The Thailand Ghost Swindle

In late April and early May of 2000, TV news shows in Thailand repeatedly aired apparently authentic footage of a ghostly seance that had occurred deep in the heart of the Kham Chanot forest. The video had been shot at night using an infra-red camera, and it showed a man dressed as a Buddhist monk making contact with other-worldly spirits. One spirit appeared as an impossibly tall and skinny man who wore no shirt and ran through the forest, howling, screaming, and waving his arms. The shakiness of the footage, combined with its sounds of the night-time forest, produced an air of eerie authenticity.

Not only was the footage shown repeatedly on television, it was also the subject of a number of newspaper articles. Many people travelled to the area in which the video had been shot in north-east Thailand's Udon Thai province, 564 km from Bangkok, hoping to see the ghosts for themselves.

Police, however, were skeptical about the authenticity of the footage. At first they speculated that the video had been produced as an April Fool's joke. They reported that two groups of people had been seen leaving the Kham Chanot forest on April 1. One group, who was questioned leaving the forest at 3 a.m., had told the police they had been in the forest making an offering to the spirits.

Later, on May 24, the police arrested a local cult leader named Kitti Papasarobol whom they charged with creating the fake footage and defrauding one of his followers. Apparently Kitti had told one of his followers, a woman, that he could contact ghosts, and that if she gave him 300,000 baht ($7700) he would use his links with the spirit world to improve her fortunes. She gave him the money, and he then produced the video of the seance to demonstrate his ability to contact the spirit world.

The police identified the man dressed as the buddhist monk in the video as Kitti Papasarobol. They theorized that the ghost in the video was an acquaintance of his who was standing on a box.

Kitti denied the charges and maintained as his defense that he really could contact spirits. Police gave him a chance to prove this ability by requesting that he produce a Buddhist amulet from sand. He failed the test and was sent to jail.