A recent taxi ride turned spooky when, totally out of the blue, my driver asked: "Do you believe in ghosts?"
"Yes, of course," I replied, nodding in the direction of the rear-view mirror. Then I added my two satangs of quasi-scientific reasoning: "Ghosts may be the energy remaining after people lose their physical existence."
"You know what? A ghost was right there on the bonnet of this cab and he was knocking on the windscreen, asking to use my body as a vessel for his spirit," the taxi driver said, tripping over words in his eagerness to share. "Whenever I tell people about this, they think I'm crazy."
I assured him that he wasn't crazy and on reaching my destination, Siriraj Hospital, I got out without discovering how he proposed to deal with that request to "borrow" his body.
Only then did it hit me. Had I just been in a haunted taxi? Was there an "invisible someone" sitting on the back seat next to me? And what I was wondering, most of all, was whether that talkative driver hadn't already given into the spirit's demand.
I will pause at this point. For, before I can continue writing this piece, I have to show respect to the supernatural world. I need to make a wai and ask for permission to discuss paranormal encounters I myself have had. We Thais, after all, set great store by the expression mai chuea ya lob lu, which can be translated roughly as: even if you don't believe (in ghosts, other religions or spiritual practices, etc), don't show disrespect.
So now I can proceed. Please carry on reading.
Another incident that still has me questioning the existence of ghosts happened while I was doing my morning exercises in the park near my house. I saw a man standing in the middle of a group of retired ladies who were taking a break from their tai chi routine.
This 60-something man looked odd, and not only because he was wearing a grey safari suit: one whole side of his face appeared to be badly battered. The first thing that occurred to me was that the poor man needed immediate medical treatment.
I took no action, however, and I was never to see him again. But my delayed sensitivity to the presence of a supernatural being is now telling me that what I saw in broad daylight in the park that day was a ghost.
Which reminds me that a fortune-teller once told me that I had a sixth sense, but that I wasn't making use of it. Frankly, I don't want to, as I'm perfectly content with the other five that I have.
Currently airing on Channel 3, The Sixth Sense demonstrates the trouble stirred up when one has a special sensitivity to the supernatural. The TV series focuses on five fictional girls, all of whom were born on the same date but have been endowed with different skills that allow them to connect to the spirit world. One, a cute, doll-like creature can spot scary ghosts everywhere so she dons dark glasses to stop seeing them.
Another character is invariably plugged into headphones in order to block out the voices of the dead.
A third girl has to wear gloves all the time; otherwise she sees weird things when her hands touch certain things.
My 11-year-old niece fancies herself as an aggressive member of the quintet called Sukontharos, who can detect ghosts by their odour and who use white magic to combat evil spirits.
The Sixth Sense is peopled by characters drawn from five different novels and is clearly fiction, so watching it doesn't really give you the creeps. Much more spine-tingling stuff is to be found in Channel 5's Khon Aoud Phee (People Daring Ghosts), a variety show that is supposed to be based on real supernatural encounters (although several critics have slammed the whole thing as an elaborate hoax).
Manning the show's Ghost Relief Centre, in-house expert Riew Jit Samphas gives advice to people who feel they have experienced paranormal activities. In another segment of this (appropriately) late-night show takes viewers on ghost hunts to cemeteries, haunted houses and places where people committed suicide or were murdered.
A reality show in a similar vein is Modernine's Ghost Mission which explores supposedly haunted places to prove that ghosts really do exist.
The profusion of TV programmes dealing with the supernatural reflects the extent to which Thais believe in ghosts, perhaps the hardest of all beliefs to shake, or alter.
That taxi driver and I are certainly true believers. What about you?
Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram