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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mae Naak - A Thai Ghost Story

There is no Thai who does not know Mae Naak. While mentioning her can make young children run and scream hysterically in the "Nang Naak game", mothers invoke Mae Naak's name to quiet their crying infants; otherwise, the ghost might break their necks and eat their heads with chilly sauce. The gothic tale of Mae Naak Phra Khanong has been filmed more than twenty times; moreover, every one of them is a box-office hit. Thai youths grow up watching her ghostly tale on television.

Whether Nang Naak was a real person or just a fabrication is still as mysterious as the myth itself. There is no historical evidence of her existence. However, most Thais tend to believe her story is genuine, or at least some parts are. Popular legend tells that she was born in the Phra Khanong area of Bangkok about a hundred and thirty years ago during the later period of King Rama IV (1851 - 1868) and died of childbirth complications some eighteen years later in the early part of King Rama V's regime (1868 - 1910). Others assume that she lived during the reign of King Rama III (1841 - 1851). Some believers even date her presence back to more than two hundred years ago in mid-eighteen century Ayutthaya.

Likewise, the detailed background of Nang Naak also varies from one tale to another, from being an ordinary farm girl to the daughter of the village chief. Nonetheless, her doomed fate and horrible deed stay the same. It begins as a love story. A teenage girl named Naak falls deeply in love with a handsome young man, Nai Maak. Some sources state that the couple are childhood lovers who grow up together, while another version take on the more tragic flavor of "Romeo and Juliet" in which their romance is opposed by Nang Naak's wealthy and powerful father, for Maak is of poorer and lower origin. No matter how harsh or smooth the situation is, they eventually manage to be together. Shortly after they get married, Nai Maak is conscripted for military service, involuntarily leaving his pregnant bride behind with tear and fear. The dutiful wife waits for her lover's return, but that day never comes in her lifetime. Haplessly, Nang Naak dies during labor along with her unborn child. Although they are buried instantly according to local tradition, her strong spirit refuses to perish. When Nai Maak comes back from the war, the ghost of Nang Naak disguises herself and her "infant son" as humans. Their uncanny reunion is sweet but brief. Despite her arduous effort to blind Nai Maak to reality, Nang Naak cannot prevent him from learning the truth of her death. The revelation itself provides one of the most memorable scenes in the story when Maak sees his wife grotesquely stretching her arm through the floorboard of their elevated house to pick up a fallen lime, or a knife in another version, on the ground.

The supernatural romance then transforms into a macabre horror. The terrified husband runs away, and the scary ghost follows. There are many gory accounts of how Nang Naak chases, harasses, and even kills whoever comes between Maak and her. In order to get rid of the gruesome spirit, the villagers resort to all the possible religious means including exorcist and voodoo shaman, which soon prove to be futile.

Another rendition states that Maak remarries after the death of Nang Naak. The jealous ghost is enraged, and she terrorizes the new couple along with the miserable community. In all versions, Maak finally takes refugee in the Mahabute temple. Defying the monks, Nang Naak persists and pursues. At last, a gifted young novice from far away comes to the village and rests her tormented soul.

Certain versions claim it is the venerated Somdej Phra Puttajan from Thonburi who seizes the fierce spirit, whereas some editions combine the two together as the heroes. In all cases, the Buddhist representative imprisons Nang Naak in a ceramic pot and drops it in the river. In some of the renditions, the skull of Nang Naak is made into a belt buckle by the monk, which passes into the possession of the Prince of Chumporn and then disappears.

Maak nevertheless, becomes a monk in some versions, and in others, he begins a new family and lives happily ever after. Yet this otherworldly saga of love and revenge does not end there. Numerous stories about Mae Naak's reappearances are widely and frequently spread, from Bangkok to Pattani, casting her in many roles from being a guiding angel to an enraged ghost.

The story of Mae Nak Phra Khanong (or simply Mae Nak) is a well known and popular Thai ghost story. The story, as told, happened during the reign of King Mongkut, concerning the beautiful Mae Nak (literally "Miss Nak"), a native of Phra Khanong in Bangkok, and her husband, Mak.

With Nak pregnant, Mak is called off to war (in some versions of the story the war is against the Shan tribe, while others are not specific), and is severely injured. While he is being nursed in central Bangkok, both Nak and the child she is carrying die during childbirth. When Mak eventually returns home, however, he is cast under a spell and finds his loving wife and his new child waiting for him and nothing wrong. Neighbours, who try to tell Mak of the death of his wife and to warn him that he is living with her ghost, meet with grisly ends.

