Friday, September 3, 2010
As they were walking to a restaurant this morning for lunch, the girl was suddenly seized in what appeared to be some kind of fit, going very pale, her muscles becoming rigid and she began laughing maniacally. First time anything like this has happened according to her family. She became uncontrollable, so the relatives packed her back to the hotel. There, it was suggested that she may have become possessed, perhaps picking up a poltergeist when she accidentally touched one of the 'spirit boats' (see photo) that are sometimes left on the street by people trying to rid their house of bad spirits. I tried, as sympathetically as possible, to suggest that there might be some other more natural explanation, but my words were respectfully ignored.
The hotel manager, staff and a few other kibitzers came to the room to help. Everybody was trying to calm her down and appease the unruly spirit. Many in the group were clearly skeptical of the situation but politely played along. The possessed girl said, in Vietnamese, that she didn't want to go back to Vietnam, she wanted to stay here in Cambodia. People burned incense and planted food and drink strategically around and outside the room, trying to draw the ghost out, but with no success.
She jerked about, looking rather like a monkey, clumsily examining things in the room as if through new eyes. At that point, their taxi driver, who is Khmer, stepped up and told the ghost in Khmer that the girl was going back to Vietnam, that the ghost would have nowhere to go once in Vietnam, and that it would be better for it to leave her body here while she was still in Cambodia. She responded in good, clear, properly accented Khmer, "I don't want to go. I like this body. This is fun. I will not leave this body," and then went back to maniacal laughter. The Vietnamese and Khmers all freaked out, even the skeptics - the driver took several steps back muttering "coo! coo!" ('poltergeist, poltergeist,') Mom and Grandpa started crying, the hotel staff fled in fear. According to the family, the girl doesn't know one word of Khmer. I don't know her background, but I can attest to the fact that these people are Vietnamese that live in Vietnam and in my limited observation do not appear to know any Khmer. When I first met her and the family a couple of days ago, I tried speaking Khmer with them since my Vietnamese is so bad, and they didn't even understand a simple 'hello, how are you?' (sousedey, sok sabei?)
Anyway, shortly thereafter she passed out. Somebody went to fetch a monk and the anti-ghost activities continued until she awoke about 10 minutes later, back to her former unpossessed self, but complaining of being very tired and sore. Now the family is spending an extra day or two in Cambodia to consult with monks at the local pagoda regarding this problem. They don't know if the ghost has left or not. They don't want to carry it back to Vietnam for fear that out of its element it will become attached to their house or somebody in the house. Mom wants to leave now, fearing that more Khmer ghosts may attack the family. They're all giving me the 'see, I told you' lecture, fortunately in a language I don't understand,. It's been quite the drama. Grandpa wants me to warn other tourists to be careful of spirit boats when in Cambodia, and of the generally aggressive nature of Khmer ghosts. So consider yourself warned.