Whilst in Thailand I watched a film called “Demonic Beauty”. It was an interesting film so I decided to research the legend behind it, which relates to a traditional Thai ghost story. It concerns a spirit known as “Krasue” in Thailand, “Ap” or “Ahp” in Cambodia and Penanggalan in Malaysia. The basic legend (there are many versions as with most folk tales) goes as follows.
When the Thai people defeated the once mighty Khmer Empire in 1431 the Khmer capital was sacked and the beautiful princess, Tarawatee, was carried back to the Thai capital of Sukothai to be given as a concubine to the victorious Thai king. Tarawatee refused to submit to the king, however and after several months he grew weary and ordered her to be executed by burning.
Tarawatee, terrified of this fate, obtained from a witch a potion which would allow her body to be unharmed by the flames, but she drank the mixture too late and her whole body was destroyed by fire, save for her head, trachea, heart, stomach and intestines. Since that day, the princess has been believed to wander the forests and hills as a hideous spectre, a beautiful woman’s face with it’s viscera dangling below it. She became known as “Krasue”.
There are many legends attached to Krasue. It is believed that she has a ravenous hunger for human flesh which can never be satisfied and that she roams forth at night in search of prey. She is said to be particularly fond of the flesh of pregnant women and newborn children. She is said to have a grotesque proboscis-like tongue which she uses to remove the foetus from pregnant woman so that she can eat it. In order to protect pregnant women fences of thorns are sometimes erected around their houses, as it is believed these will snag Krasue’s viscera and deter her from entering.
Some stories say that a pregnant woman who falls victim to Krasue will later become one herself. This can also happen to a woman if Krasue eats the placenta after the woman gives birth. For this reason, in rural areas of Thailand a placenta is often taken away and buried by relatives immediately after birth.
Some say Krasue can return to her body during the day and live as any other person, but that at night her head and viscera detach themselves once more as she goes in search of victims. In this version, if the head doesn’t return to the body by dawn, Krasue will die in terrible pain. One other way to “kill” the spirit is to destroy the body in some way.
With Thailand being a popular tourist destination, maybe visitors should take special care at night, lest they fall victim to this frightening ghost!
by P A McHugh