One day, while Nak is preparing nam phrik, she drops a lime down to the cellar. In her haste, the ghost extends her arm to pick the lemon from the upper floor through the floor's hole, not knowing that Mak saw the whole event. Terrified, Mak realises she is a a ghost, and connives to flee. At night, Mak lies to Nak by saying that he wants to get out of the hut to urinate at down floor. He then breaks a little hole in an earthen jar which is filled with water, so that Nak will think that he is urinating, and Mak flees.

After discovering her husband's leaving, Nak pursues him. Mak sees his wife's ghost and conceals himself in a Blumea bush. It is traditionally believed that ghosts are afraid of Blumea. Mak then runs to the temple of Wat Mahabut, where Nak cannot enter the holy area. Nak subsequently terrorises the people of Phra Khanong as she expresses her anger with them for helping Mak to leave her.

Eventually, Nak's ghost is exorcised by a powerful exorcist, who confines her within an earthen pot which is thrown into the river.

There are several versions of the story at this point. In one, an old couple, new residents to Phra Khanong, acquire the ghost pot while fishing, while in another it is two fisherman (age and residency unknown) who dredge up the bottle. Nak is then freed by the unwitting couple, or the fisherman (depending on which version you read).

Eventually, Nak is suppressed by the venerable monk, Somdet Phra Phutthachan (To Phrommarangsi), and again there are several versions of the story. In one, the monk confines her within the bone of her corpse's forehead, and binds that bone within his waistband (and, according to a legend, the waistband passes through the hands of various persons and is currently in the possession of royalty). In another, the monk foretells that in a future life Nak will be reunited with her husband, and so the ghost voluntarily leaves for her next life.

Mae Nak's story is popular because of her true love and devotion for Mak.

A Chinese Ghost story

The lady at the window

Actually this story happened to my mom. It was during the 60’s, when she was still sleeping with her brothers and sisters in one house. They have inherited a big house from my grandfather (he was a doctor), so having a couple of her cousins sleeping over is not a problem. Their house was built near a river with a wooden bridge over it (you’ll know what the wooden bridge is about later on my story).

Here’s where her story begins. All of them came home late from a party (back in the 60’s parties were great and being invited to one means you are popular), they were all tired and decided to call it a night and went to their own rooms. My mom was staying with 2 of her sisters in one room. Her bed was located right beside a big window that’s made out of wood and would just open from the middle then the shatters will just slide from side to side.

That night, due to excessive drinking, my mom woke up because she needs to go to the bathroom. So she went and went back to bed. When she was about to doze off, she could feel something or someone was watching her. She opened her eyes and she saw a lady with long black hair outside their window, she was also wearing a black dress and her eyes were red. The lady was staring at her with a creepy grin on her face. My mom couldn’t move. The scary part of it was my mom’s room was located at the second floor; in short the lady was floating.

She tried to call her sisters but they could not hear her. She felt so scared and just covered her self with her quilt. After a few minutes, she tried to check if the lady was gone but when she peeped out of her quilt, the lady was still there, staring and grinning at her. She just decided to just hide herself under quilt and eventually she had fallen asleep.

The next day, everybody went down for breakfast. My mom did too, even though she was tired due to what happened that night. She did not try to tell everybody because they would just think that she was dreaming. Then a guy cousin of her came out looking as if he hadn’t slept all night and just freaked out on them saying that he saw a lady outside their window (the boy’s bedroom was located on the first floor). Then he described what he saw, my mom realized that he was describing the same lady she saw outside her window. So she decided to tell them on what happened to her that night. Most of them were skeptical.

Later that week, my mom was just about to get in their house when she saw a big commotion beside the wooden bridge. There were a lot of people looking over with the police too. She saw that her cousin was one of the spectators. When he saw her, he just ran to her and said that somebody found a sack with a dead girl inside. Later in the news, they post a picture of the girl and it was the lady my mom and uncle saw.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Some Japanese horror legends

'And then, when he saw the other side of the car, where his date had been sitting not 15 minutes earlier, on the door handle, hung . . . a bloody . . . HOOK!"

It's always happened to someone's friend or their brother or sister. And it's always just one or two steps removed from you, and close enough to a credible source that will temporarily disable your internal BS detector.

Anyone who has ever spent a few idle hours trading stories with their friends will know some of the most common urban legends -- the crazy man with a hook for a hand, the prank-calling murderer, the human finger found in a can of soup.

