain?
These people suffer from a case of spectrophobia, the fear of ghosts, which is actually often associated with mirrors, because the items hold a lot of supernatural baggage for many of us. But ghosts aren’t the end of it, mirrors play a role in many myths as a place where reality and the supernatural meet. So it makes some sense that our culture has so many enduring legends about mirrors, and that these legends are often creepy.
Surely you’ve had the pleasure of breaking a mirror and having some helpful person inform you that you have now given yourself seven years of bad luck. You probably did not pause to reflect on this idea too deeply, possibly because you were more focused on making sure to not accidentally step on any shards of broken mirror.
But had you decided to look a bit further into it, you would have found that this superstition stems from the ancient myth that holds that the mirror reflects not just one’s external surface, but one’s soul, as well.
All the novels in the ‘No Worries’ series are based in Thailand. The country has plenty of superstitions. Yes, including more than one concerning mirrors. Some families refuse to have mirrors in the bedroom. Not because they are prudish, but because spirits can jump out at them in the dark!
The Ancient Romans believed that the soul regenerated every seven years, so if you messed with a mirror, you had to consider your soul equally messed with for seven years, until you could grow a new one. The most important moral of this story?
You’re doubtless familiar with the game ‘Bloody Mary’? A game where players enter a darkened room, and chant some variation of the phrase “Bloody Mary show your face, into a mirror a varying amount of times. In some versions, you do it in complete darkness; in others, you clutch a candle or flashlight. In some versions, the woman you’re invoking is a murderer; in others, a demon; and in yet other versions, Mary I of England, who was nicknamed “Bloody Mary” during her reign. In all versions, when you’re done with the ritual, a ghoulish woman is supposed to lunge out of the mirror.
This myth is the basis of the still-good, 1992 horror movie Candyman . However, in the roots of this story not in an actual ghost who liked to victimise people through the looking glass, but in an older ritual where young women chanted a special incantation in front of a darkened mirror in order to try and get a look at their future husband. Why was he in the mirror? Were he and Bloody Mary having a thing? We’ll never know.
What if you do actually see something in the mirror while you’re parading around in the dark, invoking a deceased British royal? Odds are that you’re simply experiencing the Caputo Effect, a psychological effect that leads us to react to sensory deprivation with imagination. When the effect was studied in a lab by placing subjects in front of a darkened mirror for several minutes, they began to think they saw the image of a different face in it, when in reality, they were seeing their own reflection, with added details created by their minds.
Also, it’s definitely not Queen Mary I coming for you through your bathroom mirror, she got that name due to her taste for putting Protestants to death while trying to re-establish Catholicism as the reigning religion in 16 th century England.
A new twist on the classic mirror game, involves setting up candles, a fan, mirrors, three chairs, one that you sit in and two that you place mirrors upon, and then engaging in a series of ritual actions that are supposed to allow spirits or creatures of some sort to take up residence in the mirrors, occupying the roles of ‘queen’ and ‘fool’ and answering your questions.
If you do play this game and happen to see a being in one of the mirrors, which are you supposed to only gaze at indirectly? And if you hear answers? Well, it might just be a case of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where you perceive a pattern where one does not actually exist, which can cover everything from seeing a stain that looks like the Virgin Mary to, yes, hearing words in the rhythmic whirring of a fan.
Maybe you are communicating with demons.
Of course, the ‘Bloody Mary’ legend isn’t just based on some harmless, pre-online dating romantic fun; it also seems to draw from the ancient, cross-cultural myth that the dead and mirrors interact quite poorly.
In Jewish culture, when someone dies, all mirrors are covered in the house while the members of the household mourn for a week, engaging in a practice called “sitting shiva.” According to some old Jewish myths, this is because demons visit homes where there has been tragedy or loss, and while they cannot be seen with the naked eye, one can see their reflection in mirrors. Keeping the mirrors covered keeps mourners, who are already dealing with enough problems, from being startled by the sight of these death-loving goblins. More commonly, reasoning holds that the mirrors are covered because praying before mirrors creates a chance that the person praying could become distracted.
In some German and Dutch cultures in the past, mirrors were covered up after a death because it was believed that catching a glimpse of yourself after a member of your household died meant that you would go next.
Some historians have documented an older Chinese superstition that held that if a corpse is taken past an uncovered mirror, they will become a ghost.
Old Irish beliefs also held that the soul of a dead person could become trapped inside a mirror that was brought near the body. Rituals involving the covering of mirrors after death were also found in some Indian, English, and Scottish cultures.
In Victorian culture, the practice of covering mirrors became non-denominational; supposedly all the mirrors were covered when Abraham Lincoln’s body was laid out in the White House.
What are you supposed to take away from all of this? Beware of mirrors? Or at the very least, don’t stare into them in a darkened room? It’s not for me to say; but I hope the next time someone tells you about messing up their back moving a hotel bed away from a mirror because it was just too freaky for them, you’ll have a little more empathy.
‘Worry No More’ is published on 9th December. No mirrors involved. There may be in ‘Children With No Worries’, you’ll have to wait and see! Happy reading.
You know I like spooky things? I enjoy horror movies, well some of them. I do love Stephen King books, (most of them). Most readers know I live in Thailand, what a mix, spooky stories and local scares!
Over the next few weeks, I will blog on Thai creatures from mythology. You may have seen them, they creep up on you when you are not looking! Not really, they are plastered everywhere. Even used to decorate stamps.
Want to know more? Read on.
The vast collection and variety of odd/spooky hybrid creatures that have jumped from mythology and religion to our everyday lives, at least if you live here!
Experts are confused by the grotesque creatures. The different designs, the history and naturally – what they can do!
Perhaps the most striking of them is the Himmapan creatures, mythical beings that are said to inhabit the legendary Himmapan forest supposedly located in the Himalaya Mountains. But how did they get here? Who brought them and why?
According to the legend, the jungle and its creatures remain invisible to human eyes. How come Thai artists who have been reproducing the bizarre and fantastic shapes of the mythical beasts in great detail for many generations.
Although sometimes referred to as beasts or animals, the Himmapan creatures are in fact rather complicated animal-based hybrids, frequently combining body parts of many animals (including humans) seen as representing different elements. Some of the more prominent creatures are those based on the body of a lion, a bird, or a horse, although these are by far not the only combinations.
Perhaps the most popular Thai human-bird creature is the swan-bottomed Thep Kinnaree seen as the embodiment of grace. Having said that, although promoted as the epitome of loveliness, some tales describe Kinnaree’s taste for human blood, which makes her the closest equivalent to a vampire we can find in Thailand. The male counterpart of Kinnaree is known as Kinnara or Thep Kinna Norn.
A Thai Vampire?
One of the most popular Thai human-bird, a creature which is the swan-bottomed Thep Kinnaree seen as the embodiment of grace. Having said that, although promoted as the epitome of loveliness, some tales describe Kinnaree’s taste for human blood, which makes her the closest equivalent to a vampire we can find in Thailand. The male counterpart of Kinnaree is known as Kinnara or Thep Kinna Norn.
Do you want to hear more Kinnaree Vampire tales? So do I. My wife is busy translating some.
Kinnara looks almost exactly like Kinnaree minus the breasts. Taking into consideration the feminine features of the male Kinnaras and the small breasts of the female Kinnarees, it’s easy to get confused.
Thep Puksee, looks pretty much the same as Kinnara, apart from the fact that it is supposed to have human legs. Also, its bottom seems to resemble that of a chicken rather than a swan.
DON’T FORGET DECEMBER 9th ‘Worry No More’ is published.