GHOST STORIES OF SHIMLA HILLS
The fear of the unknown, enhanced by the mist, darkness and the pattering raindrops is part of life in hills. But there have been real encounters with the supernatural, and included in this collection of chilling tales are personal experiences of people, only some of whom have managed to emerge unscathed. Read on for some spine-chilling adventures with the spirits in Shimla(India).
The Forest Road is one spot where British ghosts wander. An ideal place for cavorting teenagers because of its seclusion, there used to be five benches at the top of the spur. Aman resides in the U.S. club, Shimla and goes for long walks along this road in the morning and evening regularly. This has been his routine for more than two decades. He is an artist and the walks not only uplift him spiritually and make him physically fit, they also make him more creative in his work. On one such evening, about a decade back, when he reached the somewhat flat portion where the five benches were, he stopped and decided to rest. Admiring the beautiful vistas spread out before him, he was approaching the benches when he felt something coming up from behind. Thinking it was someone else on a walk; he paid no attention but moved forward. Seconds later he felt someone overtake him. Unlocking his gaze from the mountain ranges he looked in front and then behind him. There was there. Puzzled, he sat down on a bench and got the shock of his life! He was sitting on someone’s lap! With a shriek he jumped up, embarrassed. But the bench was empty, there was no one there. Then he felt cold, very cold. Aman did not try to figure out what it was; he literally ran from the five benches. It was only after a few weeks that he could bring himself to cross that area alone again. After that first experience, Aman has felt someone walking alongside him on several occasions when he passes the five benches. Though he has never had the courage to sit on a bench again, he has slowly got used to his eerie companion.
Located on the eastern end of Mall Road is the Marina Hotel, formerly the famous Glenarm Hotel which functioned as a ladies club during the British Raj. Grass widows and unattached women used the hotel as a temporary or permanent place to stay in. In those days there used to flow a spring which formed a small pond just in front of the club’s entrance; the pond was believed to be haunted by a ‘churail’. It was said that the spirit enticed unwary travelers at midnight, particularly Englishmen; in the morning these travelers would be found lying unconscious nearby. The pond was later filled up and sealed with rocks and boulders and the spirit is said to have left the place in despair to some unknown abode.
The spring which fed the pond dried up subsequently. It is still not clear who or what these ‘churails’ really are: were they women who practiced witchcraft? Or women who died at the time of childbirth? No one seemed to know for sure, but the accepted belief is that ‘churails’ wander near water sources between 12 noon and 3 p.m. when the sun shines at its zenith, or from midnight to four in the morning. But descriptions about what they look like vary from beautiful damsels decked up in bright clothes, and badly applied make-up, and, on the other extreme, that they are creatures with protruding nails and teeth, with unkempt long hair. They can be identified by their feet and hands, which are turned inwards. Folklore has it that they change their form to appear as a woman, a man, a child or a beast and they can only be seen by men.
It was around midnight and Shyam was driving back home. Shyam’s mind was on an important legal case. About 100 metres away from his car he saw a woman waving her hand gesturing him to stop. She was clad in a red saree. It flashed through his mind that she must have been attending a wedding because of the way she was dressed. He stopped the car and was about to stop when he saw that thewoman was no longer there. He looked ahead. There was she. About a hundred metres away. Baffled, he drove on, again slowing down as she approached him. She was now waving her hand frantically. Shyam was’nt sure what he saw first-her hand or her face-but it made him drive away as fast as he could. Her hands were turned inwards and her face had been terrifying-big lips with long teeth protruding out. Her howls and screams followed him as he sped past her. From that day, he has never travelled on that road late at night again.
All the stories narrated above are based on a core belief, which the author’s sources swore to be true. The author’s project was not a scholarly project, but was a result of interactions with people. Most of the stories, told to the author by elderly people, go back to pre-independence era when Shimla was the summer capital of India.