A ghost hunting team of Thai students from a university club in Bangkok search an abandoned for spirits. The popularity of paranormal activities is nothing new in Thailand but modern media and technology has made it an attractive hobby for many in Thailand. (Source: PA / Joy Manida Thiensophon)

Many younger and urban Thais have developed a passion for ghost hunting as part of social network and media phenomenon in the country.

Ghost hunting becomes popular in Thailand

Younger Thais are turning to the occult and supernatural for thrills as the sport and leisure activity of ghost hunting becomes increasingly popular. The craze has embedded itself among many younger urban Thais supported by social media, radio, TV and the Thai film industry. The craze fits into a particular aspect of Thailand culture and tradition. While the Thai ‘Luk Thep’ dolls craze may have abated somewhat, it is still popular with many in Thailand particularly the middle aged. While that story has made its mark in countries all over the world, the ongoing interest in ghosts among younger Thais is less noticed but a longer established phenomenon.

Spirit dolls craze highlights Thai cultural beliefs

Indeed it is true to say that at the beginning of the year, Thailand shocked with the world with the ‘Luk Thep’ spirit dolls craze.As well as being an international news story with legs, it also posed real problems in Thailand for authorities. An airline has to clarify seating requirements on planes, police found a luk theep dolls stuffed with illegal drugs with while the Prime Minister cautioned Thais about taking the whole thing too seriously. His comments came in mild terms, anxious not offended religious sensibilities of Thais whose Buddhist beliefs are very deeply held. Eventually the Thai Office of Buddhism had to confirm to the public, as the craze continued, that blessing a spirit doll was similar to the blessings of rooms, buildings and cars that is a ritual with most Thais.

Foreigners shocked at Thai belief in ghosts

Many foreigners to Thailand are often impressed and sometimes dismayed that the inherent belief that the majority of Thai people have in ghosts. In recent years a ghost seen at Government House in Bangkok as well as reports that spirits at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport were not happy, were taken seriously by Thai authorities.

In movies and TV programmes on Thai television, ghosts and ghost legends are often part of the storyline. It should therefore come as no surprise that a new craze in Thailand involves groups of young people forming ghost hunting clubs throughout the country.

Abandoned ghost house in Bangkok with Thai ghost hunters

At a local university club, the team arrive late at night or in the early hours of the morning at an abandoned house in Bangkok. The house has been abandoned for fifteen years and shows all the outward signs including flaking paint and battered windows. A member of the ghost hunting club Aerin Sathiwong tells of the tragedy behind the state of disrepair. The house was abandoned after the wife’s suicide,’ she says. ‘She killed herself because her baby had died and no one has moved in since because the place is haunted. As she speaks, she is taking out a recording device and camera equipment. Other members of the ghost hunting group are also setting up facilities which will be used in the search for the spirit that they believe resides in the house.

The groups pay particular attention to the nursery and the room where the Thai woman hanged herself. Aerin tells the reporters that as well as an interest in finding out about ghosts, there is also the thrill and element of fun involved in the activity.

Trend in Thailand towards paranormal activities

The trend in ghost hunting and exploration of paranormal activities has been growing in Thailand for the last seven or eight years. It follows a similar trend in the United Kingdom and Europe. However the trend in Thailand seems to be gaining more traction perhaps because it chimes with Thai culture and a growing interest among the population in the paranormal.

Thai DJ gives shock radio a new meaning with nightly ghost reports

Kapol Thongplab, or DJ Phong, of Shock Radio prepares for his nightly radio show in which listeners call in to share their ghost stories, Bangkok, Thailand, 22 October 2015. Photo: Cod Satrusayang/dpa
Kapol Thongplab or DJ Phong hosts a very popular nightly radio programme in which listeners phone in to report ghost sightings and experiences. Shock radio gives a whole new Thai meaning to the radio term. (Source: Cod Satrusayang – DPA)

One Thai DJ gives a whole new meaning to shock radio which is the name of his nightly radio show in which Thai listeners call into to share their experiences. Kapol Thongplab also know as DJ Phong, admits that those involved in the craze may be lacking in a certain amount of reverence for the spirits but his radio programme has become one of Thailand’s best rated and he also produces a television show which investigates hauntings throughout Thailand. ‘It’s not new, Thais have been obsessed with ghost stories and spirits since I was very little, the DJ told reporters recently, what is new are these ghost hunting teams that have only sprung up in the last five or six years.’ The DJ attributes the rise in the phenomenon to the growth of social media and believes it provides an outlet for younger people in Thailand to communicate and network.

Radio DJ has strikes cautionary note for Thai ghost hunting fans

However DJ Phong does have a cautionary note. ’We try to warn younger generations that there are real risks investigating these places.’ The popular DJ host points out that when his TV show visits a location, full permission is sought from locals including police. Some older and religious Thais have expressed reservations about the new trend. ‘They have very little respect when they go to these places,’ Luang Phee Phrom, a Buddhist monk in Bangkok told reporters from a news website. The monk pointed that it is Buddhist belief that any ghosts that exist are in a vulnerable position between this life and whatever lies beyond. ‘These spirits are stuck and cannot be reincarnate,’ the monks told reporters. ‘They often have unfinished business or have experienced the deepest tragedy.’ While Thai monks do perform exorcisms, such activities do not involve destroying the ghost. The Buddhist monk points out that the exercises aims to ask the ghost to move on to the next life and also involves blessing the house or property as well as the people who are suffering because of the manifestation.

Old and new ways must live together – Thai anthropologist

Parinya Laohateeranon is an anthropologist who works for the Thai government. ‘There is bound to be a conflict whenever the old world clashes with the new.’ she says. The government official points to a recent exorcism ceremony to remove ghosts from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology building in Bangkok as an example of how in Thailand old ways and new ways live together. ‘For the most part, Thailand is still a very Buddhist and animist society, we see spirits in trees, in the land, protecting homes and to disrespect them is very taboo,’ she says.