Kuman Thong – Thailand’s Golden Ghost Boy

Kuman Thong dolls for sale in Chiang Mai

Kuman Thong dolls for sale in Chiang Mai

If you know anything about Thai people, you’ll know that they are seriously afraid of ghosts. That’s 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’re 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 into your home, you’ve 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. But after getting stuck living with him for a year, I believe in him 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 black magic at its darkest. 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.


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.

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 can grant favors for his master, but only if he’s happy and even then there can be unintended side-effects.

sala fruit

sala fruit

Taking care of Kuman 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’m guessing has become a substitute in Buddhist times for animist blood offerings of the distant past.

Since Kuman is a child, it’s also very common for people to offer toys for him to play with. Just like a real child, Kuman needs attention. You have to acknowledge his presence, talk to him sometime, etc. and then he’ll be nice and help you out. Otherwise, he might play tricks on you. People who keep Kuman 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.

You can’t just simply get rid of a Kuman Thong once you’ve already had it—that would be asking for trouble. Instead, you are supposed to take an unwanted Kuman 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 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

kuman_thong_ghost_boy_statue

Would you get spooked out with this guy in your living room?

I first learned about Kuman Thong when I rented a house for a year that 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 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 was a rat getting into 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, the rat, or just an overactive imagination—I guess I may never be sure. The only thing I was certain of is that I resented the landlady for leaving Kuman at the house and sticking me with the task of giving him cookies and red water each day.

During the year that I lived with Kuman, 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.



Comments

Kuman Thong – Thailand’s Golden Ghost Boy — 29 Comments

  1. Hello Ryan

    I plan to visit Thailand in Feb 2015 want to visit Chiang Mia, there is a Thai Temple there call Wat Bang Phra Phra Udomprachanat? where the Monk does Tattoo and I also I like to visit the Temple where the Monks’ creature the Kuman thong statue or where could you recommendation or could you give me the information on which Thai Temple have the Kuman thong ?

    Thank you for your time please kindly reply back to me email:

    Sincerely,’
    Nancy
    LasVegas , Nevada

    • Hi Nancy,
      I believe Wat Bang Phra is the name of the temple, and Phra Udomprachanat is the name of the monk who does the tattoos. It’s near Bangkok, pretty far away from Chiang Mai. I’ve never been there. As for temples where they make Kuman Thong, I really don’t know. I’m not in favor of the tradition of keeping a Kuman Thong. To me it seems more trouble than it’s worth. The statues of Kuman you can buy in many shops. And if you go to any amulet market, you can probably find a small Kuman statue or amulet. For example, there is a large amulet market in Bangkok by the river next to Wat Mahathat. Hope you enjoy your trip!

    • Excuse me ! Did u make a trip to Thailan ? Can u give me some idea about kumanthong . Did u get one ? And it s going ? Because I’m also interested in Kuman Tong and planning to go thailan this year but still don’t know much information about that . Hope u can share ur experience .Thanks so much !

      • Yes, I live in Thailand and shared my experience in the article. My landlady owned a Kuman Thong, not me. i wouldn’t know anything about how to get one because I’m not keen to do so.

  2. Hi Ryan, great blog. I am a journalist from Australia currently in Chiang Mai researching a piece about black magic. Would love to find out more about places where I can go that trade in black magic, and how much a part of Chiang Mai culture it is. Luke Williams,

    • Hi Luke, sorry I’m so slow to reply. I wouldn’t really know where to go to get anything for black magic. I have a friend who can do many magic practices, but he’s a good Buddhist so I think he sticks to what we’d call ‘white magic.’

  3. dear ryan i live in the usa i been try to find a real kuman thong, i spend so much money but all i get is fake one i dont see or feel anything, some cost me more then 800. do you think you could help me find a real one thank ryan.

    • No, I can’t really help. And actually I discourage using Kuman’s help. Better to get help from forces who are not so fickle.

      • Hi Ryan
        TQ for the info. Im from Kuala Lumpur. I totally agreed with u that never get attach to any Kuman Thong especially if we dont know how to control it when he’s unhappy & mess up your life. I recently just got a master to get rid of 1 from my house. It stays at my house n believe to be left by his owner. My mum saw him in the middle of the night, I heard his voice talking n noise at night like someone is in the house & I dont like it. It’s like a ghost n is not really blessing u. There’re many ways to get lucky n this is definitely not an option.

