The story of The Lady Nak of Phra Khanong or Mae Nak Phra Khanong is a very popular ghost story in Thailand about a wife waiting for her husband even in her death. 

Mae Nak Phra Khanong (แม่นากพระโขนง), meaning The Lady Nak of Phra Khanong is one of the most famous Thai ghost stories. Her hauntings are retold in countless movies, books and series and even today, you can visit a shrine in her honor to give offerings. 

The Story of Mae Nak Phra Khanong

During the reign of King Rama IV in the mid 1800s, there lived a woman named Nak. She lived together with her husband, Mak on the banks of the Phra Khanong Canal in Bangkok until he was conscripted to fight in a war. 

In many versions of the story it was a war against the Shan tribe where he was wounded and had to spend time away to recover. He was sent to central Bangkok where he was nursed back to health. 

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During this time, Nak was pregnant and waiting for her husband’s return, but the birth of their child would be struck with tragedy. While in labor, she died together with their child after a long and difficult birth. But instead of going to the afterlife, she turned into a powerful spirit called Phi Tai Hong Thong Klom (ผีตายโหงทองกลม), a vengeful and restless spirit of a person that suffered a violent or cruel death.

Finally when Mak returns home from the war, he finds his wife and their child waiting for him and thinks they are alive and well as the news of their deaths never reached him. When neighbors try to warn him that they have already died, he refuses to believe them and lives together with his family in blissful ignorance.

The story of The Lady Nak of Phra Khanong or Mae Nak Phra Khanong is a very popular ghost story in Thailand about a wife waiting for her husband even in her death. 
Ghost Legend in Movies: The legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong has been made into a movie on several occasions. Here actress Davika Hoorne in ‘Pee Mak Phra Kanong.

One day Nak is preparing nam phrik, a type of Thai chili sauce, she drops a lime on the porch. The house was built in a traditional thai way with piles, so the lime fell on the ground under the house. Being a ghost, she makes her arm longer and picks it up from the ground. This is the moment when Mak realizes that his wife is in fact a ghost and his undying love turns to fear. 

He tries to flee the house without her noticing and manages to slip away when lying about going to the toilet. In the dead of the night he escapes. When Nak notices that her husband has left her, she goes after him. Mak hides behind a Blumea balsamifera (หนาด) bush. According to folklore, ghosts fear this bush and he is protected. 

He finally reaches Wat Mahabut temple, a holy ground where ghosts cannot enter and is finally safe from the ghost of his wife, whose undying love for her husband is turning to anger and grief. 

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Nak uses her anger and in her grief, she starts to terrorize the people of Phra Khanong for helping Mak to see the truth and leave her. She is finally captured by an exorcist in a jar that is thrown in the canal. 

From there, the story has several versions for the continuing haunting of the ghost. In all versions though, some finds her jar in the canal and opens it and thereby freeing her. 

This time it was the famous monk  Somdet Phra Phutthachan that captured her. He was a widely recognized monk that they said possessed magical powers and confined her spirit in the bone of her forehead. He then binded it to his waistband. Legend says that the waistband is actually in possession of the Thai royal family. However, in other versions, the monk promised Nak that she would be together with her husband in the next life, and she chose to go to the afterlife herself. 

The Shrine of Mae Nak Phra Khanong

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The Shrine: Mae Nak Phra Khanong shrine in 2009, part facing the canal// Source: Xufanc

The shrine to Nak was built at Wat Mahabut until it was moved in 1997 to central Bangkok near the Suan Luang District and is located next to a large temple on Soi 77 by the Sukhumvit Road.

The Mae Nak shrine has a statue of Mae Nak and her infant son. People often make offerings to her, giving her clothes, toys for her child, fruits, lotuses and incense sticks. She even has a display of beautiful dresses behind her. The people giving these offerings to her often ask her for help, either to have an easy childbirth or to help their husband be exempted from military conscription. They also asks her for the lottery numbers. 

The Story Behind the Haunting

Although the legend of this Thai ghost story is well imprinted in the culture, there are no historical evidence of it being nothing more than a myth. But there are however, some similar stories.

In 1899 there was a story about the legend in the Siam Praphet newspaper. The author claimed that the story of Nak was based on the life of Amdaeng Nak (อำแดงนาก) that died when she was pregnant. Her living son was worried that his father would remarry and that he had to share his inheritance with his stepmother. 

To prevent this, he invented the ghost story and dressed in womens clothing. When boats passed the house he threw rocks at them to make them believe it was the ghost of his mother that did it. 

No matter the origin of the story, it continues to scare and inspire people and is an example of a living legend and Mae Nak’s story that refuses to die. 

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