Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers, the roads clogged with the latest luxury cars or the high-tech gadgetry in pockets and purses. This country of 65 million people has embraced modernity, yes, but many Thais will tell you that ghosts and spirits still wander the streets and inhabit buildings. Important business decisions often require consultations with a fortune teller. Cabinet ministers and military officers are sometimes so concerned with numerology and advice from their shamans that politics in Thailand could be called the black art of the possible.
“We still have our ghosts, we still have black magic,” said Todsaporn Jamsuwan, the co-founder of Holy Plus, a company that makes “spirit houses,” the ubiquitous miniature structures that resemble dollhouses and serve as dwellings for protective ghosts.
Far from abandoning traditional beliefs in the paranormal, Thailand is harnessing the forces of technology and modernity to reinforce them.
Mr. Todsaporn’s company has tweaked the idea of the spirit house, replacing wood with modern construction materials like ceramics, glass and granite panels. With electric wiring and indoor lighting, the Holy Plus spirit houses resemble the glass-and-steel office buildings and condominiums they are meant to protect.
Those who might have predicted a few decades ago that the rise of science and technology would eventually blot out Thailand’s longstanding preoccupation with the supernatural can walk into one of the country’s thousands of 7-Eleven convenience stores. Amulets meant to protect and bring good luck sell next to breath mints. Horoscope books are mixed in with instant noodles and junk food.
There are YouTube channels devoted to fortune telling, home-shopping television shows hawking amulets and computer programs like “Feng Shui Master,” which is advertised as helping divine the future of gold prices.
Luck Rakanithes, a fortune teller who started out two decades ago dispensing horoscopes the old-fashioned way (face-to-face in a corner of an obscure Bangkok hotel) now runs a call center with a room full of fortune tellers sitting in cubicles and wearing headsets as if they were selling credit cards or offering tech support. They dish out celestial advice for 15 baht, or 50 cents, a minute.
“There are only two things that people are really, really interested in: sex and fortune telling,” said Mr. Luck, whose name, he says, only coincidentally corresponds to the English word for good fortune.
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