I’ve translated many Thai ghost story, but none of Lao ghost; not that we don’t have any, and if I have to say so, Lao ghost story is as scary as Thai ghost story. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across any Lao ghost story in reading, but I do have one story that I remember when I was little living in Laos. The story was very vague, since I was only 5 years old, but my sisters and I were talking about our adventures in Laos not too long ago, so everything is a lot clearer to me now.
I didn’t have that many friends while living in Laos, probably about 3-4, I’m not sure where they are now, it’s sad that the war in Laos has separated all of us, all living in different part of the world now, but the internet manages to bring some of us a lot closer. One of my friends was Thong, and she was my age at the time. She became very ill, and at that time, the majority of Lao people believed in the medicine man; where he would blow some water of medicine at you, or worse, think that you were processed by ghost spirits or demons, and would throw sacred rice, sacred water, or worse, I’ve heard of the whipping part, but never have seen it myself. My sister said that it was so sad to see her before her death; it seemed that she was in a lot of pain, and her cry were very distinctive, and very haunting to those that heard and saw her. The medicine man treated her, unfortunately; she didn’t make it. Sadly many are still being treated this way in Laos, some of us might question if they are sound-minded.
Thong was ill for 3 days, and passed away, I couldn’t remember if I grieved a lot, I was only 5, and her funeral was simple. We lived in Mueng Kao at the time, right next to Wat Sone Suk Sith (temple), and rumor has it that ghost frequently travel on the road next to our house because it lead right to the cemetery. It was common for us to hear ‘ma horn’ (dogs howling) at night, as in comparison to those that live in big city and hear sirens, and forget about using the bathroom in the middle of the night, we had an outhouse, which was quite a distance from the house, none of us would take that chance.
They cremated her body at the temple after the 3rd day, and that night, we all heard (the whole town) her cry. It was chilling to hear, the same haunting sound right before her death, my sister said it was like ‘haw, ha w, h a w l…’, which the sound seemed to travel on the road next to our house, headed toward the direction of her house. As she was crying, the dogs were howling, almost in some sort of musical rhythm (definitely not the types of music for your third ears), the dogs paraded after her. When she got to her house, she stood there for a long time, cried with her haunting voice; I couldn’t imagine the feelings of her parents at the time, must be mixed emotions. She couldn’t go inside because her house was protected by ‘sye sin’ (sacred white rope blessed by monk), so she traveled back the same path toward the direction of our house. You can imagine how we all felt when her voice drawn near, our house was not protected by ‘sye sin’, what happen if she decided to come in and play with me, just the thought gives me goose bumps. We hid underneath our covers, as if the blankets were going to protect us somehow, but that was all we knew to do at the time.
One of our neighbors was not as fortunate; she was outside, taking care of personal business when Thong passed by. My neighbor was in a squatting position, froze in midair, as she suddenly heard ‘ma horn’ (dogs howling), then followed by Thong’s chillingly cry, every hairs in her body rose. She didn’t know what to do, was too scared to get up and run back inside her house. She gathered enough courage and told Thong to go elsewhere, which did work, it was such a relief for my neighbor, or otherwise I’m not sure what she would have done. I’ve heard in the past that some people actually got ill from such encounter, Lao people called it ‘Jup kaih houw goan’, and that their hairs turned gray or white. My neighbor was frightened, totally forgot about her personal business, got up, and ran back inside her house. Thong walked back and forth several times that night until morning; we didn’t get any sleep.
People were talking about it at the morning market, and morning alms (tuk badt). It was worst for those that saw her before her death because not only did they heard her voice, but saw her image as well. To think back now, she must felt lost and lonely, brand new to the ghostly world, probably didn’t know where to go, or had no one to comfort her, and she was just a baby ghost. I guess the thought of her being a ghost made all of us fearful, hair-raising just the thought of comforting her. That was not the only night that we heard her chillingly cry. Since we lived right next to the road travel by ghost, Lao people called it ‘tung pei teal’, there were many chilling incidents that we heard and saw.