The death of Gaurav Tiwari, the CEO of Delhi-based Indian Paranormal Society, has turned the spotlight on an eccentric clan of ghostbusters that has, in the past decade, turned into an underground phenomenon. “Many of us were inspired by his work, and found our way to the field through him,” says Rahul Kumar, 28, a Bangalore-based paranormal investigator, who is dentist by the day.
“Paranormal investigations are not uncommon, it has been around for over 80 years in India and abroad,” says Kumar, whose interest in paranormal forces began in 2008. “However, in the past few years interest in the field has increased. We get calls from students, IT professionals, even doctors and scientists, who are influenced by what they see and believe some things go beyond science,” he adds.
But, he says, they have to look out for the majority bogus cases or incidents of psychological disturbances, and it is only one percent of the time where they cannot explain what is going on. “We investigate the property, interview the owners, and learn the history of the place. We rule out illnesses, psychological problems or drug abuse that might be the cause; sometimes, we stay the night and set up devices to pick up on any activity,” explains Rahul. The devices used are scientific and sophisticated.
While many question the credibility of the devices, and the validity of parascience, the popularity of ghosts and spirits is undeniable. Delhi By Foot organises a “Night Walk” in the Capital where guests set out to explore places like Sanjay Van around twilight and discuss personal experiences of ghosts and spirits. Kolkata, however, has the more boldly titled “Ghost Walk”, but Anthony Ahatchaturian, who organises it, is surprisingly cynical about the supernatural. “For me, the ghost walks are a foolproof way of showcasing the city’s heritage. The spooky element gains instant attention,” says Ahatchaturian.
“There was an incident that happened during one of our walks in Garstin Place that housed the old AIR office. Apparently, when it was functional, during the break between radio broadcasts, a British pianist would play Beethoven and Mozart. However, years after the office shifted to a different place, people who walked by the building at night claimed that they could hear music. During my walking tours, on two separate occasions, my guests insisted that they heard music in that very spot,” he says. Though Ahatchaturian doesn’t believe in ghosts, one prospect really scares him. “If, by any chance, one of my guests gets really spooked out and gets a heart attack, that will be the end of it. I am scared of the legal backlash,” he says.
Stories and myths around india’s most haunted
Bhangarh Fort, Alwar: It is said to be one of the most haunted places of India. The most popular among a handful of folklores associated with the fort is that a wizard fell in love with a princess and created a potion to ensnare her. She saw through his plans and threw the potion against a boulder, which crushed the wizard. While dying, he cursed Bhangarh and soon after, it was decimated in a war. Even though many come here owing to the myth, BR Singh, Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, Jaipur Circle, says, “All of these are misconceptions, the fort is not haunted.”
Sanjay Van, Delhi: The 700-acre forest in the Capital has many graves, adding to its spooky atmosphere. The most popular story is of a woman in white, who haunts people who pass through the forest.
Shaniwar Wada Fort, Pune: It was built in 1730 and was mired in bloody politics that resulted in the murder of the 17-year-old son of Peshwa Balaji Bajirao by his uncle. People claim to have heard a young voice screaming for help.
Dumas Beach, Surat: It used to be a Hindu cremation ground, which also explains the black sand found on the beach. People believe it is still haunted by the spirits of the dead who have not found eternal peace.
Dow Hill, Darjeeling: According to local stories, some woodcutters have reportedly sighted a headless boy who roams the area.-compiled by: catherine Rhea Roy and Hamza Khan