The supernatural has always fascinated the human civilisation. Our run-ins with inexplicable phenomenon have led to creation of folklore, legends, superstitions and ghost stories across cultures. Psychic investigator and corporate lawyer, Deepta Roy Chakraverti approaches this realm as a science while seeking answers through research and philosophy. In her fascinating debut book Bhangarh to Bedlam: Haunted Encounters (2015), she had – through her experiences and investigations – written about her brush with the paranormal. In her new book, Cursed at Kedarnath & Other Stories (2017), she returns to the subject with fresh stories and insights.
Chakraverti, who has travelled far and wide across India in the course of her explorations, lists for us her top 5 paranormal experiences:
Rajasthan’s Bhangarh Fort is notorious for being India’s most haunted. While the 17th century fort carries its own darkness, there is a shifting form, which till some years ago, could be seen inside the premises of the abandoned Someshwar Temple just before the main building. Smooth stone steps lead up to what was once the main prayer area of the temple. Narrow stone pillars dot the outlines of the temple structure. Water streaks down an old wall, falling into a tank turned green with age and wilderness.
And as everything falls silent, in a corner near the temple walls, a blue mist gathers. It swirls and shimmers, coalescing into the form of a dancing figure, a woman with a blue veil. A favoured courtesan, who was banished and became a temple dancer. There is a legend of a curse by a tantrik, which trapped the spirits of those who died there. And they say, that centuries later, that curse was also to be lifted, by a woman who knew the ways of old.
Park Street, Kolkata, at the time of the Kolkata Christmas Festival
A part of the city from British times, this busy thoroughfare dons a special atmosphere at the time of the Kolkata Christmas Festival in December. It is then that I have seen a flickering apparition at the crossing where Middleton Row meets Park Street. A little girl, barefoot, dressed in rumpled clothes. Her hair and her face look scorched by fire. Even as the blue and white lights glitter and music plays from Allen Park nearby, a frail arm points accusingly in its direction. For it is a few steps away from an old building which caught fire a few years ago.
It was a terrible inferno. It was in those flames that the child lost her beloved father, a labourer who had come from Bihar. It was there that she herself succumbed to the flames. And today, she weeps bitterly, for where her father crumpled and died, there is music and celebration, and where she lay amidst the flames and gasped for breath, Christmas lights glitter. In the face of a callous administration, it is a heart-breaking tragedy which still seeks conclusion.
The Indira Gandhi Memorial in Delhi
Located at No. 1 Safdarjung Road in Delhi, former PM Indira Gandhi’s house was turned into a memorial soon after her tragic assassination. Even today, it preserves rooms and artefacts, which lie untouched – as if their owner had just stepped out for a moment and would return soon. The museum houses the saree and slippers she wore when she was killed.
Old blood stains streak the faded sandal tones of the saree, and sharp bullet holes in the cloth are a grim reminder of the violent end its owner met. I have found that if one stands there and looks upon it, there is a feeling of struggle and unrest. Almost as if something is trying to escape from within the weave and fold of the cloth. As if tragedy lies trapped within. Even though the whole is encased in glass, if one watches closely, sometimes a ripple seems to caress the layer of cloth.
The abandoned shed of goddesses by the Rabindra Sarobar lakes, Kolkata
There is an old shed which lies by the lakes. About four years ago, the state administration started to store idols of Durga, from the annual Durga Pujas in Kolkata, in there. They said it would be a museum of idols. And so, as the rituals ended, these large idols were taken from the pandals, and not allowed to be immersed in the waters, as is tradition from time immemorial. Instead they were carted off to this shed, and to this day, lie there, gathering dust and neglect.
Over the years, some have lost arms, faces have crumbled, until today there is something else in there. These abandoned idols are not ‘empty’ any more. Dark forms and shapes seem to rise from the ground and blend into the clay forms. Even on the brightest of days, there is a grey haze which suffuses the place. Perhaps the key lies in the past. At the time of the World War II, that land used to have an army hospital. It housed a large asylum for the mentally insane. Many who died there, still lie buried under the soft soil. Perhaps their spirits have now found a new home.
Pari Tibba in Mussoorie
Called the Hill of the Fairies or Witch’s Hill, it lies south of the famous Woodstock School. It is an area which is marked by many sightings and paranormal activity such as temperature fluctuations. People who even drive past it have reported sudden mood swings. I have found that the closer one draws to the Witch’s Hill, the more one can feel a watchfulness in the air.
There is a sinister quality to it. The hill is said to be unusually prone to lightning strikes and strange formations in rock and wood dot the tibba. Small rock shrines are also found in some spots. Legend speaks of two star-crossed lovers who died there, struck by lightning. There is an old ruined house on this hill, which has an unusual story around it. They say some British women were building it and every morning, they would discover their previous day’s work demolished. They said the pari did not want them there.
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