  4. Talking about Kuman Thong. I have been looking after Kuman Thong for many years. If u need any advice. Don’t hesitate to email to me. Don’t listen to those fake preaching n prayers. Take my advice . Kuman Thong is not for fun. My email address oscarlbh@yahoo.com.sg

    • Hi Mr Lee…married 25yrs no kids,currently I have amulet with me and work well.we are planning to adopt golden boy.in life must have good and bad.that’s life,can you share yr experience.please sir

  5. Hello Ryan,
    Can u please tell me more bout baby Kuman Thong .,,
    I’m also interested in Kuman Tong and planning to go thailand this year ..

  6. Hi, greetings from Malaysia.

    From what I see, many people are either scared or facinated with KMT without fully understanding them and digging in deeper.

    Many people want KMT as they are rumoured to bring wealth but merely for that reason is questionable. Lets put it this way, KMT is a young orphan deprived of food and shelter and have not enough good merit to be reborn in a better realm. So we merely adopt them providing them food and shelter is creating good merit as well as giving them and opportunity to accumulate good merit.

    KMT are usually invited by Ajahns or LuangPor after being thought the principles of Buddhism and join at their free will. They are neither good nor evil as they are innocent children and have to be taught by the owner. Like normal children, they are sometimes mischevious and sometimes will throw a little tantrum to seek attention. It takes time to forge a bond with them before you can see or feel their presence (unless you are gifted). They will do their best to help the owner (no guarantees of success) in terms of protection, wealth or other things as a sign of gratitude.
    If not taken care for a long time, they will just return to where they came from
    TL:DR – treat it as adopting a spiritual kid without expecting anything in return and let karma take its course.

    The scarier version is called Lokok. Lokok are created by Necromancers trapped forever and have no way to be reborn. They have strong resentment and expect the owners to put them as priority above their own children or pets. If you treat them very well, they can grant you many wishes from wealth to luck to even murder. If you mistreat them, you might even take your life with no fear of consequences as they are eternally bound. Even a LuangPor might have a hard time to deal with them.
    TL:DR – These guys are super strong and can grant many wishes including death to enemies. (You can watch a thai movie called Necromancer to see what they can do) You have to take good care of them or be prepared to suffer the consequences.

    As for real life experience, I currently working at a Thai Spa where there are 4 KMT . 2 in the shop, 2 in the hostel (Some Thai ladies adopt). The 1st guy is about 6 / 7 years old following my lady boss. All the staff has to acknowlege him before moving in and my lady boss will tell him not to play tricks on the new ladies. There was once a lady who didn’t acknowlege him, her 1st night alone he made an overbearing presence disturbing her so she couldn’t sleep. That lady immediately bought him some sweets and chocolate the next day and has been sleeping soundly ever since. He is sometimes mischievious and will switch the songs we play in the shop from soothing music on the usb to Thai classics on the memory card. 2 more KMT comes in the form of the Sawardeekap statues which we bought from Thailand. First time seeing the statues gave me an uneasy feeling something was there but unsure if I was just too tired. It was only until the 1st KMT went to my ladyboss dream crying saying he was beaten by 2 kids who wouldn’t let him into the shop as well as consulting an Ajahn we decided to adopt the other 2. Business did get slightly smoother after that. The 4th guy belongs to 1 of our staff who kept it secret from us when she moved in. The 1st KMT went into my ladyboss dream happily saying he has a new playmate and it was then we started asking the ladies which shocked her a bit.
    As for Lokok, was at a house converted “shrine/prayer area/amulet shop”. My friend was asking the about some amulets and and the sifu brought him out. I felt very uneasy and start shivering. (i guess he is destined not to follow me).

    Sorry bout ranting a full essay here. Most importantly is to understand better before making any decisions to bring home KMT or Lokok. Here is a detailed article in chinese explaining the different types as well as ways of caring (sorry guys, not good at translating and it is super long). http://wapbaike.baidu.com/item/古曼童?adapt=1 or you can visit a nearby Thai Buddhist Temple for better insights.

    Cheerio

    • During the time that I was giving food offerings to Kuman, I would take the old offerings from the previous day outside to pour out the liquids by a tree and also leave the solid foods there to let animals eat. I wouldn’t eat them myself.

  7. I buy a kuman thong voodoo doll boy spirit statue thai buddha amulet, can I take it with me or leave it at home, should I put cookies or juices? Thank….

  8. Pingback: Ultimate Guide to Thai Culture for Newbies – iglu

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *