Written by Geraldine Laetitia
If you know anything about Thai people, you will know that they are seriously afraid of ghosts. That is why it might be surprising to know that millions of Thais willingly invite a ghost to stay at their home or business. Of course this isn’t such a scary ghost like the distraught Mae Nak or the grotesque Phi Krasue — rather we are talking about a cute little boy ghost called Kuman Thong. The name “Kuman Thong” means “golden boy,” and as you can guess, Thai people give the little child spook a place on their shrines in the belief that he’ll help them out in money matters.
But his help comes at a price. If you chose to bring Kuman Thong into your home, you have accepted a responsibility to take care of him. If a neglected child can throw a temper tantrum—how much more so when that child is a ghost? Like many things spiritual in Thailand, Kuman Thong seems to be a mix of truth and superstition. My relatives kept him and even one of my mother's friends' had him in her house. After seeing him a few times at my relatives' house, observing how my relatives "look after" him and pretty much growing up with him, I believe in Kuman Thong enough to not want anything to do with him again.
History of Kuman Thong
A real Kuman Thong is not one of the smiling plastic statues that you see on so many shrines around Thailand. The original and true Kuman Thong is something entirely more sinister and taboo—the art of magic at its darkest, probably because it involved the use of a fetus. The gruesome thought of its preparation will give most people goosebumps.
To make Kuman Thong, one first has to surgically remove a stillborn fetus from its mother’s womb. A ceremony must then be performed by someone well-trained in the ancient secrets of Thai animist necromancy. In a cemetery, at night, the dead baby is dry-roasted over a fire while the necromancer chants the necessary mantras and secret incantations that will bind the spirit of the stillborn child to it. Once dried, the corpse is covered in lacquer and gold foil, which is the original reason for the name Kuman Thong. The consecration in the preparation of the Kuman Thong is performed through white magic ritual. kuman Thong has to follow at least the 5 precepts or commandments of Buddhist's teaching during consecration and conjuration. Therefore, they should not be mixed up with their more active, and rumoured to be more evil "cousin", the Luk Kok.
In the most authentic version of the ceremony, a substance called Nam-man phrai is also applied to the corpse. The method of collecting Nam-man phrai is quite spooky in itself. It involves burning a candle under the chin of the corpse of a woman who died while pregnant, and collecting the oil that comes out of the skin. It is said to be powerful stuff and is used in all sorts of folk magic such as crafting love charms, though genuine Nam-man phrai is illegal.
The origin of making Kuman Thong seems to be found in the folk legend Khun Chang Khun Phaen, which is based on the life of a soldier in the Ayutthaya era. In the story, Khun Phaen makes the first Kuman Thong from the fetus of his dead wife’s unborn child.
Nowadays, genuine Kuman Thong have been mostly replaced by symbolic statues that depict a young boy in traditional Ayutthaya era attire. Kuman has his hair done up in a little topknot and will often be holding a small sack of gold.
A Kuman Thong is believed to be able to help with 3 spiritual dimensions for its owner and can give owner strong spiritual guidance through dreams, and give guidance towards an improved life. They can also help to influence others and bring in wealth and lead its owner to success. Adoption of a Kuman Thong is therefore often recommended for people who does not have too strong negative karma from the past.
How to Keep Kuman Thong
Taking a Kuman Thong home and setting up a little shrine for him is a little bit like adopting a new child. It is thought that Kuman Thong can grant favours for his master/owner and bring success, but only if he is happy and even then there can be unintended side-effects. However, as Kuman Thong has to follow the Buddhist commandment, it will not do anything evil or cause deliberate harm.
Taking care of Kuman Thong involves giving him something to eat and drink every day. He has a sweet-tooth—as most little boys do—and so candy, cookies, or other snacks are considered good food offerings. For drinks, he likes Nam-daeng exclusively. Nam-daeng means “red water” and is a kind of sweetened beverage made with bright red artificial coloring and flavoring from the sala fruit (Salacca wallichiana). In place of traditional Nam-daeng, Red Fanta is acceptable.
All gods and spirits in Thailand seem to enjoy this sweet red beverage, which I am guessing has become a substitute in Buddhist times for animist blood offerings of the distant past.
Since Kuman Thong is a child, it is also very common for people to offer toys for him to play with. Just like a real child, Kuman Thong needs attention. You have to acknowledge his presence, talk to him sometime, spend time with him etc. and then he will be nice and help you. Otherwise, he might play tricks on you and become mischievous. People who keep Kuman Thong at home are often reported to have strange things happen such as hearing phantom sounds of a child’s laughter or the sound of little footsteps running around as if a child were playing. Other typical poltergeist activity can occur such as doors seemingly opening or closing on their own and other objects moving around. Well, a Kuman Thong is ultimately a spirit that you keep at home, so it is of no surprises to be experiencing such occurrances.
It is extremely important to note that you cannot just simply get rid of a Kuman Thong once you have already adopted it—that would be asking for trouble. Instead, you are supposed to take an unwanted Kuman Thong to a temple, where some type of ritual can be done to release you from the burden of caring for the ghost.
Dark Side of the Kuman Craze
The vast majority of Kuman Thong that you see are plastic or wooden statues. Various small metal amulets that invoke the power of Kuman Thong are also quite popular. But the dark side of Kuman’s popularity is that there still exists a black market for the original type of Kuman Thong made from a stillborn or aborted fetus. In May 2012, a Taiwanese-born British citizen was arrested in Bangkok with six gold covered baby human corpses in his luggage. He had purchased them in Thailand and intended to resell them in Taiwan for a profit.
In 2010, Wat Phai Ngoen in Bangkok was the scene of a gristly discovery when 348 aborted fetuses were found on the premises. The temple was helping to dispose of the bodies from illegal abortion clinics, and it is thought that some may have been sold to practitioners of black magic.
Living with a Ghost Boy for a Year
Would you get spooked out with this guy in your living room?
Below is a true account from an anonymous source: -----
"I first learned about Kuman Thong when I rented a house for a year where he was already living in. My landlady, a 50-something year-old Thai-Chinese woman, was very into any spiritual practice that was supposed to bring wealth or good luck. She had previously lived in the house with her family and had kept the shrine intact. It contained a couple Buddha images, one of the Hindu god Shiva, and three statues of Kuman Thong. The largest of the Kuman Thong statues looked positively ancient and totally creeped me out.
I would often have weird dreams while living in that house and never really felt alone. A few times I was woken up in the middle of the night by loud noises which sounded like objects getting moved around. I later found out that there might had been a rat in the house, and I think the noise came from it fighting with another animal (possibly a snake?) up in the attic. So if the strange noises were coming from Kuman Thong, the rat, or just an overactive imagination—I guess I may never be sure. But every night, the noise continued. And I can certainly feel like someone is running around or moving around the house. As time goes by, I grew used to the sound as nothing really bother me or spooked me out that much anyway. The only thing I was certain of is that I resented the landlady for leaving Kuman Thong at the house and sticking me with the task of giving him cookies and red water each day. Perhaps, my dedication in doing this task had appeased the Kuman Thong and hence he had left me alone while I was living with him.
During the year that I lived with the Kuman Thong, he certainly didn’t give me any help with finances—nor did the landlady when it was time for my security deposit to be returned.
So I was pretty glad to be rid of him and wouldn’t choose to seek out his help in the future."
Geraldine Laetitia is SC's resident researcher and content writer. She spends her day dealing with medical research studies and protocols, crunching numbers and closing business contracts, and by night she documents haunting histories, legends and lore for this section of Supernatural Confessions.