Spirits, ghosts, deities and other mysterious phenomena hold a very important place in Thai life, culture and history. One does not even need to ask a Thai person whether or not they believe in ghosts because you can almost be certain the answer will be yes.
One of the most well-known and revered ghosts is the spirit of Mae Nak.
The original story of Mae Nak took place in the mid 1800’s. Nak was a beautiful young woman who was married to a man named Maak, who she loved with all of her heart and soul.
The two lived in a house near the Phra Khanong River just south of Bangkok in a stilted house in the forest. Maak and Nak lived together for a while and Nak became pregnant. Soon after finding out about the pregnancy however, her beloved Maak was sent off to war.
While he was gone Nak fell victim to child bearing complications and neither she nor the baby survived. Instead of crossing over, her spirit clung to this realm with the love that she had for her husband. Nak returned to their house along the shores of the river and waited for her husband to come home from the war.
Maak eventually returned home via boat and the two were overjoyed to be in each other’s arms again.
It didn’t take long at all for the villagers, who knew what had happened to his wife during the birth of their child to start talking. Everyone took notice of Maak’s believing that he lived with his family still.
Several villagers attempted to speak to him about the situation but Maak only shouted in anger at any who attempted to tell him anything about what had happened. His loving wife Nak however, would terrorize and kill any villagers who talked to Maak.
Maak finally saw the truth for himself one day when Nak believed she was alone. She was cooking in the kitchen and dropped a lime on the ground. Not knowing that her husband had returned from being out in the forest, she stretched her arm more than two meters without moving from her spot.
Needless to say, Maak was terrified. As they prepare for bed that night he told his wife that he needed to urinate and headed outside. Maak instead fled into the night.
Nak quickly realized what had happened and a chase ensued. Maak, desperate with fear, fled into the nearby Wat Mahabut, where Nak would be unable to follow as a spirit. Maak sought and found sanctuary among the monk residents at the temple.
Mae Nak hovered outside of the temple, wailing for Maak to come back to her. The residents of the town could hear her wails echoing through the streets. When Maak refused to come out, she turned on the town and its inhabitants.
A powerful monk by the name of Luang Por Toh trapped Mae Nak in a relic made from her dug up remains. The re
lic is said to have made its way into the possession of the Thai royal family where it is guarded to ensure Mae Nak cannot be released upon the world again.
While her soul may finally be silent, the memory of Mae Nak lives on very vividly through tales handed down through family. The location that has the greatest impact for the Mae Nak story is Wat Mahabut, where a shrine is set up to her. Visitors come yearly to pay their respects and to ward off spirits. The story of Mae Nak has also been turned into several television dramas and movies throughout the years.