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Always full house: flowers, figures and even drinks – with such offerings, the Thai keep their spirits happy.

There is haunted in the house opposite, there is no doubt about that. At least the street vendors are in this alley Bangkok firmly convinced of it. The "First House" looks inconspicuous from the outside. An unadorned hotel in a busy corner of Pathum Wan. A bored security guard is standing in front of the entrance, unsuspecting Chinese tourists come and go.

The dealers preferred to position themselves across the street. Taxis and wheelbarrow workers struggle through the alley between them and the hotel. "Of course there's a ghost in there," calls one of the traders, in front of him a pile of fried chicken legs. The others nod. Everyone knows it, the scary story of the "First House".

If you ask the reception about the supposed spook, the smile disappears from the face of the employee behind the counter. "Yes, of course I heard about it," says the young man. "But unfortunately I can't talk about it." He did not want to get his boss out of the office either. There are ghosts everywhere – at least according to the belief of the Thai. They live in houses, in trees, in lakes and rivers. You can take possession of people, kill them or occasionally help them. In any case, it is advisable not to upset them if you want to continue living a happy life.

And that's what most of the country do. Politicians and powerful military officers regularly consult fortune tellers and report on their prophecies. Businessmen have their cards laid before important decisions, and the astrologer often determines wedding dates.


This article comes from MERIAN issue No. 04/2019
© MERIAN

Some of the ghost stories have a real starting point. So also with the "First House": The hotel burned down almost completely in 1988, 13 people died in the flames. Including a singer from Singapore named Shi Ni. Her mind, it is said, is still haunting the hallways and rooms. According to the belief of many Thai people, this often happens after a catastrophe: If a person dies of an unnatural death, the likelihood that his soul will go on wandering is particularly high. And indeed: Hotel guests of the "First House" report on internet forums that they heard voices. At least among the many Chinese tourists who are in the lobby that day, nobody wants to have noticed anything unusual.

At least the "First House" can take comfort in not being the only cursed building in Bangkok. Even an entire housing estate is supposedly damned: The Piyaporn Gated Community is lonely and deserted in the north of the city. Plants are already rising from the buildings. The facility was built in a cemetery. Unfortunately the builders had forgotten to appease the troubled spirits. The disaster promptly followed: mysterious accidents occurred during construction, three children drowned in a nearby lake.

"There are many reasons why superstition is so popular and even more widespread in Thailand," says Andrew Johnson. He is an anthropologist at Princeton University and has spent a long time in Thailand researched on the subject. Buddhism is open to other beliefs, he says. "You can worship any spirit as long as it doesn't violate Buddhist principles." The monarchy and its king, revered as god, also contribute to this: newspapers, for example, repeatedly report that images of the monarch could not burn.

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