Bengali literature and films are full of ghosts – those that live in marshlands, on tall trees, in old houses, in crematoriums, those that eat fish, eat human flesh, cruel ones and innocent ones, humourous ones and serious ones.
Now comes a flyover ghost, a totally novel apparition, the fear of which has been stalking numerous residents of Nagerbazar, one of the most crowded areas of Kolkata, after a young biker was killed on a flyover in an accident that took place in May within a month of chief minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurating the structure.
Rumours of a ghost – actually a male figure stopping cars and bikes on the flyover at late hours of the night – have spread like wild fire over the past few days in the area with people even shutting window panes in the neighbourhood despite the sultry weather to keep the spirit away.
Sreetama Bose a government employee who stays near Mrinalini Cinema Hall at one end of the flyover said, "I have heard about the strange things happening on the flyover from my relatives and friends. I am really scared. I have started avoiding the bridge even during day time."
"I don't believe in ghosts and would request everyone not to believe in such rumours. I, too, have heard about the rumour but right now I'm at Nagerbazar and absolutely no one is scared or concerned about it," Sujit Bose, vice-chairman of Bidhan Nagar municipality, said.
Prabir Chatterjee, inspector-in-charge of Dum Dum police station, rubbished the story. "It's nothing but a rumour being spread and the media should not encourage it," he said.
A visit to Nagerbazar indicates the rumour is more omnipresent than the apparition. Locals complain of water and stones being thrown at their homes from the flyover, which runs very close to houses on either side.
And if there are reports of ghosts, can the ghost busters be far behind? One of the founding members of the Paranormal Research Society of India (PRSI), Somen Kotal, told HT they have already been tipped off by worried citizens of Nagerbazar.
"Recently we received a mail in which the sender claimed that a woman who saw the accident in which a biker died is witnessing strange things. She had given drinking water and bandages to the locals so that they could give to the victim when he was writhing in pain. Now she often sees shadows moving in that particular zone," Kotal added.
Reports have also poured in from other local residents about the shadows. They also claimed that some strangers try to stop their vehicles asking for lifts. But after a few seconds none can be seen.
"We would like to go there to investigate with infrared thermometers, motion detectors and special sound recorders. But we need permission from the police, or the local councillor, as these experiments need to be conducted between midnight and 3am when paranormal activities are believed to heighten," said Shantanu Sen, another PRSI member.
"Not all such strange incidents are paranormal. Often criminals try to scare local residents so that they avoid a particular area, thereby helping criminal activity," Kotal also warned.