A new social media communicator is chilling Cambodians to the bone with eerie ghost stories. Sporting red highlights, Sok Samphoaskolthyda, known by the alias ‘Scarlet’, is a 23-year-old that has risen to fame in the Kingdom due to her uncanny ability to spook her audience.
Scarlet, a communications graduate from the Institute of Foreign Languages, uploads videos every week on her YouTube channel and Facebook profile recounting her experiences with the paranormal and also those of fans from around the world.
Her videos have won the hearts of many people in the Kingdom, a country where movie theatres are dominated by the horror genre based on ghost stories.
What sets Scarlet apart from other communicators in this ghost-obsessed culture is her retelling of personal experiences, with which many Cambodians can sympathise.
“I’ve had many experiences and seen some weird things that I would call spirits. It all started when I was living in my old house,” she says, explaining that she has stumbled upon ghosts in abandoned buildings, forests, and old houses.
“One day, while talking with my younger brother, I realised that I could do something with these dark, supernatural experiences. I thought to myself: Why not share these experiences? They’re real experiences, and I am sure many people can connect with them,” she says.
A few years ago, it was not unusual to hear fictional ghost stories on Cambodian radio stations, she points out. These stories sparked her curiosity for the supernatural.
“Unlike those stories on the radio, the stories in my videos are personal experiences, while some are experiences from my fans. Real stories are more compelling,” she says.
Scarlet, who works as a content development specialist for a company, recalls one such experience.
She had just arrived at Kep with two colleagues for an assignment. At midnight, she checked into her hotel room. Her colleagues went to get something to eat, and she was left alone in the place.
“I was about to take a shower, but when I walked into the toilet, I had this blood-curling sensation. I sensed someone was staring at me. I sat down and prayed. I thought that it could be one of my colleagues so I rushed out of the toilet to see if they were back. The room was empty,” she says.
Scarlet tried to gather her thoughts. She convinced herself that the presence she felt was one of her colleagues who had returned while she was in the toilet. However, when she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she saw something she could not rationalise.
“I went in front of the mirror to apply some makeup. But what I saw shocked me: My face was different; it was like a vampire’s. My eyes were very red. I closed my eyes, hoping that my normal face would appear when I open them, but the face on the other side of the mirror was scarier every time.
“I jumped on the bed and went under the blanket. I asked my colleagues if they had been in the room a few minutes ago, but they said no.”
Scarlet has shared stories from some of her fans, including from Japan and South Korea, but she admits this is more challenging that recounting her own experiences.
“Lately, I have been making videos about stories from some of my fans. While these stories are interesting and unique, they are hard to tell because they are not my own. I need to spend a lot of time making sure I have all the details right so that my audience can understand.”
Since September, Scarlet has posted 18 videos, each between 15 to 20 minutes long. A new video is uploaded every week on her YouTube channel. Within a few days, it is posted on Facebook for her 74,000 followers.
“I am busy with my day job, and making these videos is time-consuming, so I can only upload once a week. I’m stuck at my desk until 9pm, but I still make these videos because it is my passion.
“Sometimes, I start filming at 10pm or 11 pm. Then I have to edit the video. I rarely miss uploading once a week. If I do, I’ll upload two videos the following week to make it up to my fans,” she says.
Scarlet advises her audience not to be too obsessed with the stories on her channel. She says people should view these occurrences as part of life.
“Ghost stories can be frightening, but they can also be funny. I often try to bring some humour into my storytelling. Ghosts are real, but I don’t want my fans to be paranoid. It’s not good to overthink the paranormal,” she says.
Her storytelling has also attracted the attention of supernatural beings that, she says, are haunting her.
“After my first three videos, I started experiencing weird things while filming. I heard howling. The lights would suddenly switch off.”
To appease the spirits and be able to continue making her videos, Scarlet says she now wears a protective amulet and has begun making offerings to the disgruntled ghost.
“I offer food to the spirit and I ask her for permission to continue making my videos. I also carry magic dust from incense sticks and wear an agarwood bracelet to repel the ghost.
“I’m scared but I will continue with my work,” she says.