Thanks to horror movies and shows, the image of the haunted house is familiar. They are usually built in the Gothic style with pointed arches and flying buttresses, covered in vines, have creaky doors, and at least one room with an abandoned doll left on the floor or placed in a corner.
But if there’s one thing we know for sure from the countless scary stories we’ve heard from our friends and their friends, it’s that ghosts aren’t exactly particular about their habitat. These tortured souls, it seems, can be found anywhere – from ancestral homes to serviced apartments.
So why do people end up staying in apartments where the shadows keep following them and their stories get darker and darker? We asked them.
“Some days we hear painful battle cries of massacred soldiers and women mourning their slain husbands.”
The ancestral house where I am staying in the Palghar district of Mumbai, India is over 350 years old. There is a popular saying in our community that the older a family tree is, the more cursed it is. The same goes for this house. It has seen many wars, including a very bloody one involving a Maratha general and Portuguese invaders.
A few years ago we discovered the human remains of soldiers who had been killed in previous wars. On some days we hear painful war cries of massacred soldiers and women mourning their slain husbands, emanating from the basement. We cannot leave this house because it is ancestral land and we each have our own memories and nostalgia attached to it, despite the battle cries. My memories of home are eating mangoes with my grandmother and playing on the porch on those hot summer afternoons. How can I let go? No one has been hurt in all these years.
However, many in the community think our house is cursed, because of all the wars and the many lives it has cost. It’s a fine balance between respecting this tragic past and not letting it affect our own childhood memories. The basement still remains a black hole: locked, filled with trauma and wandering souls. — Bhaumik Gowande, 29 years old
“In the middle of the night, we saw the creepy shadow of a child pass by, we could even smell it. The three of us stopped breathing for a minute.
My friends thought we got a bargain in this residential block which looked after us in every way possible: food, taxis to the office, gym and in-house advice as well. Thus, the exorbitant rent seemed reasonable.
But a week after moving in and outfitting the house with fairy lights and scented candles, we had the first spooky sighting of a small child. In the middle of the night we saw the creepy shadow of a child pass by, we could even smell it. The three of us stopped breathing for a minute. It was too real to be an illusion as all of us in the house had seen and even smelled it.
The next morning when we spoke to others at the resort, they all had their own horror stories – not necessarily of the child, but of similar spooky apparitions. Someone had seen blood splattered in their kitchen that was gone in a minute, others had a vision of the chandelier in our lobby turning into a big slimy bug. My own roommate could hear spooky chants every time she took a shower – she said it was the devil’s song.
We stayed in the house for almost two years. The mysterious child reappeared at random intervals, almost laughing at us, but never hurting us. We couldn’t leave the house because the amenities were just too good. Also, it’s not like we see the child’s “ghost” every day. It appeared randomly, sometimes after an interval of almost a month. By the time we got over the shock of the first sightings, we had other things to worry about like finding a job, becoming financially independent, and getting our final year academic plans approved. After a while anyway, your life starts to feel like a ghost and the “real ones” start to matter less. – Ana, 32 years old
“Overnight, the entire cupboard had peeled off, revealing a horribly discolored, soot-covered surface. Our cat started writhing and licking the cupboard.
In a city like Mumbai, having a big closet is a luxury. After all, the bedrooms are mostly the size of a matchbox and there is little space for anything else. It’s a wonder if you can even fit your study table indoors. So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw that my room had a massive closet that looked like it was from the 1800s – heavily embellished and totally out of place in a new building like ours. It was 2017. We wanted to remove it, but the owner said it would be impossible to remove it without breaking it into pieces.
On the very first day, the color of the cabinet changed to black. We thought it was some kind of oxidation. Overnight, the entire closet had peeled off, revealing a horribly discolored, soot-covered surface. Our cat started writhing and licking the closet. Apparently the previous tenant was a model who had poisoned herself and was discovered inside the closet nearly three days later after taking her own life. We learned about it from our neighbors only a month later, when it was too late because the contract had already been signed. Moreover, we had settled in well by then. We didn’t want to go through the pain of finding a new home again in a city like Mumbai where landlords have their own weird set of rules for single people. –Sanjay, 35
“Last month, as I sat in the car outside my house, I saw her banging excitedly on the car window. For the next two weeks, I was bedridden with fear.
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, child marriage is common, and girls as young as eight or nine are married off to older men in their 60s and 60s. One such couple, where the girl was in her late teens and the man in his 60s, had rented a room right next to our haveli in the city of Lucknow, India in July 2019.
Everyone thought it was going to be one of those unhappy marriages involving two jaded people. But very quickly, they fell madly in love with each other. They could be seen holding hands, drinking tea on the terrace and going to dinner. When he died, she was shattered. Within a week, she also died under mysterious circumstances. No one to this day knows why. Some suspect she died by suicide; others say her debtors killed her.
The shadow of this tragedy also followed our home. We would see her clothes in our house, outside our doors, and her metallic jewelry would also be seen strewn about. Last month, while sitting in the car outside my house, I saw her banging excitedly on the car window. For the next two weeks, I was bedridden with fear. Our haveli falls under the heritage category and has a lot of value attached to it. We cannot afford to abandon our ancestral home despite this strange but tragic incident. – Suhasi Mittal, 27 years old