Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4 from Ostu Grail’s Dark Spirit House:
The abandon lot was surprisingly busy for early Saturday morning, the sun barely up and there were already a half dozen people there to do the cleanup work….
The work organizer, a middle aged Thai man in khaki pants and a denim button up shirt, looked at a checklist of things to do. Clean the brush, cut the weeds, collect and haul out garbage, cut down a few trees. There was a beat up Toyota Hilux pickup truck parked out on the curb with a pair of weed whackers, a red plastic container of gasoline oil mix, a few rakes and shovels, machetes, a chainsaw, and plastic bags for the rubbish. Niran and Maung headed straight for the weed whackers; filling them up with gasoline and pull-starting the motors. They split the work lot without speaking, Maung worked the east side and Niran worked the west side; with Noy close behind him taking photographs. The rest of the crew gathered machetes and rakes to start clearing the underbrush.
Maung cleared the weeds on his side, when he first noticed what looked like the remains of a collapsed building, cinder blocks and rebar revealed as the undergrowth was cut back. As he cut back the weeds, he noticed some of the collapsed debris was charred black. Looks like this place burned down awhile ago, Maung thought to himself. As Maung climbed into the rubble to clear the weeds, he noticed twisted metal bedframes, all rusted orange. There were also a number of what looked like belt buckles around the grounds, but they were too big for a belt. Maybe buckles for some kind of straps or restraints, Maung thought has he began to turn around the back side of what had been a large building.
Niran and Noy made their own discoveries as they worked along the opposite side. They uncovered a sign that had collapsed, buried by the underbrush, as Niran cut the weeds from the sign it read the Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Asylum for the Insane, the Thai name had a meaning to it a well, it roughly translated to “the home of gods incarnate”. It was actually a familiar phrase because it was part of the offical Thai name for Bangkok. While foreigners called the city Bangkok, the Thais referred to it as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, or its short form, Krung Thep. Bangkok has a ceremonial long-form name as well, and it happens to be the longest name of any city in the world: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattana Kosin Mahinthar Ayutthaya Maha Dilokphop Noppha Ratratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchani Wetmahasathan Amon Phimana Watansathit Sakkathat Tiyawit Sanukam Prasit. The name, which even school childern learn to memorize in the form of a popular song, composed of Pali and Sanskrit words, and roughly translates as: “City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.”
Suddenly Niran had a flash of that feeling that everything was wrong again, he remembered the full moon, the imagined child’s call for help, even the odd shadow pair. They called the insane asylum ‘home of the incarnate gods’, he thought, What the hell went on here? What happened to this place? Noy was snapping some pictures of the collapsed asylum sign, as Niram came around to the back side of the abandon lot. Niran could see Maung on the opposite side, working towards each other, with a giant tree between them.
It was a Banyan tree, and even with the uncleared undergrowth you could see the broken remains of at least a dozen spirit houses at its foot. The tree trunk was encircled with a rainbow of colored ribbons at about chest height, and the many spirit houses at the base of the trunk were in various starts of decay and disrepair. Noy and Niran recognized them immediately, for she had taken pictures of them from the balcony of the apartment. Noy started taking pictures at a fast pace now, clicking away to capture the different kinds of spirit houses that had been left here. San Phra Phum, Noy thought of the Thai name for Spirit House.
Spirit Houses are a common sight in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos. They are the miniature homes for the protective spirit of a place. Most Thai houses and even businesses have a Spirit House, specially placed by a Buddhist Monk in an auspicious spot. The house provides a shelter for the spirits that might make problems for people if not appeased, and people often give offerings of incense, candles, flowers, and even fresh fruit and drinks with tiny straws on the tiny altar to the idol statue whose home is the Spirit House. Noy snapped photos of Spirit Houses of all different styles and colors, a Red and Gold Chinese styled Spirit House, Thai styled Spirit House of White and Gold; Or Red Yellow and White, even an Issan Sytled house that was unpainted wood. Maung and Niran finished the weed whacking in front of the Banyan Tree, near the pile of Spirit Houses, as Noy clicked away.
“Why didn’t these burn down in the fire that destoryed this place,” Maung asked, “And why are there so many in front of this tree”
“These Spirit Houses were probably discarded here after the fire, some of them even recently,” Noy said, “Sometimes, people need to replace their Spirit House, but Old spirit houses cannot just be dumped in the trash.” Noy snapped a photo of Niran next to Maung with the Spirit Houses behind them. “Usually a monk can coax the spirit out of the old house and into the new house,” Noy said “The old house is then buried in a ceremony next to other old houses.”
“Left next to a Spirit Tree, that’s what people call them at least,” Niran said, “The thing is, sometimes Spirit Houses are just trashed, people move fast, or die, or disappear. A lot of times these Spirit Houses get dumped with all the rest, and that’s how places end up being haunted.”
Niran and Maung turned back to drop off their weed whackers, as Noy lingered behind by the Spirit Tree. Back at the truck, the crew broke for a late afternoon lunch, bottled water and little white Styrofoam boxes with Khao Moo Daeng, rice and sliced red pork. Niran and Maung ate with the rest of the crew quietly and auickly, while the middle aged man and the farang were fiddling with the chain saw. As the other workers returned back to begin filling the trash bags with rubbish, the middle aged man and the farang, armed with chainsaw and an ax, headed back to the Spirit Tree. Niram looked past the truck across the street and noticed the old woman Ratana was watching them work from across the street.
“Quick before the old lady sees me,” Niran said and grabbed Maung by the shirt to pull him around. Niran didn”t see old lady Ratana’s face as he turned. They walked behind the chainsaw and axe back to the Spirit Tree. Across the street, the old woman stood staring at the abandon lot, not moving. Her face was flush and suddenly pale, as if she was remembering some past hurt or past horror. The tear eventually fell, as her eyes watered, but her face didn’t move, and her eyes stayed locked on the cleanup crew as they approached the Spirit Tree.