The Ghosts Of Kamchanod

Kamchanod Forest

The Ghosts of Kamchanod, Wang Tong, Udon Thani Province, 1987

In 1987 a telephone call to a mobile cinema projection company was the start of a mysterious ghost story that years later would become the subject of a top Thai movie. The identity of the caller has never been known, but their request for a night of entertainment in the rural rice clad province of Udon Thani has since been left unexplained, and become one of Thailand’s great mysteries, and one of its most famous ghost stories.

KamchanodKamchanod forest is on a small island cut off by small waterways near the village of Wang Tong. The dense forest is reputed by most locals to be the underground kingdom of the mythical Phaya Naga (dragon).

The fireball breathing Naga is believed to lurk beneath the Mekong River in northeastern Thailand and appears at the end of the Buddhist Lent (during the eleventh lunar full moon in October) each year.

Every year thousands of Thais line the banks of the Mekong River in nearby Phon Phisai and Nong Khai, hoping to see the Phaya Naga shoot fireballs from the murky waters that divide Thailand and Laos.

The Phaya Naga Festival is one of the biggest yearly events in Northeast Thailand, and visitors come from all corners of the country in the hope of seeing the much-celebrated mythical dragon.

The Ghosts of Kamchanod

In 1987 a four-strong projectionist team arrived early evening on the island and set up their open-air cinema equipment in a clearing, exactly as the mysterious caller had requested.

As the 9 pm start time approached, no one had arrived, and minutes later the spools of the film started to roll to an empty venue. Later in the night, a large crowd of strange-looking country folk appeared out of the forest and silently assembled before the big screen.

The women were all dressed in white and stood on the right side, the men all swathed in black banded together on the left, nobody spoke a word. The production film reels continued to spin to a still and motionless crowd who watched throughout without any hint of emotion.

At four in the morning, the outdoor theatre finished and the crowd disappeared just as suddenly as they had arrived. The cinema crew packed up their equipment and headed back to Wang Tong.

The village was at the start of its day when the cinema crew appeared and set about questioning the villagers about the picture show. Those they asked knew nothing of the event, and nobody had heard the loudspeakers booming either. All four men realized their movies had been viewed by a large gathering of ghosts.

The ScreenThe Screen of Kamchanod is a ghost movie made in 2007 by Five Star Production (Thailand). Good, bad and downright ugly are words that best describe many of the reviews that I read on Director Songsak Mongkolthong’s horror movie. The plot involves a team of investigators who try to reconstruct the exact events of that spooky night in Udon Thani Province.

The four-strong investigation team is led by Dr Yuth (Achita Pramoj Na Ayudhya). The team travel from Bangkok to track down the same spools of film used by the cinema company projection team to re-enact the ghostly night. The exact location in Kamchanod forest is used to try and tempt the ghostly spirits into the open once again.

Dr Yuth, his girlfriend, and two Bangkok journalists are all hoping to uncover a major scoop. Not long after their arrival, the forest of Kamchanod unleashes its dark forces upon them all. The group stumbles from one catalogue of horrors to the next and their lives come under increasing danger.

In the reviews, the movie gets slated for its poor acting, loose plot and praised for some very scary moments and the charms of Thai actress Pakkramai Potranan, who plays Dr Yuth’s girlfriend.

Kamchanod forest can be viewed from Wungnakin Kamchanod Reserve, Wang Tong, near Ban Dung, Udon Thani Province, although, if you do, it’s recommended you leave before nightfall.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

15 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Pretty good post. I just came by your site and wanted to say
    that I have really liked browsing your blog posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

  2. Mike says:

    HD me thinks you have been visiting Northern Thailand for too long!

    The only naga round here are the slithering type, in fact I heard a tale the other days (from MTF) how the naga (the stuff of nightmares) had come for an old man in a nearby village.

    Of course like all good ghost stories the truth of the matter was somewhat different. No appearance of the mythical beast here just a cobra which sadly dispatched the old boy when he stumbled upon it.

    Mind you whatever the reviews of the film say I am sure it will be well received here!
    .-= Mike´s last blog ..Thai names =-.

  3. Catherine says:

    Excellent. I LOVE Thai ghost stories. When I rode around Bangkok looking for different spirit houses, my Thai teacher filled me in on some of the ghost stories attached to them.

    I’ll have to check to see if there is a book on the subject. But, it is much better getting the individual ghost stories from a Thai, yes?
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Habits of Highly Effective Expats =-.

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Mary thank you very much. Comments like yours make all the work put into writing so worthwhile. I hope I can keep up my standards for you.

    Mike, Ouch…the bit about the old man and the cobra hit home hard and true, do the cobra’s get sighted often. One year I am going to visit the Naga Festival and see what this “fireball business” is all about.

    Catherine I’ve always been interested in ghost stories but luckily I’ve never seen one. If you find a good true Thai ghost book could you pass on the title as it would really interest me.

