Every city has its own urban legends and spooky tales. When a city has a past as chequered and as diverse as Kolkata’s, the eerie stories are sure to be equal parts horrifying and intriguing and the list of haunted places will be long.
On most days, the only ghost we’d like to see walk around is Johnnie Walker, but there’s no escaping these bone-chilling and spine-tingling tales. Have you met any of these resident ghosts of Kolkata?
Teddy Weatherford, the pianist whose music still haunts
Teddy Weatherford and (right) Teddy with his bandImage courtesy www.tajmahalfoxtrot.com
In the early 1940s, the famous African-American pianist Teddy Weatherford would play for the colonial elite at Prince’s, the nightclub at The Oberoi Grand. Prince’s was “Calcutta’s most scintillating nightclub” and Teddy is believed to be one of the earliest musicians to bring jazz into Kolkata’s music scene. Unfortunately, he died in 1945 when he was only 43, and lies buried in the Park Street cemetery. There have been accounts of guests hearing the haunting notes of the piano well past after midnight, coming from the hotel wing Teddy used to stay in (apparently the same wing that lies closed to guests till date). Musicians who took Teddy’s spot on the piano stool would feel an uneasy force and someone allegedly even saw the pianist standing in the grand balcony overlooking Chowringhee Road, dressed in his brown suit for a night of revelry.
Warren Hastings in his phantom coach
A frantic spirit is known to walk the halls of Hastings House in Alipore. It is the ghost of Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of Bengal, who used to live here. The story goes that in 1785, when Hastings set sail for home and took with him most of his belongings he forgot a “black box” that was believed to have important papers that might have proven his innocence after he was impeached by the British Parliament. It is said that his ghost keeps returning in a phantom coach, amidst sounds of creaking doors, in frantic search of the black box.
Pride, the galloping white horse
On a full moon Saturday night, the ghost of a beautiful white horse is said to be seen galloping across the Kolkata race course. The horse named Pride belonged to a racing enthusiast named George Williams and is often referred to as ‘William Saheb’s shada ghora’. When Pride lost the derby at the Royal Calcutta Turf Club, it is believed that Williams murdered her in a fit of rage. The once ‘Queen of the Tracks’ often rises from the ashes to prove her mettle and win the heart of her dead master.
Nistar Raut, a headless lady with anklets
Nistar Raut’s tale is a true story of a sex worker who fell in love with a businessman named Shalikhram. She wished to start her life afresh, away from the stigma of prostitution and appealed to Calcutta High Court to have her name removed from the registry of sex workers. Sadly, it was denied. A few days later, the police found Nistar’s rotting dead body. Her head had been severed from her body. There was nothing on her, except the anklets she used to wear. It is the sound of her tinkling payal that can be heard down the long dark corridors of Calcutta High Court.
The Lady in white under Howrah Bridge
Sadhna in ‘Woh Kaun Thi’
The ghost of a lady in a white sari, is an image we have seen and heard of often, from films and songs to stories of real-life encounters. The lady in white in Kolkata is often seen walking along the banks of the river Hooghly under the Howrah bridge, wearing a white sari, wailing and wiping her tears. Some locals have heard her calling out in a hoarse voice and the rumour goes that anyone who heeds her call, never returns.