He’s an expectant mother’s worst nightmare and totally unrepentant. Nain Ae, the defrocked Saraburi black magic monk who spent six months in jail for grilling over 1,000 stillborn babies is now Thailand’s foremost black magic practitioner.
“I’ve grilled 1,000 stillborn babies,” proclaimed Nain Ae, opening up debate on the ancient Thai practice of kumon tong – grilling stillborn babies to unleash the spirit of the ‘Golden Baby.’
The 50-year-old black magician who was previously a monk for 35 years, fears a few things in life and one of them is not appearing in the news.
A man directs me to our interview, and says: “Just ask for Nain Ae’s chicken ranch.” While driving in the countryside, I inevitably get lost. “Know the man who grills babies for a living?” I ask a local. “Oh, just down the road and turn left,” he instructs, with a touch of healthy fear in his voice.
Nain Ae’s ranch is right next to a temple. There are chickens scuttling everywhere and a Thai kickboxing ring – outward signs that this guy is heavily into gambling sports.
“I’m Nain Ae”
A man with swirling sacred tattoos snaking around his face greets me from his tiny weatherboard house. “I’m Nain Ae,” he says without pomp. He isn’t pulling any rabbits out of hats here. Then his wife, who appears to be half his age, says hello and bends down to pat a mangy German Shepherd.
For someone who’s reputedly tucked away a billion baht (Thai currency) from practicing black magic for high society clients, his abode smacks of cheap hocus-pocus. His marriage two years ago to his nymphet wife caused a furor in the local Thai press – they’d been covering the beeline of beauties to the baby griller’s chicken ranch since he was released from jail. “She married me for love,” he told the reporters. “Love for his money,” they retorted, alleging his wife came with a shovel to dig for the fortune he’d supposedly buried on his property.
In his modest lounge room, tiger skins stretch across the wall and antique scimitars frame newspaper articles of his exploits. “Come into my lair,” tempts Nain Ae, as we enter his black magic den. He’s well seasoned and appears comfortable with his notoriety. Spent candles, incense sticks, voodoo figurines, and passport size photos of his clients are scattered across the floor between statues of Indian and Thai dieties.
A pot of human skulls from the cemetery – one of Nain Ae’s proud possessions
One figurine has a nail lanced into it. “He’s a cheater,” he volunteers, “so I’m fixing him up at the request of his jealous wife.” He then painfully pulls out the rusty nail and proclaims, “Cheaters must be punished!” And I’m thinking of the mortal pain that man in the photo next to the voodoo doll is experiencing.
I can’t help feeling unnerved by the vacant stares of the five skulls arranged along a shrine. A miniature skull captures my gaze. “Oh, that’s my neighbor’s stillborn,” says Nain Ae. I’ve got a gut feeling here, this guy’s a sick fuck. But as the good Doc would say, ‘when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’ Next to shrine, a pot brims with human skulls. “They’re from the local cemetery,” he purrs. “You aren’t a black magician unless you rape a few cemeteries for fresh corpses.”
Nain Ae’s way of making “The girls go crazy over you”
Before Nain Ae’s ban on black magic two years ago, he’d extract fat from the cadaver’s chins to concoct ‘num mun,’ a love potion of such virulence that women would instantly drop their panties. “The girls go crazy over you,” Nain Ae confirms as he pours out a tiny sample of this syrupy sap liquid into a vile, which he says goes for US$500 a pop. “You’d be surprised to know who are my customers are,” he states, confirming that they are people in high places who are in need of some of Austin Power’s mojo. He points at a picture of himself standing next to a prominent Thai politician who recently pushed to legalize the sport of cockfighting.
In a neighboring province, according to the Bangkok Post, authorities had unleashed black magic in the war against ‘yaa baa’ (Thai speed), by casting spells on known drug dealers. The photo running with the article showed a police officer standing next to a witch doctor who was offering a grilled pig to appease the bad spirits and curb methamphetamine-related crimes.
“I wasn’t invited,” piped up Nain Ae in a disgruntled tone. He reckons he could have saved the authorities a lot of money for these appeasing-bad-spirits shin digs. “If anyone can stop yaa baa, it’s me,” he claims as he breaks into an upbeat country song entitled ‘Nain Ae’ that a zealous fan composed and recorded. Sure, this guy craves news of himself, and he’s his biggest publicist.
The first steps into the dark world of black magic
I timidly venture to ask when Ae’s career as a baby griller began. But he cuts me short. “Just shut your pie hole and listen,” he shouts, and relates his fifteen minutes of fame. Nain Ae was an orphan reared in a local temple. The precocious child, who said the Lord Buddha had spiritually ‘touched’ him, followed other temple boys to train as Nain Ae, novice monks, which is how he got his nickname.
The young temple boy’s first foray into magic was with lottery numbers. Nain Ae would look for signs in a mirror while meditating, “magic number, appear, appear” he chanted hypnotically. His claim to fame is having predicted winning lottery numbers 17 times in succession. One follower, impressed by the novice monk’s prognosticative powers, asked him to win money from his forecasted numbers. Nain Ae took the bait. “You’re not meant to do this,” he confesses. “It goes against the teachings of black magic.” That time, reflects Nain Ae bitterly, “the numbers revealed in the mirror were duds.”
In shame, the teenager put his robes away for a few years and roamed Burma and Cambodia, where he connected with various shamans and black magic practitioners, learning all there is to learn in this arcane branch of knowledge.
