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They could hear the screams in the night


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The old rice mill as it stands abandoned, decades ago it was bustling with activity.

 

It is late afternoon in rural Kampengphet Province.

 

The Sun will set in the Western sky in about an hour and my old Toyota pickup truck has brought me to a rather desolate part of the countryside. A sharp turn to the left takes me from the main road, past a small village shop onto a narrower side road that winds its way between clusters of coconut palms. As I drive on, the asphalted road ends abruptly in a rough track that has once been graveled but now has a centerline of dusty grass, indicating how seldom it is used. Old and rusty ten wheeler trucks, some six or seven of then, have been parked on the right; their engines won’t ever run again, their large tires dug deeply into the soil. The whole place has a peculiar air about it; there is the sense of a long-gone past that meets the present, a feeling of what once was and never will be again.

 

I have been to this place several times before, and am not surprised by the eerie sense prevailing here. I have come to take a few photographs and to experience once more this strange atmosphere. Not for the first time I wonder what peculiar magnetism surrounds everything here, the rusty machinery and trucks, the buildings and the large factory that is at the center of it all like an enormous black spider in the middle of its web. As my old and faithful truck grinds to as halt in a cloud of dust, it seems to fit well into the surroundings. The Toyota Mighty X is well past its prime, sixteen years old – although totally renovated and as good now as it was in its heyday – and in a way is also a reflection of myself. I have always been attracted by the past, by mysteries, by the strange and the singular all my life. There is no lack of any of these here, and I feel at home. Perfect harmony and balance between heaven and earth, between the past and the present, the ancient Chinese sages would have said. One cannot arrive at this place without being affected by the perfect stillness and peace.

 

The old rice mill stands abandoned about a mile and a half from the main road at the end of the graveled path. The corrugated iron of the roof is reddish-brown with rust in places, weed and climbing plants have covered large parts of the trellised woodwork of the external walls and the tall brick chimney points towards the sky, a monument of long-past times when it belched black smoke and the area was bustling with life. On the chimney-top a little tree has shot its roots into small fissures and crevices in the brickwork, clinging tenderly to existence at great height in defiance of the elements. No natural earth has ever nourished its roots so it appears as a miracle of nature to the observer. In the total stillness of the place, I imagine I can hear the echoes of long-dead voices and the steady hum of the machines, shadows that are now forever lost in time and space. The building that was once so teeming with activity is now but an empty shell or a reminder of what is once was: the pride of its owners and the means of income for so many people.

 

I walk closer and observe that from the upper part of the building, gaping rectangular holes that once served as primitive windows and ventilators are partially cracked open, heavy shutters hanging from rusty hinges that will never be moved again by any human hand. The old rice mill is partially used to store fertilizer for sugar cane, as the roof is still good and has been clearly been maintained in an elementary but efficient way.

 

For many years, this rice mill was the workplace of a large number of people. It closed down sometime in the 1970s, according to my sources, and had by then been in operation for several decades.

 

As I stand look at what was once a major industrial site, I wonder about the fates of the people who worked here a long time ago. Are any of them still alive and can they be found in the neighborhood? I think it unlikely but theoretically possible that a person or two could still be around. Let’s say if somebody was around thirty in 1970, then that person would be seventy years old now. Still, forty years is a long time. Not only have many of the people who worked there died since, but they have moved away to other places. I decided to try to look for older people who knew anything about the old rice mill and ask them a few questions.

 

First of all, I met a man in his sixties who lived but a short distance away from the old mill. I stopped my truck as I saw him mending a fence close to what was obviously his home. After greeting him and a little small talk, I told him about my purpose, to find people who had once worked in the rice mill. He told me that, first of all, the rice mill had originally been a sugar refinery that had been established in the years before the Second World War. Then, at one point, the sugar refinery had been moved to another place and modernized, and rice milling machinery installed in the premises. He also told me that he thought it unlikely that I would find anybody who had worked in either factory; sugar refinery or rice mill. The reason was, he told me, that the owners had not employed local people to work there; they had hired people from far-away Issan. The only locals apart from the owners were the foremen and the office workers. This was rather discouraging, but I kept on looking and did not give up. After weeks and months of inquiry, most of it done through local people who are relatives of my Thai girlfriend, I found two men who told me what I feel is a remarkable story.

