My latest novella – Dark Avenging Angel – is published this week and is, as its title suggests, concerned with revenge. In this case, revenge of the most demonic kind. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for…” Jane learns the truth of this in graphic ways. Revenge comes in many forms, and to celebrate my new release, I want to share the story of:
Avenging angels, ghosts and demons abound in the traditions and folklore of people all over the world. One such character is the Phi Tai Hong. This restless and vengeful spirit can be found in some abundance in Thailand and is the ghost of someone who has died violently and unexpectedly. The Phi Tai Hong may have been murdered, or killed in a road accident. They may also be suicides. Even babies, who have died shortly after birth, have been known to return as Phi Tai Hong. People whose proper funerary rites have not been observed can also return in this frightening form.
In Thai tradition, a Phi Tai Hong is notoriously difficult to exorcise if one takes possession of your home. The exorcism itself can be complex, requiring a number of ceremonies. Today, many Thais will wear protective amulets to ward off spirits such as these – although ghosts and spirits of all kinds abound in Thai culture and traditions.
Some people still believe that undertakers should sew up the mouths of anyone dying suddenly. By doing this, it is believed, the spirit of the deceased is prevented from escaping the body and retuning to haunt the living.
It is also said that Phi Tai Hong frequently linger at the place of their death, awaiting the arrival of another person who they can kill, so they can be reborn.
Some of the most feared of these ghosts are the Phi Tai Hong Tong Klom. They are the spirits of women who died together with their unborn babies - still in their wombs. As a result, there is not one but two angry spirits to deal with.
One of the most famous of the Phi Tai Hong Tong Klom is Mae Nak, whose – allegedly true - story has been told and retold over the past two centuries and has been made into an opera and a number of films. There are variations on this legend, but the basic version states that, during the reign of King Mongkut, who ruled from 1851-1868 when Thailand was called Siam, a beautiful young woman called Nak was married to the husband she adored – Mak.
Much to the loving couple’s joy, Nak became pregnant, but at that time, Siam was having problems with its Burmese neighbours and Mak was called away to fight for his country. He was badly injured and it was many months before he could return home. In all that time, he had no news of his pregnant wife. Unknown to him, his wife and unborn baby died, but when Mak returned home, there was his young wife, as beautiful as ever and proudly holding his new baby.
Neighbours knew what had happened to Nak. They tried to warn her husband, but he wouldn’t believe them. Those that accused Nak of being a ghost all died - mysteriously.
Then, one day, as she was preparing a meal, Nak dropped a lime. It fell through the floorboards and Mak saw her arm grow unnaturally longer and longer as she reached down to retrieve it. Then he realized that what his neighbours had said was true. He was living with two ghosts.
That night, her husband excused himself from their bedroom on the pretext of needing to urinate. He went downstairs and fled the house. Nak realized he had run away and set off to pursue him. Her husband saw her and hid behind a Blumea tree, whose sticky leaves are feared by Thai ghosts. He then escaped to the temple where she could not enter, as it was holy ground.
In her grief, Nak’s ghost terrorized the people of her village – Phra Khanong – as she blamed them for causing her husband to flee. An exorcism followed, which seemed to work for a time, until some fishermen found the earthenware jug in which the exorcist had trapped her spirit and thrown it into the canal. Not knowing its provenance, and thinking it might contain some strong liquor, they uncorked it and, as a result, set her free to resume her vengeance.
The services of the venerable monk – Somdet Phra Phutthachan To Phrommarangsi (see picture above) – were sought and he successfully laid her spirit to rest. He removed a piece of bone from her skull which tradition says he then had fashioned into a brooch which he wore for the rest of his life. Into this piece of bone, he confined her spirit. Following the monk’s death, the brooch came into the possession of the Thai royal family.
While her actions were frightening to those who suffered and their families, Mae Nak’s story has inspired a cult following and a shrine to her exists in the Suan Luang district of Bangkok to this day. Her undying devotion to her husband seems to have overpowered the murders she committed as a Phi Tai Hong Tong Klom in the minds of those who follow her.
Now, to give you a taste of Dark Avenging Angel, here’s the blurb:
Don’t hurt Jane. You may live to regret it.
Bullied by her abusive father, Jane always felt different. Then the lonely child found a friend in a mysterious dark lady who offers her protection—a lady she calls her “angel”. But that protection carries a terrible price, one to be paid with the souls of those Jane chooses to suffer a hideous and eternal fate.
When Jane refuses to name another victim, the angel reveals her most terrifying side. Payment must be made in full—one way or the other.
And here’s a brief extract:
Something had woken me from a deep sleep troubled by my recurring nightmare in which I was in a wood, being chased by some unimaginable horror. I never saw its face, assuming it even had one. But I knew if I didn’t find sanctuary, it would kill me. I had just made it into the strange little house that always appeared in the clearing, when my eyes opened and I gasped at the white, smiling face looking down at me.
That night, my angel seemed different somehow.
Oh, she looked the same. Same black cloak, but this time it shimmered and I wanted to touch it. I was sure it would feel soft as velvet under my fingers.
She put her finger to her lips and stroked my hair. Her touch was like a gentle breeze in summertime. My eyes wanted to close, but I forced them to stay open.
I knew I mustn’t speak out loud, but I could still whisper. “I wish I knew your name. Who are you? Please will you tell me?”
She continued to smile. Her lips moved, but the answering voice I heard was again in my head.
Do not be afraid, child. It is not yet time, but soon you will have the power to avenge yourself on those who have done you harm. Look for me in the shadows and I will be there, taking account.
I understood nothing of what she said. But, from somewhere, a calm I had never felt before emerged and wrapped itself around me.
I blinked in the darkness as she faded from sight.
Then I closed my eyes and slept. I never had that nightmare again after that night. But what if I’d known what was ahead for me?
Some things are better off left in the dark.
You can find Dark Avenging Angel here: