(Bangkok) It’s almost midnight in Thailand, time for Ghost Radio, a popular Internet broadcast from a studio on the top floor of a half-abandoned shopping mall in Bangkok.
By the tens of thousands, Thais are tuning in to watch or listen live to listeners recounting their experiences with ghosts, spirits and other beings from beyond.
Belief in the supernatural is well ingrained in the kingdom’s popular culture, from the myth of Mae Nak that haunted her neighbors after she died in childbirth to the frightening “krasue”, female creatures hungry for fresh flesh.
Today, these ancient stories are unearthed by online platforms such as YouTube or TikTok and instant messengers.
“A man in a white suit appeared to her in a dream and told her that her time had come and that she should follow him,” describes the first interlocutor, her voice quavering.
“But when she turned around, she saw her own body on the bed. »
In the studio, animator Watcharapol Fukjaidee seeks details.
Its webcast, to three million subscribers on YouTube, takes place twice a week, from 11 p.m. until dawn.
Watcharapol Fukjaidee got its start 20 years ago with Thailand’s “godfather of ghosts”, Kapol Thongplub, whose late-night show delighted taxi drivers.
Thanks to new technologies, “the chance of seeing ghosts is increasing,” he told AFP.
“Ghosts communicate through apps, messaging, phone calls. Technology becomes the channel through which they can contact people,” says Watcharapol, 46, who cultivates an understated, tongue-in-cheek style.
He thus remembers the call of a man recounting having been contacted by a friend who gave him an appointment in a temple. When he arrived, what he found was chilling: “His friend was dead and his phone had been placed in the coffin.”
“Popular beliefs are incredibly adaptable” to changes in society, says anthropologist Andrew Alan Johnson, who has studied the role of the supernatural in Thai society.
Ghost stories help preserve the memory of places or explain a feeling of uprooting, especially in the megalopolis of Bangkok which has changed a lot in recent years, continues the expert.
Downstairs, a ghost cafe filled with fans provides another source of income for the show, in addition to on-air sponsors.
One employee, Khemjira, sifts through dozens of stories sent in by listeners, discarding those that touch on politics or the taboo subject of the monarchy.
“With the influence of Twitter and TikTok, more and more young people are calling,” he explains. “I think people often encounter ghosts. We hardly ever hear the same story.”
While munching on a tombstone-shaped brownie, Chalwat Thungood, a 25-year-old police officer, recounts having had a supernatural experience during an intervention.
Called to intervene in a house, he saw on his arrival the shadow of a very fat man pass in the bathroom: after struggling to open the door, he discovered an obese man dead for at least five hours.
“I saw the fat man’s spirit,” he assures, “I believe 100% that ghosts exist.”
Watcharapol refuses to say if he believes in it, before admitting that he is “scared to death” of ghosts that would haunt hospitals.
According to him, people find themselves on his show “because sometimes they can’t tell their family about their ghostly experiences.”
“Nobody can prove it’s real except the listener on the air,” Watcharapol says, before smiling.