 

Some of the tale they told me includes the supernatural and I leave it to the readers to reach their own conclusions. What I was told is, in my opinion a mixture of facts and superstition that is difficult to disentangle after such a long time. The reader must keep in mind that the two men were not personal witnesses to the events presented here; they heard what they know from other people. It is a strange and sad story that was well known in its time and much talked about.

 

The two men, Mr. Diew and Mr. Bowat, agreed to tell me what they knew after being rather reluctant at first. I asked them about the reason for their reluctance and they explained that the reason had to do with ghastly things that had happened in and around the old mill once upon a time. It was considered “unlucky” to discuss these things. I pointed out to them that this could hardly be the case, and as it all happened such a long time ago they had good reason to accommodate me and answer a few questions. A bottle of rice whiskey and cigarettes helped the old men to start talking, and soon the words were coming fast.

 

The result is a tale that is as strange as it is horrible and sorrowful.

 

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Mr. Diew.

 

Mr. Diew, who only has eyesight on his left eye, began the tale. He said that many years ago, when he was a teenager, he heard the grown up people in the family talk about two deaths that had happened here. The first was a married woman who for some reason was run over by a ten wheeler truck. The second death was the result of an explosion that also damaged the mill. For a long time afterwards, the local people shunned the place. They said screams were heard in the middle of the night and two ghosts roamed the grounds. For this reason, the owners had to hire people from far away to work there as the locals, with few exceptions, would not even come near.

 

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Mr. Bowat.

 

I next talked with Mr. Bowat who, in his youth, knew a man who worked here, I will render his tale in his own words, as far as literal translation is possible.

 

 

 

When I was a boy, maybe ten or eleven years old, my father had a good friend who worked, first in the sugar mill and then in the rice mill, after it was changed into that. He used to visit us now and then and I still remember how excited I was by his brand new, dark-green bicycle. His name was Mr. Kann. When he visited my parents he always had some sweets for us kids, which also made him popular with us. Then he used to drink rice whisky with my father, I believe they had worked together at one time and therefore were friends. Anyhow, this man told my father what happened and he passed the story on to me. This is what my father told me:

 

There was a foreman at the rice mill who was something of a brawler. He was frequently drunk, also while on the job. The mill was operated on a shift-work basis and each shift was twelve hours. The foreman was married. One evening his wife came to see him to ask for some money. The foreman happened to be very drunk that night and in a foul temper. He shouted at his wife and told her to go to hell, as he would have nothing to do with her any more. The woman ran away crying from her husband in great agitation, as he had presumably also hit her – at least people thought so. She ran away straight from the mill and did not notice a truck that was driving close by and it ran over her. The men said there was little left of the woman’s body on the ground as she was hit first by the front wheel and then totally crushed under the rear wheels. It was dark and raining and the driver had not noticed her.

 

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Soon after this, the people working in the mill and also some others who lived in private houses close by, said her ghost could be heard and seen on dark and rainy nights.

 

The foreman did not better his ways after his wife’s death but drank even more and was as foul mouthed as ever. One of his jobs was to oversee the running of a boiler in a little building at the back of the mill. A few weeks after the woman’s death, the boiler exploded, killing the foreman. It was said that he was so drunk he did not attend to the gauge showing the water level, however that may have been, the explosion was so powerful that little or nothing was found of his body. The mill building was damaged at the back and part of the roof came off. This happened at the end of a shift and the workers had assembled in front of the building, on the other side of it. For this reason, the foreman was the only one killed.

 

The people were certain that the ghost of the wife had caused the explosion and that it was her revenge.

 

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Edited by sinclair1969

sinclair1969: a fuckin' degenerate gambler.

 

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Maybe its the use of black and white imagery that does it but this looks a real foreboding place. Good read, thanks.

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good story mate but we all know how the thais are superstitious

Well, I don't know if some of what we call superstition is actually true...

sinclair1969: a fuckin' degenerate gambler.

 

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  • 7 months later...

awesome story. love the "be careful what you wish for"-part,, "go to hell" and 10 seconds later she is crushed in a gory mess all in a dark, raining pool of bodily fluids mixed with mud. He really got what he wished for

delete my account please

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