School closed after “pupils possessed by spirits’
THALANG: The Director of Cherng Talay Wittayakom secondary school sent students home for three days from Monday, following an apparent case of mass hysteria the previous Friday.
On that afternoon, a number of students were supposedly possessed by a spirit after a backhoe being used as part of a renovation project accidentally damaged an old Chinese shrine behind the school.
According to some accounts, one girl first became possessed by the shrine’s spirit. She began pointing her finger at School Director Nachai Keimnipatt, screaming abuse at him.
Other students also showed signs of possession, some screaming until they collapsed. The wave of hysteria then spread in varying degrees to other students – and to some staff.
K. Nachai downplayed reports that up to 100 students had been “possessed” and that some required hospitalization for shock. He said the actual number affected had been about 20 or 30.
One teacher told the Gazette that about 10 students went to the hospital after the incident, while the rest simply went home.
K. Nachai told the Gazette that, following that Phuket Vegetarian Festival, some students had undergone ritual purifications at a local shrine for cases of possession.
“My students regularly served as mediums for the shrine during the Vegetarian Festival, so rituals were performed afterward to help release the spirits from them,” he explained.
“But on Friday I had ordered a backhoe to do some landscaping work in an overgrown area behind the school, and the operator didn’t notice the old Chinese spirit house, and damaged it,” he said.
“One student became terrified and began screaming, [claiming that] an apparition appeared to her after the spirit house was damaged.
“The spirit [appeared to have] entered the girl’s body. Through the possessed student, the spirit told me she no longer had a dwelling place and wanted a new shrine. I promised to rebuild the small shrine just for the Khaaw Spirit [which had possessed the girl] and another, larger, shrine for all the other gods and godesses. After that I called the hospital. Then the police came too.
“It was all very tumultuous,” K. Nachai said.
“With all their screaming, they frightened the other students and staff, so I made the decision to close the school for three days,” he said.
Ceremonies will be arranged to ensure there is no repetition of the strange event, he added.
“I have invited local community leaders to take part in ceremonies to atone for whatever bad things happened, and to dedicate the new spirit houses. These will be in a new area that will be easier to take care of, and more convenient for believers who want to pay their respects.
“Although I believe in science, I don’t want to be disrespectful [of their beliefs], so I myself will make offerings of pork, chicken and garlands of flowers,” he added.
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