Are you the kind of person who will not even Google 'ghost' if you are home alone? Or the one to get your intestines in knots if you hear the kitchen tap dripping in the middle of the night? Or the kind to suspect paranormal intervention every time your box of cigarettes goes missing? Then for the sake of your night's sleep, we will suggest you skip reading this article.
But if you are the kind who freaked friends out as a kid by insisting you play 'planchette' and talk to dead people, congratulations, you're on the right page.
Now according to a small minority of people in our country, ghosts and spirits are not fictional things that have helped Ram Gopal Verma stay relevant and afloat. They insist -- much like you'd want to believe -- that there's actually creatures beyond the understanding of humans, living among them.
And these people actually try to establish communication with these 'ghosts' or 'spirits'. And they'd strongly advise you against laughing off the idea of 'bhoot pret'.
We spoke to some of India's prolific paranormal investigators who shared their stories of 'encounters' with ghosts in India.
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THE LONAVLA GHOST THAT SHOOK THE CAR LIKE IT WAS A BISCUIT TIN
Akshai Sthalekar from Indian Paranormal Team claims to be investigating paranormal incidents for the past 7 years. Sthalekar's team organises 'ghost walks' in Pune and Lonavla fairly regularly. In case you don't know what it is, a 'ghost walk' is just like a heritage walk, only spooky. Paranormal investigators take you around places rumoured to be haunted hoping to catch some otherworldly phenomenon unfold before their eyes.
So Lonavla, on the outskirts of Mumbai and known to be a romance paradise in the monsoons and winters, is actually also equally close to the hearts of ghosts and suchlike. During one such 'ghost walk' in the hills of Lonavla, Sthalekar noticed something that defied scientific explanation.
And then came two very loud knocks on the screen and whatever this was, shook the car.
It was past midnight and was a particularly windy night. Sthalekar and four other people had been travelling in a small car and had stepped out for a smoke. The team was at one of these Lonavla points frequented by tourists who leave a lot of waste like empty alcohol bottles, packets behind.
"The wind was blowing from east to west. Suddenly, an empty beer can lying on the ground was flung southwards at high speed, defying the strong currents of the wind. We returned to our car only to find that the wind screen had gone all misty, that too from inside.
"At this point, like it is a practice among investigators, we suspected something unnatural going on and asked any presence if it was there to make itself visible to us."
By this time, Sthalekar and his friends had piled back into the car. Soon after there were two very loud knocks on the windshield, but no one was around. "And then suddenly, the car shook, like it was a tin of biscuits or something. We sat still and turned on our devices that indicate the presence of spirits and they started blinking frantically," he recounts.
They also claim to use an app, developed by an American, which records voices of paranormal beings. "The recorder had the voice of a woman speaking in muffled Marathi. But it was all very scratchy," he said.
Sthalekar proceeded to ask who she was and how did she die. The spirit answered him and said that she had come to Lonavla many years ago with her friends. "I lost her for a while and then she I heard her saying, she fell off the cliff nearby..."
Sthalekar said that he wanted to ask a few more questions or whether she wanted 'mukti' (release) from this realm, but they lost her.
The shouting and shaking lasted for a couple of minutes after which things went back to normal.
THE POLTERGEIST WHICH TORMENTED A CHILD IN KOLKATA
Avijit Sarkar from the Indian Specter Paranormal Society, West Bengal says that he has been involved in the business of paranormal investigation for over a decade now. He counts his ability to battle black magic among his talents.
Sarkar recalls, "About three months ago, I got a call from a man at around midnight. He sounded tired and yet high strung. They live in Kolkata."
This man, according to Sarkar was faced with a strange problem. They had been unable to feed his nephew for one week. Whenever someone took food near the 7-year-old child, the utensils would be flung against the wall, by no one they could see. The man was terrified, according to Sarkar, as no one would believe them and even make fun of them.
Sarkar asked for video evidence. "In the video that they sent, a chair and a pair of slippers moved from a point to the other without anyone touching them.
"I recognised it as poltergeist activity. They said that they had taken the child to the doctor. The boy, the spoke in third person, and said that medicines won't help cure him."
Whenever anyone would try to feed his nephew, the utensils containing his food would fly and fall somewhere.
"The child was initially calm when he came in, and I proceeded to ask him a few questions. Like whether or not he asked lemons. Soon after, the child started convulsing, screaming, shouting and went out of control. It was impossible for even four adults to pin him down and make him sit," Sarkar says.
