Living Among The Dead

The Cambodian people are very spiritual which comes from their rich history and punctuated by tragic interludes that has scarred this land – but only making their faith stronger. Because this country has seen so much tragedy…many Khmer people believe that spirits still wonder and some claim they have seen them.

Pol Pot ruled Cambodia (formally known as Kampuchea) between 1963 – 1979. He was a dictator who reigned with an iron fist and killed an estimated 3 million people, which was approximately 1/3 of Cambodia’s population. During this time many of the scholars and artists were targeted, while people died through mass bloodshed that has indelibly shaped this countries beliefs.

Many out in the villages think the departed still walk among them, then when bones are found in their back gardens and common areas  – this only confirms their suspicions.

The faith of the people of Cambodia is predominantly Buddhists, which is entwined within the core of their beliefs in spirits.

They also believe in reincarnation and feel that if a person is not given the correct burial, it is impossible for them to move into the next life. The soul then becomes trapped on the physical plain, doomed to wander in an existence of mystery, unless they can be released through the power of ceremony and prayer.

Many Cambodian people swear that they have seen ghosts and those who were a skeptic – are now not so sure, because of the number paranormal sightings that people have claimed to witness.

Many villages put these sightings down to the frequent event of bones being dug up as Nou Pharng, 48 from Battambang will attest.

“I am not scared of bones,” she explains, relaying the events that both stunned and thrilled her.

After coming across a buried skeleton in her garden, which still had the colors of the infamous Khmer Rouge attached – one of the first things that Nou asked this misbegotten soul was for the winning lottery numbers.

Nou was too poor to pay for the Buddhist burial, which she knew this soul needed in order to move on to the next life.

How the man came to be there buried in her backyard is anyone’s guess, but many people died from malaria, starvation and stepping onto landmines. Even today it is estimated that 5 million antipersonnel mines still litter rural areas with worldwide efforts made to locate and detonate.

Buddhists believe the burial ceremony is vital to pass into the next life and Nou had no idea how she could pay for the funeral, which she suspected may have been very much needed – so she asked the skeleton for help.

A few nights later, Nou had a dream as the lottery numbers appeared tangle among her nighttime visions and seeing this as an omen – she put the exact same numbers on the next lottery draw.

To her amazement, the dream turned out to be correct and Nou won the $100 she needed to pay for the transportation of the bones to the local pagoda (temple) for a Buddhist burial.

One may shrug this off as mere coincidence – if it was just an isolated case but some have even seen ghostly animals running by. This happened to  Lim Van, 64 of Reaksmei Songha when he and a friend were walking through their village late one night.

Up ahead they saw some cows, which they thought had escaped from one of the villagers paddocks and decided to round them up. As the two men approached closer, the cows suddenly disappear before their eyes.

Van is positive that there was nowhere to run and with water on both sides, he is adamant they were ghosts. But why did they appear before he and his friend that night – Van does not know?

Van is convinced that there are also human ghosts in his village and he himself have uncovered human remains on several occasions. “I have found the bones of many people in my garden and one morning two skulls in my fishing net,” he said.

Just like Nou, he is praying for a windfall so he too can bury the forgotten bones to help them rest in peace.

This land of Cambodia is steeped with many such stories of spirits and numerous people have their own tales to tell of an encounter with the paranormal. Could it be that there are so many sightings because of the amount of death this land has seen – or could there be something more to it that only adds to the mystery?

Throughout the world, many religious monuments have been built on ley lines (energy lines of the earth) and Cambodia is no exception. These ley lines have strange and magnetic properties, which many believe was harnessed by ancient cultures – and some speculate that Angkor Wat is on one such ley line.

Does this strange and mysterious earth energy have something to do with the amount of ghost sightings and paranormal experiences here in Cambodia…this we will never know – but it raises some very interesting questions?

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