Occupying a place on the pop culture shelf somewhere between the Guinness Book of Records and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, urban legends are the modern mutation of traditional oral culture, sharing chills as well as warnings and values to all who care to listen.

According to the "How Stuff Works" Web site, urban legends can be subtle or not-so-subtle lessons (finger in soup equals beware of processed food), moral warnings (don't engage in pre-marital sexual activity in parked cars or something really bad will happen to you) or are just simple bastardizations of actual stories that have had bits and pieces added on for entertainment value as they are passed from person to person.

In Japan, fantastical storytelling is rampant in anime and manga, and Japanese ghost stories have been a topic of much interest in academic circles as well as those who just looking for a good scare.

Here's a selection of some of Japan's most famous:

"Toire no Hanako-san"

A young girl raises her hand in class. She has to use the facilities.

As she walks down the hallway and enters the bathroom, she becomes uncomfortably aware that she is completely alone.

But an eerie feeling steals over her as she walks by the empty stalls -- one, two, three. As she walks, she gets the feeling that she is no longer alone, and there is a presence with her in the bathroom.

As she passes the fourth stall, she sees a gleaming pair of eyes staring back at her.

This is Hanako-san.

Found in every elementary school in Japan, Hanako-san, or more formally, "Toire no Hanako-san," inhabits the fourth stall of the girl's bathroom.

The ubiquitous ghost is sometimes rumored to be the spirit of a suicide prompted by "ijime," or bullying, but is also known to just be there, for no reason.

In fact, Hanako-san doesn't seem to really do that much except scare the hell out of the kids that need to use the restroom.

The story is well-known enough to have been made into a horror movie ("Toire no Hanako-san") that, in true horror film form, spawned a sequel ("Shinsei Toire no Hanako-san").

"Kuchisake onna"

It is a dark and dreary night.

Cruising down a deserted country road, a lone driver rubs his eyes and fights to stay awake.

As the car takes a turn, a beautiful woman hails from the side of the road.

She is wearing flowing white. The driver, entranced, pulls by the side of the road to give the woman a lift. As she approaches the car he sees that her eyes are stunning, her body, lithe and graceful, a true beauty.

The lower half of her face is draped with a white cloth.

After slipping into the back seat and waiting for the car to resume its journey, the woman asks the man, "Am I beautiful?"

He answers, "Yes, you are beautiful," his eyes flicking toward the rear-view mirror to catch a glimpse of his passenger's face.

As he does so, however, she pulls the cloth from her face, revealing a horrible gash of a mouth, sliced from ear to ear, with a red tongue twisting in it's cavern.

Through the driver's subsequent screams, all that can be heard is "Am I beautiful? Am I beautiful? Am I . . ." repeated over and over again.

An alternative version of this story has "Kuchisake onna," or the "Split-faced women" -- who can reportedly run 100 meters in 3 seconds -- chasing and disfiguring young children. This tale gained large currency around Japan in 1979, for some reason. It's also been reported that Kuchisake onna can be distracted by throwing fruit at her, leaving the intended victim with just enough time to make his or her escape.

Treacherous customer

A taxi driver is traveling down a lonely mountain road.

A person steps out of the darkness to hail a ride. After getting into the back seat, the passenger asks the cabbie to take him to a place the cabbie has never heard of.

No matter, the passenger assures him, if the cabbie doesn't know the way, he can give him directions. The cabbie shrugs his assent and they drive off down the road.

The passenger proceeds to give the cabbie increasingly complex directions, through small towns, down back streets, out into the country again.

As he drives through the misty night, the cabbie becomes increasingly uneasy, after all, they have been driving for quite a while.

As he turns to ask the passenger in the back exactly where they are, he is shocked to find that the passenger has disappeared . . . just as his taxi drives over the edge of a cliff.


"Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san."

Two girls, sitting across from each other over a paper scrawled with the hiragana alphabet grasp a pen between them, chanting the name softly. "Kokkuri-san, Kokkuri-san, tell me, when is the date of my death?"

The question hangs in the air as the pen slowly begins to move, spelling the answer out on the sheet of paper. The rest of the group watches in breathless anticipation.

Kokkuri-san, Japan's answer to the Ouija board, has graced schoolrooms across the country for years with answers from the beyond.

In this game, the hiragana alphabet is drawn on a piece of paper, and two people hold a pen, ballpoint touching the paper, in the center.

