If traveling to Laos, what do you read or study about the place besides culture, language, and food? Of course, you’d peek at the most horrific Lao ghost stories! Have you stumbled upon a good Lao ghost story? Did it make you want to pack your bags and travel to Laos or change your booking somewhere else? I love ghost stories as much as I love learning foreign languages. In this article, I’ll share with you stories I have gathered about the ghosts haunting this seemingly peaceful country in Southeast Asia.
The Cultural Background Of Lao Ghost Stories
Lao ghost stories can be attributed to Buddhism, the country’s spiritual framework. It believes in the afterlife, karma, and the cycle of rebirth. The culture also believes in animism, the concept of spirits residing in natural elements.
Ghost stories in Laos are not isolated narratives but are connected to the country’s traditions and festivals. They are also brought to more people’s awareness through events like Boun Khao Padapdin, the Festival of the Dead. Families offer food and alms at these events to appease spirits and ensure their well-being. These rituals honor ancestors and spirits, highlighting their essential role in preserving cultural continuity.
In a society where the boundary between the tangible and intangible is blurred, these tales provide a means to explain phenomena that defy conventional understanding. Whether it’s an unexplained noise at night or an unforeseen twist of fate, ghost stories offer a way to make sense of the inexplicable.
Categories Of Lao Ghosts And Spirits
The continuous spread of stories about Lao ghosts and Lao spirits is also due to the following categories:
According to Laos folklore, Phi Pop are spirits known for bringing harm and misfortune, often blamed for illnesses, accidents, and other unlucky events. These vengeful entities are thought to emerge from unresolved grudges or untimely deaths. They serve as a reminder of the consequences of not respecting the spirit world.
Phi Dip are spirits of the deceased that haven’t found peace. These entities are believed to cause disturbances among the living, such as unexplained noises and eerie sights. This emphasizes the importance of proper rituals and offerings to guide these souls to the afterlife.
Phi Am spirits are considered benevolent and bring protection and good luck to households. People offer them rituals and gifts to ensure their continued presence and blessings.
Traditional Ghost Tales From Laos
Let’s head on to the stories about the ghosts and sightings in Laos:
Phi Ma Bong (The Eerie Ethereal Horse)
Phi Ma Bong is an unusual presence in Laos ghost stories and is often described as a ghostly horse that appears at night, sometimes in the form of a young woman’s face. The Phi Ma Bong doesn’t like humans and is known for causing harm by trampling them, showing a bizarre interest in raw, decaying meat and uncooked eggs. Some stories suggest that the Phi Ma Bong might be frightened by weretigers, but meeting this entity is still risky.
Seua Saming (The Shapeshifting Weretigers)
In Laos and Southeast Asia, there are tales of Seua Saming, or weretigers, which are quite different from In Laos and Southeast Asia, there are tales of Seua Saming, or weretigers, which are quite different from regular tigers. Unlike normal tigers that play ecological roles, various ethnic groups in Laos share stories of weretigers that can change shape regardless of the moon’s phases.
While Lao spirits are known for shapeshifting, weretigers are distinct for their ability to turn into different forms, even inhabiting other creatures briefly. They can transform into living things or even objects, like roadside trinkets. They’ve been said to transform into something like Buddhist monks or alluring bathers to prey on humans. There’s even a suggestion that some weretigers might have connections to mysterious grandmother witches.
Phi Kaseu (The Floating Heads)
In different parts of Asia, stories circulate about ghosts appearing as floating heads with trailing entrails. Similar spirits are known as Penanggalan in Malaysia and have counterparts in other countries. In Laos, they’re called Phi Kaseu. These eerie apparitions are often depicted as female and have a strange attraction to pregnant women and young boys.
They hide partially behind walls and try to lure victims closer by showing only their heads. Some communities hang thorny vines near windows to keep them away, as these entities dislike getting caught in the thorns. In times of scarcity, Phi Kaseu is said to feed on waste or dirty laundry left out to dry. It’s best to avoid encountering them.
The Phi Ped Or Phed (Restless Hungry Ghosts)
Also known as hungry ghosts, the Phi Ped is a significant part of Lao beliefs, tied to Buddhist stories about those consumed by insatiable greed and hunger. These unfortunate souls are destined for an afterlife marked by constant hunger, often depicted with swollen bellies and mouths that can hardly fit a grain of rice. Some portrayals show them as towering specters grappling with debts that persist even after death. Their existence is seen as a tragedy, representing a dire fate for those trapped by their desires.
Phi Kong Koi And Grandmother Ghosts
In the 1980s, the movie character Freddy Krueger was inspired by stories of the phi am, spirits believed to cause the sudden death of healthy sleeping men in Laos, especially among the Hmong community. This phenomenon is now related to Brugada Syndrome in Western medicine. Equally disturbing is Phi Kong Koi, a malevolent grandmother ghost present in Lao folklore.
Descriptions vary, but Phi Kong Koi is often depicted as a short, unpleasant figure with dark or gray skin, red eyes, one leg, and a foot that faces backward. They’re known to announce their approach with cries of “koi koi koi,” indicating their hunger. They’re different from phi pob and possess victims while consuming them from within.
Learn To Read Lao Folktales With Ling
The locals will surely welcome you with many stories, including a standout hair-raising ghost story when you visit Laos. This is why you need to study common expressions and phrases so you can ask them directly. Our advice? Practice speaking and reading Lao with the help of the Ling app. It’s a language-learning application you need to install on your phone after downloading it from the Play Store or App Store.