In August of 2005, Renee Brooks of made a gruesome discovery in a garage used by her ex-husband, Robert M. Winston. Breaking the padlock, Brooks was shocked to find 27 stacked cardboard boxes which Winston had labeled “fetuses,” “medical waste” and “autopsy cases for Winston Funeral Home.” Brooks immediately contacted McKeesport, PA police.
Winston, a former funeral director, had at one time had a contract with Magee-Women’s Hospital to cremate the remains at a rate of $1 per pound. Apparently over the course of three years, Winston had collected approximately $9,000 in fees from the hospital. Investigators determined that he delivered an undisclosed portion of the remains he collected to Pittsburgh Cremation Services, which disposed of it for him. At some point though, he fell behind in his finances and ran out of money to pay for the cremations and began storing them secretly in his locked garage.
On final count, it was determined that remains
of over 300 infants had been hidden away by Winston. Prosecutors, however,
decided the prudent thing to do would be to charge him with 19 counts of
abuse of a corpse - one for each of the babies who had actually been born
alive and lived for a short time period.
Dead babies in magic and folklore
Stories like Winston’s are relatively rare in
the United States, thankfully. But if we were to transpose these events into
another part of the world, we might get a glimpse into a world of dark magic
few of us would be prepared for. As far as anyone can tell, Winston’s
actions were motivated by a “personal, professional and financial decline.”
He ran out of money and began taking extreme actions in hopes of slowing his
descent. Though his intentions do not seem to have been occult or magical in
nature, several South-East Asian countries do have a long history
of using the remains of fetuses and stillborn babies to bring luck, success,
In Malaysian folklore, the ghost of stillborn babies is the Toyol, which may be harnessed for magical uses:
Toyol is a still born that is exhumed in the dead hours of the night. It is then brought back to life with incantations of the unholy and the sacrificial blood of a pure white rooster. Incense is also burned as an offering but doubt it has any merit to the gods (seems that the incense mask the reeking smell of death). Then it is housed in a large jar and set on an altar. It is then released from its jar after the bewitching hour and will heed any commands that the owner wishes it to execute. Toyols will kill, steal, maim and create havoc in small villages. Easy to do because they are in actual fact a little fetus. After it has done its deeds it will come back to the owner. The only catch in owning one is that it has to be fed with the blood of a white rooster and incense at midnight. But beware that all it takes is for you to miss one meal and it’ll go delirious and certain death will befall the owner.
Another source indicates:
The Toyol is believed to be a dead baby that has been revived through some demonic ritual. This small creature, which serves the person who has revived it, is said to be green in colour with red eyes and feeds on small amounts of blood. The Toyol is also believed to be somewhat mischievous and will suck on the big toes of a sleeping person. If commanded to steal, it will only take half of the victim’s treasure.
And yet another explains: “The toyol is kept by people to do their bidding, but the price for keeping it is you HAVE to feed it your own blood EVERYDAY.”
Partly because of the dark subject matter, and
partly because of the countries of origin, it’s difficult to track down
really solid information sources for this stuff online. But after extensive
research, I discovered that in China, this same ghoulish entity is referred
to as kwee kia or
And in Thailand, it’s called the guman thong (also: kumon tong, guman
thuang, or variations thereof). The classic name for it though in
English is “The Golden Baby.”
The Golden Baby
The story of the Golden Baby comes supposedly from a 19th century Thai tale called, “Khun Chang Khun Paen”. In brief, the story goes:
Khun Paen was a soldier, 400 years previous, a time when supernatural forces played an important part of traditional warfare.
Khun Paen had wanted a protective spirit to watch over him in battle. To this end he cut the unborn foetus of his son from his dead wife’s womb and took it to a temple to perform an occult rite.
He wrapped the child’s torso in sacred cloth and roasted it on a fire whilst chanting ritual mantras and dark incantations to create the supernatural being with whom he could communicate.
According to the site that quote was taken from, and several others the guman thong requires regular care and feeding, just like a real baby. It seems that offerings of food, milk or even blood should be made to the spirit at least once a day. Other sources suggest preparing a plate at the table for the spirit whenever you eat. Since the Golden Baby is still the spirit of a child, it also requires that you give it toys, and nourish it with love as you would a normal child. It’s also suggested that if you have (living) babies in your home, that you do not undertake to entertain a guman thong, as it will become jealous of the affection you shower on the real baby.
These things still occur today in Thailand, or at least that’s what local lore says. There is a famous Thai monk turned black magician named Nain Ae who allegedly made a fortune selling guman thongs:
As a monk, Nain Ae was clandestinely supplied stillborn babies from hospitals and abortion clinics. The choicest came from the womb on Sunday, and the best day to grill them was a Tuesday, according to the baby griller. And who am I to argue. And to conjure up the ‘baby spirit’, it had to be grilled in the ordination hall. Which explains why Nain Ae’s ranch is strategically placed 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, terrorizing their owners out of their own homes.” As a follow up service, Nain Ae performs exorcisms.” But they don’t come cheaply.”
Some people claim that Hindu followers of Kali also follow a very similar ancient ceremony:
Shortly before midnight, the tantrik gave me a battered tin box to carry and led me to a nearby burning ground, where the body of a pregnant woman had been saved from the fire for his use. I watched in growing horror as he stood on the corpse and recited mantras. Using a special instrument he took from the box, he removed the fetus from the womb of the dead woman. Examining the tiny limp form, he assured me it was still undead, though beyond hope of revival. He’d kept the soul within the body by a magic spell, he claimed. He pulled a razor-sharp knife and a large jar half-full of some solution from the box, and then, chanting more mantras, he began to butcher the baby, dropping the pieces of flesh into the jar. Aghast and trembling, I fled the scene.
According to another source though, this grisly practice is no longer all that common in Thailand. I don’t have any particular firsthand knowledge of any of this, so you’ll have to evaluate these sources yourself (as usual). In any event, in it’s place, a sort of counterfeit guman thong industry has sprung up. Instead of real fetuses or stillborn babies, what’s known as Looke Koge amulets (available on eBay - pictured at right) are carved from sacred materials such as tree resin, “wood from demolished temples, ivory, bronze and plaster.” And then through special prayer and rituals, spirits are cordially invited to inhabit the amulets. As far as I know though, if you do have the amulet “activated,” you’re supposed to care for it in the same manner as the guman thong, in order for it to retain it’s magical efficacy.
Whether or not you personally believe in any of the spirits or magic described here, we should all be able to agree that throughout human history, the death of children has always caused a great sadness, desperation and horror. And it’s no surprise that such a wealth of folklore would spring up around something so elemental to human experience.