Closing their eyes, they ask "Kokkuri-san" a question, and the spirit is supposed to move the pen in an answer.

According to a Japanese friend, much like Ouija, most people realize that the other person is moving the pen purposefully, but everyone makes their dutiful squeals of "sugoi!" and "kowaii!" anyway.

Also, in line with its Ouija board counterpart, the game has been subject fodder for horror movies such as the aforementioned "Shinsei no Toilet no Hanako-san," and one called simply "Kokkuri-san."


The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Anneliese Michel (September 21, 1952 – July 1, 1976) was a German Catholic woman who was said to be possessed by demons and subsequently underwent an exorcism. Two motion pictures, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Requiem, are loosely based on Michel's story.

Michel experienced what is recognized by medical professionals as severe psychiatric disturbances from the age of 16 to her death, at age 23 from malnutrition secondary to mental illness. She apparently intended her death by starvation to "atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church".

After several years of ineffective psychiatric treatment, she refused medical treatment and requested an exorcism. Both priests who performed the exorcism and Michel's parents were convicted of negligent manslaughter because they did not seek medical treatment (for her refusal to eat) on her behalf and over her objections.

Early life

Anneliese Michel was born September 1952 in Klingenberg, Bavaria, Germany. Michel was raised in a strict Catholic family. A devout girl, she tried to make reparations for the sins of wayward priests and drug addicts by sleeping on a bare floor in the middle of winter.

In 1968, Anneliese was 16 and still in high school, she began to suffer from convulsions. Court findings have her experiencing her first epileptic attack in 1969. It was then that a neurologist at the Psychiatric Clinic W├╝rzburg diagnosed her with grand mal epilepsy.

Psychiatric treatment and exorcism

Soon, Anneliese started experiencing devilish hallucinations while praying. She also began to hear voices, which told her that she was damned. By 1973 Anneliese was suffering from depression and considering suicide. Her behavior became increasingly bizarre: she tore off her clothes, ate coal, and licked up her own urine.

Being admitted to an unnamed psychiatric hospital did not improve Michel's health. Moreover, her depression began to deepen. She grew increasingly frustrated with medical intervention as it did not improve her condition. Long-term medical treatment proved unsuccessful; her condition, including her depression, worsened with time.

Having centered her life around devout Catholic faith, Michel began to attribute her condition to demonic possession. Michel became intolerant of sacred places and objects, such as the crucifix, which she attributed to her own demonic possession. Throughout the course of the religious rites Michel underwent, she was prescribed antipsychotic drugs, which she may or may not have stopped taking.

In June 1970, Michel suffered a third seizure at the psychiatric hospital she had been staying in and was prescribed anticonvulsants for the first time. The name of this drug is not known, and it did not bring about immediate alleviation of Michel's symptoms.

She also continued talking about what she called "devil faces", seen by her during various times of the day. Michel became convinced that conventional medicine was of no help. Growing increasingly adamant that her illness was of a spiritual kind, she appealed to the Church to perform an exorcism on her.

That same month, she was prescribed another drug, Aolept (pericyazine), which is a phenothiazine with general properties similar to those of chlorpromazine: pericyazine is used in the treatment of various psychoses, including schizophrenia and disturbed behavior.

In November 1973, Michel started her treatment with Tegretol (carbamazepine), which is an antiepileptic drug. Michel took this medicine frequently, until shortly before her death.

Exorcism and death

In 1975, when Anneliese was 23 years old, an older woman who accompanied Anneliese Michel on a pilgrimage concluded that Anneliese was suffering from demonic possession because Michel was unable to walk past a certain icon of Jesus Christ and refused to drink the water of a holy spring.

An exorcist in a nearby town examined Michel and returned a diagnosis of demonic possession.[1] The bishop issued permission to perform the rite of exorcism according to the Rituale Romanum of 1614.

She and her parents were convinced that she was possessed. After years of unsuccessful psychiatric treatments, they gave up on medical treatment and chose to rely solely on the exorcisms for healing. The rites of exorcism were performed over the course of about ten months in 1976. A total of sixty-seven exorcism sessions were held, one or two each week, some lasting up to four hours. Michel at this time was refusing medical care, refusing to eat, and talking about her death being a form of atonement for other people's sins.

On July 1, 1976, Anneliese Michel died in her sleep. The autopsy report stated that her death resulted from the malnutrition and dehydration due to almost a year of semi-starvation during which time the rites of exorcism were also performed.