I write ghost stories because I’m highly curious about ghosts, monsters and all things that lurk in the dark. But are ghosts real? As an author interested in the paranormal and supernatural, this is a question I get asked a lot. I’ve had a few experiences which defy logic, and whenever I’m travelling, the first thing I ask folks is whether they’ve had any supernatural experiences or not. Over the years, I’ve gathered a few tales — and the tellers insist they’re all true:
Double suicide in IIT Kanpur
I stayed at the beautiful IIT Kanpur campus for a few weeks a couple of years ago. It’s a dense, big campus, a whopping 1055 acres of lung space on the outskirts of the chaotic madness that is Kanpur. At a literary meet, a student told me about a room in one of the hostels, where there had been two suicides in a row. After the second one, the authorities locked up the room. At night, though, some students heard a rattling sound from inside, as if someone was trying to open the door. This student even approached the door one night when the noise disturbed him. “The door knob turned even though I knew there was no one inside,” he told me. He ran back to his room, firmly shutting the door. “Yeah,” said another, “but the room was cleared the next year and given to a first year student. The ghost has been forgotten.” I wonder if the new student experienced anything.
The man with a lantern
For residents of the mountains paranormal experiences are an everyday occurrence. They don’t think of ghosts the way we city dwellers do. An old man told me this tale of his youth: he was walking down a lonely stretch of road at night, in darkness as there was not much moonlight. He saw a man up ahead walking with a lantern and called out to him. The man didn’t turn. He reached the man and touched his shoulder, but when the man turned and the lantern illuminated his face, there was nothing there. No eyes, no lips, no nose. “I turned and ran so hard I had no idea where I went,” the old man told me.
A dancing table in Switzerland
I was told this story by a friend, an enthusiastic blogger, who experienced it herself when she was young. “My great-grandmother had a small round wooden table, a tabletop with a central stand on three split legs that would rock and knock when people gathered around it for a ‘spirit’ session.” Ever the curious, she approached the table one evening with a few cousins and an uncle, determined to dispel the illusion. When the table started to wriggle and tilted to stand on one leg, she asked her uncle to stop pushing it and freaking them out. What happened next literally shocked her. “I got an electric shock from the offended table because I had refused to believe it could shake on its own accord.”
Patna’s mystery man
When she was young, a friend of mine moved to a new home on the outskirts of Patna. The kitchen window overlooked a farm. Everything was great, except her mom would see a man squatting in the farm whenever she cooked. He looked like a farmer and would be staring at her silently. Whenever she called out, there would be no response. He was there every afternoon, for five odd hours, staring in through the window as her mother cooked. Although it freaked her out in the beginning, my friend’s mother got used to the situation and ignored him. “He would squat there, staring, every day for five hours,” she said. “We assumed he was a peaceful ghost and let him be.” Two years later, he disappeared just as mysteriously as he’d appeared.
The Manali sighting
As a teen, I’d once gone to a camp in Manali. At night, when the clear sky was laden with stars, all of us sat on a ledge away from the camp, chatting. About 30 meters behind a ledge, I saw a figure in white. I thought it was girl at first, but there was something weird about the figure. It began to glide towards us. Not walking. I blinked, and asked others if they saw it too. Thankfully, they all did. The figure shimmered in the starlight, almost as if she had a torch under the white ensemble. As we wondered what it was and tried logical arguments, the figure vanished just as eerily as it had appeared. I am still unsure what it was.
The fat lady in Haridwar
My grandmother, who recently passed away, told me this story. She’d heard it from her brother, who’d heard it from the rickshaw puller who experienced this. A really fat lady had once ridden on his rickshaw, wanting to go to Har-ki-Pauri. Surprisingly, though she was really fat, the puller peddled the rickshaw as if it were empty. When they reached the ghat, the lady asked him to wait. “I’ll be back in 15 minutes after a quick dip in the Ganga.” She gave him a handkerchief tied up in a pouch. The driver waited for her for an hour, then a few more hours, then began to worry. Had she drowned? He went to the ghat and found her clothes floating in the river. But there was no sign of her. When he opened the knot of the kerchief she had left behind, he found precious emeralds, rubies and diamonds wrapped inside it. When he went back to the spot he had picked her up from and inquired about her, he found that she was a rich lady who had died in an ashram the previous year, her last wish being to take a dip in the Ganga.
The woman on the Lonavala road
My friend insists this is a true story: on the way back from Lonavla one morning, he and his two friends saw a woman. “We were driving slow as we wanted to enjoy the early morning scenery. The woman looked like a beggar from a distance, really tall, thin and lanky.” The weird part: she was walking backwards. As they passed her, they saw her disappear into their rearview mirror. “Maybe she was drugged or a nutcase,” my friend says, “else why walk backwards?” Though they were tempted to, they didn’t dare turn around, stop and see who the person was up close.