The British-era Lambi Dehar limestone mines near Mussoorie that have buried more than 50,000 miners over the years.(HT Photo)
The British-era Lambi Dehar limestone mines near Mussoorie that have buried more than 50,000 miners over the years.(HT Photo)

Spooky tourism: Uttarakhand to promote eerie sites to attract foreigners

Officials have identified 15 haunted sites so far, including Hotel Savoy and the British-era Lambi Dehar limestone mines near Mussoorie.
By Prithviraj Singh | Hindustan Times, Dehradun
UPDATED ON MAY 24, 2017 12:31 AM IST

Listen to the whistling wind on moonless nights and peek out. You will hear the heavy thuds of Pahari Wilson’s boots or see him walk down the village road with his rifle cocked…

The legend of 19th-century British adventurer Frederick E Wilson could be among the eerie entertainment that Uttarakhand plans to promote as ghost tourism.

Everyone likes a good ghost story, and the Himalayan state known for its spiritual attractions is making a spirited proposal to cash in on the public’s interest in the mysterious and supernatural.

“Ghost tourism has ample prospects of attracting foreign tourists,” tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said.

The state has its fair share of supposedly spooky mansions, cemeteries and legends. And the best stories from the mountains and valleys are about fascinating local history with a sprinkle of spooky lore.

Agatha Christie set her The Mysterious Affairs at Styles on a legend that supposedly still haunts Hotel Savoy, a landmark in popular hill station Mussoorie.

Locals and guests say the spirit of Lady Frances Garnet Orme, a British spiritualist who was murdered in 1911, roams the corridors and staircases of the 1902-built hotel. She is also said to teleport from room to room, searching for her killer.

The state tourism department is searching too — not Lady Orme’s killer, but buildings and sites that have the reputation of being haunted.

“We are collecting information … to package them as tourism material. Stories behind these places will be displayed on the premises,” minister Maharaj said.

His department will hire guides and artistes to act in skits with adequate sound effects to make the experience more chilling.

Officials have identified 15 haunted sites so far, including Hotel Savoy and the British-era Lambi Dehar limestone mines near Mussoorie. The mines often give way, burying more than 50,000 miners in separate accidents over the years. Legend has it that the dead scream for salvation at night.

These sites are at the front edge of haunts, generating a steady stream of pictures, videos and write-ups on the internet.

Ghost tourism has boomed over the past decade globally, but “not very popular in India”, Maharaj said.

Bhangarh fort and Kuldhara in Rajasthan, D’Souza Chawl in Mumbai, Shaniwarwada fort in Pune, and Dumas beach of Surat are among the big draws in India for spook-house connoisseurs.

But Maharaj believes his state can do better. “Structures available in the hills … the pristine environment will attract tourists from all segments.”

Pahari Wilson’s home in the quaint Garhwal hamlet of Harsil, a pit stop for pilgrims on the way to Gangotri, could become a haunt that smaller, lesser-known ghost dens aspire to be.

The Englishmen, who lived in a timber bungalow with his two local wives, introduced apples, rajmah and timber trade to this sleepy Himalayan nook. He is so entrenched in people’s mind that locals see him almost everywhere.

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