The tattooed body which draws no blood
“See this,” says Nain Ae, lifting up his white robe to reveal a torso covered in magical tattoos. “It won’t draw blood,” he says. To prove his point, he applies a sharp knife with great pressure into his ribs. There’s only a puncture hole, but no blood. Figure that one out, Harry Potter.
Nain Ae had his entire body tattooed by a Khmer witch doctor, who jabbed magical inscriptions using a two-foot skewer continuously for 24 hours. It was an initiation rite, explains Nain Ae, undertaken by every trainee under Cambodia’s most revered black magician. He picks up a skull as an exclamation mark to emphasize his point. “This skull of a western journalist who betrayed my teacher,” he says with foreboding.
I smile politely, asking him again what got him into grilling stillborn babies. “Shut your mouth,” he shouts again, nervously playing with a dagger by his side, then spitting out a gob of tobacco into a spittoon in front of his feet.
Nain Ae on the secret formula for winning a cockfight
The touchy ex-monk now ruminates on his 1,000-plus fighting cocks, letting me on a few trade secrets. I trace the back of my neck consciously, thinking Nain Ae has let me off the hook temporarily. “To spook an opponent’s rooster,” he begins on his trade secrets, “you mix garlic, cockroaches and virgin spit in Vaseline and instill it with some homegrown spells. Then you smear some ‘spook’ ointment on your fighting cock and watch the opposition shit itself with fear.”
A mummified baby in the corner – that looks like a cross between a fruit bat and a vampire – is decorated with prayer beads. It’s psyching me out. “That’s my showpiece for clients who want to buy a kumon tong- golden baby,” beams Nain Ae.
On the way to the toilet for an atmosphere break, this guy is intense, I espy a few large rice wine glasses in which appears primordial slim. “That’s the glass I picked fetuses in,” says the black magician who is shadowing my every move. I continue to scrutinize blood stained butcher knives. “Never know when they come in handy,” he remarks. This guy is truly beyond the pale. But I don’t dare tell him that.
The spine-chilling ‘baby grilling’ process
As a monk, Nain Ae was clandestinely supplied stillborn babies from hospitals and abortion clinics. The choicest came from the womb on Sunday. The best day to grill them was a Tuesday, according to him. Who am I to argue? To conjure up the ‘baby spirit,’ it has to be grilled in the ordination hall. This explains why Nain Ae has strategically placed his ranch next door to a temple.
Before grilling began, Nain Ae would bend the fetus into position and hold it with chicken wire. “The most requested position is vertical,” he explains, sparing me no detail as he points to his beaded showpiece,” so the Golden Baby can be carried around for good luck in either a handbag or trouser pocket.”
He’d then wrap the stillborn in sacred cloth with Buddhist designs, and roast the stillborn over hot coals for four hours until mummified. “With only the skin stretched over the skeleton”, he elaborates. “It’s important to pray into the fetus the whole time, telling it to be a good spirit for it’s master, and to bring him prosperity.”
“I tell my customers they must give offerings of Coke and sweets to the spirit baby. If they don’t, I warn them, the spirit of Kumon tong will dance on the end of their beds in the twilight hours. The spirits will terrorize their owners out of their own homes”. As a follow-up service, Nain Ae performs exorcisms. “But they don’t come cheaply.”
Nain Ae is “always for hire”
Asked if he’ll resume grilling babies after his ban of practicing black magic expires this year, Nain Ae gives a cautious smile. With equanimity, he says: “I don’t grill babies anymore”. But that doesn’t mean he won’t dabble in black magic for the right price. “I’m always for hire,” he says, adding that introducing you to a baby griller practitioner, “isn’t breaking the law.”
During his halcyon days of practicing black magic, the police often raided his temple for evidence of the Golden Baby. “They never found anything,” he says. “You’d think I was selling speed the way they snooped around.” He probably was!
Nain Ae suspects the Supreme Sangha (Buddhist Council) set up a sting using a TV documentary crew as bait. “Success was going to my head,” he admits. “Even though it was bit suspicious, at the time I’d do anything to appear in the news. I even grilled a baby in front of the camera.” That was to be his downfall.
After the filming, the TV producer demanded Nain Ae pay him one million baht or he’d leak the film to the press. Nain Ae refused on the grounds that they should’ve paid him for the right of filming. But the TV producer duly duped and disrobed Nain Ae before the scandal hit the news.
The scariest thing about black magic
Nain Ae argues to this day that the authorities were out to get him. The Buddhist Council, meanwhile, counters that this rogue monk was the biggest threat to Buddhism next to Communism. “They even tried to pin rape charges on me, but the evidence was lacking,” he says.
Still, he sees justice working in other ways. The producer who set him up soon died in a car accident. “Black magic can reach people in mysterious ways,” says Nain Ae. He is back to jabbing a voodoo figurine that looks remarkably like me. “We use nails from coffins with every jab,” he says sadistically and shows me a photo of the victim. “They feel sharp stabs in their belly and writhe in agony”. I’m getting the message and want to vomit in his ‘backy spittoon.
“Now you won’t write anything scandalous about me, will you?” he warns, jabbing the doll repeatedly in the eyes. No I won’t, I think to myself, as I drive back to the safe havens of Bangkok. After the display I just witnessed, there’s no way I’m pissing off the Black Magic Monk.