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REAL ENCOUNTERS

Highway Spirit

Sudha Chandran

The most powerful sighting I have experienced in the past was on the way from Durgapur to Calcutta in 2002. We were on our way to Calcutta in a car after enacting a jatra in Durgapur. Actor Jishu was sitting in front, while my mother and I shared the rear seat. The producer was trailing us. It was a foggy evening and we could barely see a thing. Out of nowhere I saw a Nepali man in a khaki uniform in front of our car. I told the driver to slow down. And then suddenly we saw him almost splattered against our windshield. I was sure we had knocked off the guy. We stopped to look for him, but there was no one and we found that our car was perched on the edge of a cliff. At another time, at Srirangapatnam, near Mysore, while shooting for a Kannada film, we were put up at a hotel where we used to hear the sound of a woman crying and the tinkle of her anklets between 11:30 and midnight. I used to alert my mom to this, and she would patiently ask me to ignore it and go back to sleep. It was very eerie and I could never sleep. I believe in ghosts and the supernatural. There is no rationale behind this, but I feel they do exist. I always carry a religious book and a piece of iron with me. Iron fends off ghosts. At another time, during a show in Durban, at the guesthouse where we were put up, we noticed that the TV used to go off by itself and there were sounds of someone sneezing in the room. I was travelling with Govinda and his wife, Sunita, and they also had similar experiences. We used to be so scared that we’d sit in the corridor till 4 am and go to sleep only at dawn.

Nobel Streak

Rabindranath Tagore

When Hiram B. Otis, the American diplomat, decides to buy the Canterville Chase he is warned by the owner that the house is haunted. Otis dismisses the warnings and moves in with his family. The Otis twins are the first ones to discover the presence of the ghost of Sir Simon De Canterville who was believed to have killed his wife and then disappeared. After several ghostly incidents, the Otis family adults also begin to believe in the ghost. And by the time this Oscar Wilde story ends, the family manages to solve an ancient riddle, which allows the spirit of Lord Canterville to finally rest in peace after 300 restless years.

Eerie Footsteps

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

In the mid-Forties, I had spent a few years of my childhood in a railway bungalow in Katihar. My father had just bought some old furniture from a British family, which included a stately dining table. And then, one night, I woke up with a start. I could make out a faint sound-pattern — footsteps, approaching our house from the back garden through the darkness. The door leading from the house to the garden was tightly shut. But with a thrill I realised that the steps had passed right through it and had now entered the dining room next to our bedroom. I could make out that the steps were going round and round the table — unceasingly, without a break in the pattern. I woke everybody up and they all rushed to the dining room, but there was nobody there and nobody believed a word I said. But the incident went on happening day after day and often I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear those unseen steps walking round our table.

Something far scarier happened years later when I put up in a hotel in Pune for a night. After checking in, I found that I was the only boarder in that hotel. I found that a bit strange, but didn’t really think more about it. But things started going wrong as soon as I entered my room. I was changing, when suddenly one of the doors of a cupboard creaked open by itself. And every time I closed it , the same thing kept on happening. Almost at the same time, a knocking began on the bathroom door from inside, as if there was someone trapped behind the door. The knocking became louder and louder, till it seemed someone was banging with closed fists on the door. Then, suddenly, it stopped. Fortunately, I didn’t have to spend a night there and managed to leave before things got worse.

Mystery Unravels

Arthur Conan Doyle

Apart from being a doctor and writing those world-famous detective stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, he also had an interest in life after death. But his belief in the afterlife became his primary concern when his son Kingsley died of pneumonia. A year after his son’s death, Doyle attended a séance (at which spirits are summoned) and called his son. He described the experience later: “It was his voice and he spoke of concerns unknown to the medium.” After that he saw his mother and his nephew, in his own words,“as plainly as I ever saw them in life!” Shortly before his death, he had written, “It (communing with spirits) absolutely removes all fear of death... it bridges death for those dear ones whom we may love.”

Mummy Talk

Lord Carnarvon

“Death’s wings will touch who ever touches the Pharaoh,” goes the inscription on the tomb of Tutankhamen, the boy-king of Egypt. In 1929, two Englishmen, George Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, made this sensational discovery. But soon rumours about the mummy’s curse began to float. By the time the tomb was completely excavated, most members engaged in the project had died, many believe, due to the curse. And heading this tragic list was Lord Carnarvon, who financed the excavation. He was the most cursed of the lot, since not only did he die of a mysterious ailment, but his brother, his secretary and even his dog died of unnatural causes. It seems that all those who were even remotely connected to the tomb had to pay the price for discovering it.

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