Southeast Asia is rich in culture and superstitious beliefs, sometimes making it hard to draw a distinction between things done for fun or as spiritual precautions.
I don’t know about you, but I always assumed that the cute plush toys and dolls often seen suspended from the rear bumpers of cars, particularly lorries, were just a form of lively decoration; or placed there for lack of a better place to store their claw machine wins.
That is, until I came across this TikTok video:
@tata.shalalalala Mungkin sebab suka-suka saja bah. Tapi ada cerita lain pasal ini. See the comment for the answer! #spooky #plushtoys ♬ Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano songs – Skittlegirl Sound
With the ominous audio and hashtag #spooky written in the caption, I then realised that the toys were often placed there for supernatural reasons, as confirmed by the poster in her pinned comments:
The rationale behind this is that drivers who frequent the roads at night can sometimes encounter unwanted spirits and disturbances, leaving them at risk of running into danger or harm. Therefore, the toys are placed there in attempt entertain or distract these ghosts.
According to Citer Online, it is a common Thai belief that spirits tend to roam across the vicinity in which they died, and tragically, busy roads and highways are a recurrent location for such instances. It is believed that these souls, awaiting a chance to be reborn or angered by the circumstances of their passing, may cause an accident by deceiving a driver, particularly at night.
This left me wondering how such an interesting fact had gone undiscovered by me for the past 22 years…
However, scrolling through the comments section, I realised that I was not alone with my incognisance towards the matter. Many netizens noted that they had not even given a second thought to the sight of those dangling toys, while others shared additional theories as to why they were commonly hung from the rear bumpers of cars.
Here are a few of them- some satirical, some evidence-based:
Among these, the most common theory was coincidentally one of the more wholesome variations, which was that drivers often used the toys as an indication of a special child in their life, a silent plea for other drivers around them to be careful.
Alternatively, when hung from personal vehicles, some believe that the toys serve as a cooler way to say “baby on board”, another version of the bunch of toys you see cramming the rear windows of cars that have you wondering if the driver has kids or is just a major Hello Kitty enthusiast.
Well, now I know what to do with all the suction cup soft toys scattered around the house…