  5. expatudon08 says:

    great post and to be honest i have never heard this story before so thanks for posting it for all to read
    having been to Kham Chanot quiet a few times over the years the place does have a certain feeling
    i myself have never seen a ghost but would not scoff at those that say they have
    its not just another temple out there readers there’s something lurking in those trees and you would not catch me there at night never mind 3 our 4 in the morning

  6. Hoo Don says:

    John I’m surprised you haven’t heard of the ghost story being as Ban Dung is a place I know you like to be. The story first hit the news on October 4th 1991 when the Thai Rath newspaper ran an article on it, some 3 to 4 years after it happened. The ghost story is probably the most famous in Udon Thani, why not ask your wife about it as I’m sure she’ll probably know a lot more about it than me. You can view Kanchanod forest from the road that leads around the reserve. I have visited Kamchanod on 4 occasions now and enjoyed every visit, perhaps you can run an article on it for your blog. Thanks for the read.

  7. Frances says:

    That is scary! Thanks for telling the story so well – rest assured that living in the middle of nowhere I have no intention of watching any scary movies soon, but very happy to read about them! 🙂

  8. Catherine says:

    Martyn, after coming up empty googling, I contacted Danny at DCO books (he’s a gold mine of information).

    Danny did a search in their database and found ‘The Rice Birds: Folktales from Thailand’.

    I’ll get my copy next week.

    He also mentioned a book I already have – The Spirit Houses of Thailand.

    And there is one other I have – Spiritual Abodes of Thailand.

    Both are excellent reads.

    DCO Books has two options for ordering – inside Thailand or the West (saves on shipping).

    Btw – one of my favourte Thai words is ผีเสื้อ / pĕe sêua.

    So ‘butterfly’ in Thai is ‘ghost shirts’.

    Isn’t that fun?
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Habits of Highly Effective Expats =-.

  9. Talen says:

    I have heard so many ghost stories in the village…it seems every structure and empty pot has a ghost of some kind. I love the stories though because being the smart ass I am I make sure ti bring them back up at the appropriate very dark times of night when Pookie is most susceptible lol.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Frances your lovely animals would I’m sure chase away any unwanted guests and as for movies a good Hollywood blockbuster beats scaring the wits out of yourself everytime.

    Talen I do the same with Wilai who is a little scared of dogs howling in the night. Sometimes late evening I peer through a gap in the curtains and tell her I can see a big dog sat in a saamlaw waiting outside our front gate. “I think he wants to take you for a ride” I say… can see the fear in her face.

    Catherine I found a write up on The Rice Birds: Folktales from Thailand and here it is

    “This book presents stories of adventurous humans, bloodsucking demons, and righteous gods.
    The tales introduce readers to strange rituals, mysterious visitations, and magic incantations.
    They offer explanations for many animal traits, for natural disasters, and for the origin of various Thai proverbs.
    Based on an ancient oral tradition. the tales deal with such archetypal themes as the helpful talking animal, paradise lost and regained, and the struggle between good and evil.
    Among more than fifty illustrations are depictions of a peculiar tiger-eating monster, a scheming water demon, and two lovely princesses with elephant noses.
    Also portrayed are the Fairy of Good Fortune; Phra Phrom, a Thai deity with four faces; and even the Buddha on his visits to earth.”

    Sounds interesting and thanks for all the information. Perhaps you should be renamed the Bangkok Oracle.Have a good day.

  11. john says:

    i did ask the wife hoo don and she told me the same story without hesitation so yes she does know the story and it seems like something did happen out there
    as her village is only about 10km away i guess the jungle drums where really beating the day after
    god i would have been freaked out if i was the movie guy
    it seems the old spirits where at work no wonder i can not get the wife out at night much

  12. Hoo Don says:

    John I agree with you that something did happen and it really is a fascinating tale. Next time you visit Kamchanod have a walk around the little market stalls because they sell a DVD that tells the ghost story (in Thai), it is a recount of what happened on the night and is quite good even though I couldn’t understand a word of it. Sweet dreams.

  13. expatudon08 says:

    yes for sure and thanks i will get that dvd next time i am over there sometimes i walk round with my eyes closed
    while browsing another film blog i found a pot about the film maybe of interest to you i think a link back to your site from there would be helpfull to all regards john the link is
    thai film blog

  14. Hoo Don says:

    John you will have to have a good hunt around for the DVD but it’s there because Wilai bought one. I have checked out the site before and it recently mentioned the movie and linked back to my site. Cheers.

  15. expatudon08 says:

    sure i will have a good luck next time over there the story seems to be very well known for somebody to make a film about it ban dung is not such backwater after all
    i placed the link to this article from my khmchanod blog post on the ban dung issan blog
    regards john
    .-= expatudon08´s last blog ..typical expat day in ban dung issan thailand part 1 =-.

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