Southeast Asian legends tell of a bloodsucking creature of demonic tendencies; one which preys on pregnant women and disguises itself during the day as a beautiful young girl. Many cultures along the coasts and inlands of the South China Sea have their own renditions of this vampire-like entity. In Cambodia it is called Ahp, in Laos it is called Kasu, in Indonesia and Malaysia it is called Penanggalan. The Filipino call it Manananggal, and in Bali it is known as the Leyak. But in Thailand, it is known as the Krasue.

By day the Krasue is a beautiful young woman or a kindly looking old woman. By night its head separates from its body (which it then hides) and ventures into nearby cities, towns, or villages to prey on expecting mothers. While the body is left behind, the entrails - lungs, liver, intestines, etc - are brought along with the head, dragging beneath it like a ball and chain of soft tissue.

The Krasue enters the homes of its victims in secret and makes loud shrieking noises until its prey is worked up into a panic. The creature then appears at the foot of the bed, creeps up between the legs of the pregnant woman and, with a long proboscis like tongue, feasts upon the placenta and developing fetus. The Krasue then returns to its body and resumes its charade as a normal person the following day. Perhaps the worst part of this heinous act is that the victims of the Krasue become Krasues in death, ensuring a never-ending supply of these monsters.

Families of expecting mothers have taken to adorning their homes with wreaths of thorns; lining the windows and doors, and encircling the bed. It's explained that this keeps the Krasue away as it is scared of getting its entrails snagged on the thorns and being unable to return to its body before sunrise. Which, incidentally, is one way to kill a Krasue. Another is to find its body and destroy it by chopping it up or setting it aflame. You can also kill a Krasue by hiding its body, ensuring that the two cannot be rejoined before the sun rises.

The origin of the Krasue is somewhat varied depending on which culture you turn to for an explanation. The Thai say that she is an ancient Khmer Princess (of the Angkorian Khmer culture). The story goes something like this:

Once upon a time there was a very beautiful Princess, the Princess of Khmer, Princess Tarawatee. In 1431 the Khmer capital was invaded and overthrown by Thai military and Tarawatee was taken back to Sukothai (the Thai capital) and given as a concubine to the victorious King. As if things couldn't get worse, Tarawatee fell in love with one of the conquering soldiers and when their affair was discovered by the King, the Princess was sentenced to death by fire.

Before the executioners could get to her, the Princess consulted a witch of black magic. The witch concocted a potion that would prevent her body from being harmed by the flames rising up from the stake she was to be burned at.

The princess took the potion but was unable to buy herself enough time for it to work fully. When she was burned, her flesh and muscle burned away and only her head, organs, and spine remained intact. She died and became the Krasue, seeking to regenerate her flesh by feeding on the blood and placenta of the unborn.

Other cultures suggest that Krasue are created when witches use black magic to attain great beauty but then, in their vanity, do not follow the strict guidelines of black magic. Eternity as a Krasue is a punishment for those who don't abide by the regulations of their craft.

So if you're an expectant mother visiting Thailand, try to keep the thought of the vicious and frightful Krasue out of your mind. And don't forget: surround your hotel room with wreaths of thorn just in case.


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