Who is Mae Nak?

Mae Nak (แม่นาก, also แม่นากพระโขนง, Mae Nak Phra Khanong so “Mrs. Nak of Phra Khanong”) is a ghost from Thai folklore who can stretch his arms supernaturally long.

Background

Mae Nak is a female spirit from Thai folk belief who died in the birth of a child and can stretch his arms supernaturally long. Her story has been told in several films, television shows and novels.

Legend has it that Mae Nak was a beautiful woman who was married to a man named Mak. When Nak was pregnant, Mak was drafted and sent to war. Before his return, Nak and her child died in a difficult birth. When Mak returns home, he finds his beloved wife and child waiting for him. The neighbors who wanted to warn him that he was living with a ghost were all killed. Mak eventually finds out that his wife and child are ghosts and flees.

When Nak realizes that her husband has fled, she pursues him. Eventually, Nak discovers that he is hiding behind a Blumea balsamifera shrub. The sticky Blumea leaves are said to be feared by ghosts. Nak continues to follow Mak to Wat Mahabut Temple – a spirit cannot enter sacred ground like this.

Plagued by unrequited love, Nak terrorizes the inhabitants of Phra Khanong and uses her powers to harm them. But eventually, Nak’s ghost is captured by a powerful exorcist. He locks her in a glass jar and throws her into a river, where she sinks to the bottom.

Other versions of the story differ. In one version, an old couple who are new to Phra Khanong discover the vessel while fishing; in another version, two fishermen dig up the vessel. When they open it, Nak is released. According to legend, a monk manages to tie the spirit of Nak into her forehead bone and hold it captive in his waistband. This relic is said to have been passed down in the royal family, and there are many who claim to have possessed it over the years.

In another version of the story, the monk promised Nak that she would be reunited with her husband in a future life, and Nak willingly went to the afterlife. Regardless of which version is true, the story of Nak remains one of the most popular in Thai culture.

Mae Nak Shrine

Mae Nak Shrine is located near Klong Phra Khanong, in Wat Mahabut, a large temple on Soi 77 on Sukhumvit Road. The shrine is a low building under large trees with a roof that encloses the tree trunks. The main shrine is surrounded by several smaller shrines.

Mae Nak in Movies

The story of Mae Nak has inspired dozens of films. It is considered one of the most popular Thai horror stories.

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