Ghosts. Spirits. Demons. The stuff of legends and of horror stories. They find our way to us through first hand narratives and through whispering that do their rounds across our cities. Believe them or not, it is hard to ignore them.
1. She Walks In Beauty (As told by Amrita Das)
A man who works at a cemetery tells a young woman with long ebony locks that she had better wear it tied up. When asked for an explanation, he had a story to tell.
Once, when he was quite young, an uncle of his had been admitted in P.G. Hospital, Kolkata. At around one in the morning, after visiting him at the hospital,he was walking home with a friend. It was then that they noticed a group of women sitting on the bank of a pond. Curious, they started walking towards them. The women revealed themselves to be all exceptionally attractive. As he approached, one of them, having walked over to meet the men, inquired, “Tomra eto raatey ekhane?“(Why are you here so late?) There was an unearthly appeal to the woman, and she spoke with a quaint, smiling charm on her face. The men were about to say something, but then they noticed something. The woman’s feet was inverted-and so was that of every other woman with her. Terrified, they took off and ran all the way to Victoria Memorial.
The trope of the beautiful woman with the inverted feet-in a hundred variations-abounds through horror stories. These are women ready to lead men to their doom, and prey of women who show a hint of charm to rival their own- hence the guarding of the long, lustrous hair.
2. The Evil In The Family (As told by Amrita Das)
A girl is mysteriously and perpetually ill, but no doctor can do a thing about it. Finally, her father takes her to a tantric who demands to know if anyone in her family wishes ill for her. No one can give a decisive reply so he feeds her a concoction which makes her faint. When she revives, she is well. It turns out that her aunt had wished her out of her way. She was childless and resentful, and was greedy for the family property that she knew would be her husband’s without the girl’s presence. Her devious black magic had kept the girl sick, so modern medicine had failed.
3. The Pull of The Unknown(As told by Vireshwar Das)
A seven year old child is asleep alone in his room. His father is at the dining table, his mother has been hospitalized. A door connects the two rooms. As the child is falling asleep, he feels a pull. He feels like he is being pulled towards one of the windows by his bed, and suddenly, he feels frozen into immobility. He tried to shake off that crippling force and screamed for his father. His father said he had been moving- from one side of the bed away from the window to almost out of the window. It has been years, but he never sleeps anywhere near that window again- not even by daylight.
4. The Eyes Have It (As told by Manish Mandal)
A child of twelve is holidaying in the Sunderbans with his family. One night, they stop at a place amidst the woods. As night falls, the guesthouse darkens with the electricity failing. The cousins stay in one room, their parents in another. The boy wakes up to use the washroom- a place almost surrounded by woods. It is raining that night, and upon the window of that room is a steady pitter patter. The child, while in the washroom, sees a pair of green eyes glowing in the distance- floating, it seems his way. He takes off and runs through the corridor to his parents’ room- and as he does so, he feels a wispy, cloth like presence pass by him.
5. The Face By The Window (As told by a family friend)
A couple is staying in Digha, at a lesser used room in the lodge. The wife wakes up one night to see a face pressed against the high window, and wakes up her husband. That night he is dismissive, but the sight appears again and again, every night in. It is a vividly lifelike face, the nose pressed white against the window pane but the window is too high for any man to reach it. When the hotel authorities are questioned, they admit that the room in question is rarely let- someone committed suicide there a long time ago, and there have been reportings of hauntings ever since.
6. The Rumor Of A Delhi Witch
An urban horror stories tells of a witch that does the rounds in the streets of Delhi. The witch does the rounds from door to door asking for an onion, which it stands there and starts to peel. As the juice oozes out of the onion, so does life from the unfortunate bequeather of the onion.
7. The Harsh,Cold Truth (As told by Manish Mandal)
This incident happened to the narrator’s grandfather. He worked in the railway and one cold night, he stopped at a wayside shop for a cup of tea. A nice old couple served it to him, and what puzzled him right away, was how cold the glass was while the tea in it was warm. After drinking it, he shook hands with the man- a hand that grew colder, till he realised it was a skeletal one. He made a run for it, terrified. When he told others about this, he learnt that the place he had gone to had a reputation for being inauspicious and nobody trod it alone by night. On returning to it next morning, neither the shop nor the couple were anywhere to be found.
8. They Came For The Child (As told by Vireshwar Das)
When the narrator was an infant of around six months, he was asleep in his room while his mother was cooking outside- in a kitchen from which the bedroom was visible. All of a sudden, she hears a thud and rushes out to find the child, wrapped up still in his blankets, lying on the threshold, badly injured. There was no possible explanation for this.
9. Kolkata’s Phantom Cop
A hitchhiker haunts the streets of the city by night, dressed in a cop’s uniform. Halfway through the journey, he mysteriously disappears from his seat, evaporating into thin air. Legend of horror stories has it, that a cop was killed in a hit and run incident in the streets of Kolkata and he haunts the streets looking for his killer.
A solo camper goes outdoors and puts up near his parents’ house, in the summer he is 19. He takes pictures of his surroundings, and when he comes back and develops them, he finds pictures of himself-that he had not taken and nobody he had knowingly given the camera had-because in those photos, he was asleep. What was stranger, not a thing of his had been stolen-it was just the camera that had been used to photograph him.