Saurabh Singh is a commercial pilot who’s just conquered a deep fear. It wasn’t fear of flying but a dread of the dark and of what he might encounter in its depths that had Singh spooked for years. Until a few months ago, he wouldn’t even sleep without his bedroom lights on. But a three-month course in paranormal studies has changed all that. “The course equipped me with knowledge of what ghosts are all about and how to deal with them. Now, I sleep peacefully in the dark, secure in my new-found knowledge,” says Singh.
He is not alone in the pursuit of the unknown. An increasing number of urban Indian professionals are signing up for courses and training in paranormal sciences from a host of institutes that have mushroomed across India. And the cost of these courses — which can touch Rs 75,000 — is no deterrent.
Some, like Singh, sign up to face their fears, but for others it’s all about the thrill and sense of adventure. “When I started the Indian Paranormal Society a few years back, the word ‘paranormal’ was not familiar to everyone. I am happy that so many people are now taking interest in paranormal investigations. Ghosts are nothing but human consciousness without a physical body,” says Delhi-based Gaurav Tiwari, the country’s most famous ghost-hunter.
His Indian Paranormal Society runs the Ghost Research & Investigators of Paranormal (GRIP) academy from which, Tiwari says, around 3,700 have ‘graduated’. The academy’s three-month-long course can cost anything between Rs 45,000 and Rs 75,000 depending on the level of specialisation one wants to achieve.
It includes training in the use of ghost-hunting devices such as the electromagnetic field meter, infra-red thermometer, electronic voice phone, full spectrum cameras etc.
These can detect changes in electromagnetic field and temperatures which, paranormal investigators point out, can be indicators of paranormal activity.
Has Tiwari come across any such activity? Quite often, he says, citing an investigation he conducted last year in Delhi’s Karkardooma court where advocates complained of unexplained events at night. “The lawyers installed CCTV cameras and one day, at around 11.55pm, they saw all the computers getting switched on.
They also saw a bright light in the shape of a ball. When I was called to conduct my investigation after a few days, I put balloons on every computer and ordered aloud (to a suspected paranormal entity) to switch on the computers, move the balloons left and right, and to open the web browser. All these commands were carried out. Our electronic voice phenomena recorder also captured a voice that asked us to ‘get out’. The place was really haunted,” he says.
Around 50 paranormal teams and societies across India are in the pursuit of such paranormal occurrences, with Delhi alone boasting of over a dozen. Interestingly, a lot of these are run by doctors and engineers.
Kolkata-based Soumen is a mechanical engineer by day and a self-taught paranormal investigator by night. He was attracted to the paranormal during spiritual classes in his school where ‘soul’ was an often-repeated word. Like Tiwari, he too believes that ghosts are human consciousness. “Ghosts do not appear in white saris as most people have come to believe from movies. Their paranormal activity is nothing but an attempt to complete the task they couldn’t complete in their lifetime. This generally happens when someone dies in an accident,” says Somen, who founded the Paranormal Society of India (PRSI) along with a lawyer friend.
The most common signs of a place being haunted, he says, are unexplained shadows and noises, the feeling of being watched, lights turning on and off on their own, balls of unexplained light, eerie crying, unexplained handprints etc. “But in 90% cases that we handle, there is no real haunting,” says Soumen.
Bangalore-based dentist Rahul Kumar says he turned a paranormal investigator because science cannot explain everything. “Many behavioral and physical conditions of man lie beyond the boundaries of medical science. There are many doctors in our team of paranormal investigators who discuss cases that medical science cannot explain,” says Kumar, who is part of the Pentacle Paranormal Research Society.
The society, set up by former journalist Shishir Kumar takes the study of the paranormal a notch higher to include the mysteries of extra-terrestrials and UFOs.
Team Pentacle, which claims to have captured the first ever full-body apparition in India, runs the Institute of Paranormal Research and UFOlogy. “Our team has doctors, engineers, physiotherapists and charted accountants who blend the psychic and scientific approach in paranormal investigations,” says Mumbai-based Shishir, adding that most cases come from Mumbai and Pune.