Sarkar's office help made some tea and added a generous helping of salt to it. With great difficulty, according to Sarkar, they made the child drink the tea. That calmed the child down.
Sarkar soon started the interrogation and the 'entity', which was residing inside the body of the child, started speaking. "It told us that if it left the child's body, he would be charred. Also, someone the family knew had invoked it with black magic to enter the child's body."
During this conversation, the spirit sounded restless but didn't embark on more violence. "This led the parents to believe that the salt-tea was the cure or something. They left with the child and said they wull feed him salt and tea when in trouble, though I repeatedly told them it's not a cure. Don't know what happened to the child after that," he says.
THE POSSESSED WOMAN IN BENGALURU, HALF OF WHOSE BODY WAS 6 INCHES LONGER THAN THE OTHER
Dr. Rahul Kumar, Director and Lead Investigator in Team Pentacle, studied medicine and completed his degree before he turned to paranormal investigation. He recollects that while doing his MBBS, he laughed off the idea of ghosts and spirits like most others. "Science had the last word in my life." he says.
However, a Halloween party that Kumar and his friends organised to get wasted, changed his perception of things.
"In 2007, a couple of friends wanted to use the ouija board -- the one people need for planchettes. We did 6 back to back ouija sessions that day and nothing happened. I was convinced all this is hokum," Kumar says.
Kumar says he wasn't prepared for what followed. Two days from that party, Kumar woke up with three wounds on his right arm which were bleeding. "I got it dressed. The next day when I opened the bandages to put fresh ones, the marks were gone!," he exclaims.
What we did see was that when she was lying down one part of her body was longer than the other part -- by 6 inches!
The morning after that, he woke up to find the same marks on his arm, which disappeared again a day later.
This went on for three days. "I still thought, I was hallucinating. Meanwhile, I was also dreaming about a voice calling to this one location in Bengaluru, where I lived. I went, just for kicks, with my friend in tow. Till this day, I can't recollect a thing of what happened after I reached the spot," he says.
Kumar's friend told him that he fainted the moment he reached there. He claims that the renowned paranormal investigator Gaurav Tiwari, who was recently found dead under mysterious circumstances, helped him a lot. He then sought help of psychics and exorcists to get rid of the spirit haunting him. And he assures you, it's nothing like they show you on silly horror films or television shows.
Kumar also talks about a case he was investigating of a woman who was ailing from something inexplicable. "Medically I would say it was a form of delirium but the reports showed nothing. What we did see was that when she was lying down one part of her body was longer than the other part -- by 6 inches! Sure, there can be forms of muscle ailments but 6 inches is too much and kind of medically impossible."
THE PANCHGANI WOMAN WHO COULD FORSEE THE FUTURE
Nirvan Anand, an independent paranormal researcher, remembers a case in Panchgani where a woman claimed that she could see what's going to happen in the next 15 minutes. She got extremely hyperactive one fine day and her family couldn't figure out what was going on. They first ignored her thinking she is pulling a prank of them but when she narrated what's going to happen in the following 15 minutes, and exactly that's what happened they were shocked and terrified in equal parts.
She soon stopped eating and drinking. They first tried medicating her, but it didn't work. They knew something was up, but couldn't tell anyone because of the stigma associated with it, says Anand. "You see, a spirit usually feeds on your soul when you are low and full of negative energies. They can be exorcised with a blast of positive ones," he adds. So he gave the woman a holy tabeez -- according to paranormal investigators, objects associated with divinity carry positive energy -- which forced the spirit to leave her body.
The spirit of a woman who was raped and murdered had taken over her mind and body.
Anand also came across a woman in Maharashtra, who was in an mental health facility for 9 years. "Doctors couldn't cure her and she became increasingly violent. She was being given medicines prescribed my psychiatrists for years, but it wasn't a mental ailment," he says.
When Anand met her, she was shrieking and angry. "She was possessed. The spirit of a woman who was raped and murdered had taken over her mind and body," Anand recounts. It wasn't apparently easy to get her to talk at first.
"But when she did, I told her, she is torturing this girl like she was tortured herself. She remembers the pain, why does she want an innocent girl to go through such pain for no reason. She wanted to use this other girl's body as the vessel through which, she could avenge her own death. Only, her perpetrators were already dead. It wasn't easy, but then the spirit left her body," Anand says.
The girl lives in the US now and Anand says spirits aren't necessarily evil. They have had tormented lives as humans and can't often let go.