This is by far the most beloved and well-known ghost story in Thailand. Because of the Thai traditional belief about spirits this story is considered by many to be true. Mae Nak’s story has been the subject of film, T.V. and opera productions. It has all the elements of a classic tragic love story. The story takes place during the reign of King Rama IV one hundred fifty years ago in the mid nineteenth century.
Mae Nak was a beautiful young woman who lived with her husband, Tid Mak, in the Phra Khanong district in Bangkok. The couple lived near the Mahabut temple. Just as these two lovers found out they were expecting their first child, Mak is called to fight in a war in northern Thailand. Tragically, Nak dies in childbirth along with her baby son. As the two are buried, Tid Mak fighting so far from his village does not hear of their cruel fate even when he finally returns home.
Returned from war Tid Mak is greeted by the ghosts of his wife and baby son. They appear solid so he is unaware that they are not real. Several neighbors try to tell Mak that his wife and son died and were buried. They try to warn him that he is living with ghosts but he does not listen to them. These neighbors for their efforts, meet the wrath of Mae Nak’s ghost who condemns each of them to a grisly death.
Tid Mak does eventually discover the truth by accident. One day as Mae Nak makes a meal she drops a lemon that falls between the floorboards of the raised house. Startled, Mak sees his wife’s arm extend and go right through the floorboard as if it were not there. Mak runs from the house in terror. Mae Nak follows him but he takes refuge in the Mahabut temple where she being a ghost cannot enter.
Nak grief-stricken at the loss of her husband becomes enraged. She turns against the villagers of Phra khanong, terrorizing them. A monk is finally able to capture and entrap her within an earthen pot. He then flings this pot into a nearby river. All is well until a couple of fishermen catch this pot in their net. Curious, they unwittingly open the pot letting the vengeful spirit of Mae Nak loose. She once again terrorizes the villagers and Tid Mak along with his new girlfriend.
This time it is a young monk who stops Nak’s ghost by binding a piece of her exhumed skull within his waistband. The story ends with Tid Mak becoming a monk and living happily with his new family. But as it turned out this was not the end of Mae Nak’s ghost. Over the years many Thai have encountered her ghost and there are even recent reports of her activity.
|Mae Nak's Shrine|
Today the Wad Mahabut temple, built in 1762, is a popular tourist destination, for it was here where Tid Mak took refuge from his wife’s ghost. Nearby is a shrine that is dedicated to Mae Nak. Today the Mahabut temple is located in Suan Luang district because of a boundary change. The people of Phra Khanong are fighting for the boundary to be switched back so they can once again lay claim to the temple. Another interesting tidbit about this story is the young monk’s waistband that held the bone of Mae Nak’s skull supposedly still exists today.