About 100 years ago a woman named Nang Naak lived in Bangkok. Her husband was a soldier and went off to war in Cambodia. She was in the early stages of pregnancy when he left.
While her husband was away at war, Nang Naak and child died during childbirth. Her husband returned home and found his wife and daughter waiting for him. He sat happily in his tidy house talking with his family.
All of the villagers knew that Nang Naak and the child had died. The husband was actually sitting in a dilapidated home talking to no one. When they tried to tell him, he got angry and refused to believe their nonsense.
The villagers summoned the abbot of their temple to talk to Nang Naak’s husband. He refused to believe the abbot.
One day as he was talking with his family he bent over and looked between his legs. He could not see them. Just as ghosts cast no reflection in a mirror, ghosts cannot be seen when peering between your own legs. The husband now knew that what the villagers and abbot had told him was true. His wife and child were ghosts.
The husband, villagers, monks, and the abbot of the town all went to Nang Naak’s grave. Because Nang Naak had died an untimely death, she was buried and not cremated to prevent her from returning from the dead, as is the custom. Everyone sat at the grave and prayed.
During the exorcism, Nang Naak sat up from her grave. Her face was young and beautiful at first but it rapidly deteriorated into a corpse. The abbot cut a piece of her skull away and asked her to go to her proper place. She returned to her grave.
A temple was built next to her burial place. The abbot kept the piece of her skull. He gave it to the monks at his temple to take care of but it has since been lost. The story of Nang Naak was recently made into a movie. And that is the story of Nang Naak as told to be by a group of four people. As her temple was only fifteen minutes away by car, off we went.
Nang Naak temple is only one of several buildings on the monastery grounds. Taking a walking tour through the grounds in the direction of the grave one first arrives at a very large tent with about 20 fortune-tellers offering their services behind the main temple. A fortune-telling machine is also on hand.
Next there is a section of a tree that has been hit by lightening held horizontally on pillars. This section of tree belongs to one of the trees Nang Naak is buried under next to her temple. Its surface is coated with wax. People rub the tree so that winning lottery numbers appear.
Next one arrives at an area where many fish, eels, turtles, and birds are caged. For 10-50 baht (40 baht is about one US dollar) the animals can be purchased and set free into the river or air as a merit or ‘good karma’ gesture.
There are many spirit houses with hundreds of statues and offerings piled on them throughout the area. Every tree has brightly colored ribbon tied around it. There are many people making religious offerings or setting animals free. It is a busy place.
You know you are at the temple of Nang Naak when the air becomes thick with incense. Piles of flowers and food are on her altar. A golden statue of Nang Naak sits inside the temple and it is coated with small pieces of thin gold pressed to it by visitors. Hundreds of beautiful dresses hang on every wall. Baskets filled with cosmetics are placed in front of the statue. Piles of children’s clothing and toys are stacked neatly. A soccer ball hangs from one shelf. These are all gifts to Nang Naak and her child.
There is a television placed within comfortable viewing distance directly in front of the statue of Nang Naak. She was watching the Olympic games when I was there.
The keeper of the house explained that Nang Naak told a medium that she wished to watch television. It is turned on in the morning and switched off every evening. There is a second television on standby in case the one she is currently viewing breaks. Motorcycles, cars, and other televisions have also been donated to the temple on behalf of Nang Naak.
Males get chosen for two years of mandatory military service in the Thai army by lottery. Those who wish to not get chosen go to Nang Naak’s temple to ask for luck. Those who wish for luck in love or the lottery also pay her a visit.
One thing is clear: Nang Naak is well looked after by many people. She may be looking after them as well.