Thailand’s ghastly wards: The magic of dead fetuses

Kuman ThongWhether you believe it or not, there has been an on-going phenomenon in Thailand involving raising the ghosts of dead babies. These ghosts are called Kuman Thong (meaning: ‘golden boy’), spirits that come from children that died from abortions, miscarriages or accidents.

Revered by animists,these spirits are intended to bestow their owners with good luck and fortune, protecting both the material assets and well-being of their owners, and, if requested, even performing various evil biddings.

It starts with an effigy (also called Kuman Thong), which is traditionally carved from wood, but can be also made of various stone or metals. The statue is then dipped in Nam Man Prai, an extract mixture of bodily fluids and fat, which is obtained from either a dead child or pregnant woman who died of an unnatural death.

After this process is done, the ghosts are said to live inside these statues, where there owner places them in their house and takes care of them. Owners will then go about feeding their Kuman Thong, laying out assortments of sweet candies, chocolates, fresh milk, plain rice, peeled hard boiled eggs or even sometimes, blood. Kuman Thongs are reportedly kept like children, having feelings that could be affected and influenced by both positive and negative actions, as well as thoughts of their owners.

There is a market for Kuman Thong, and the materials and equipment are expensive, with Na Man Prai being sold online for upwards to $150 and statues ranging roughly towards $1,000.

Dead fetuses have been reported being sold, with the last occurrence on May 18, 2012 involving a 28 year-old British citizen of Taiwanese origin by the name of Chou Hong Hun. Chou was arrested in his hotel room in Yaowarat district of Bangkok for attempting to smuggle six roasted male fetuses covered in gold leaves, which would be used to make Nam Man Prai. Kuen, asking for $38,088 per fetus.

The earliest recounts of Kuman Thong come from an 18th century Thai fairytale poem by Sunthon Phu, titled Khun Chang Kung Phaen. The character of Khun Phaen, a Thai warrior who lived in the Ayutthaya period between 1491 and 1592, acquires a powerful spirit that protects him in battle by removing the fetus of his stillborn son from his wife.