Houses of Spirits from the British Raj
'Is anybody there?
Nobody can be seen. All the book-racks with thousands of books at the National Library stand still in the depths of noiseless silence. How can this be explained scientifically?
Are we haunted by the British Raj till today? The creaking sound of footsteps comes nearer. Whose steps are these? Something goes down the winding staircases quickly. Speak out -Who are you? Only the emptiness remains.
Was that the ghost of the former Governor General of Bengal? Does Lord Metcalfe's wife stroll around the rooms of the National Library in Belvedere Estate in Alipore? The security guards affirmed “we feel the eerie presence of bodies roving around.”
The guards very often refuse to be on duty at night. Their duty hours are kept rotating. At the time of a new construction an accident took place. Rumours have it that their souls now hover over the mystic stones of the Library.
When all of Calcutta sleeps on a winter night the footsteps of Lady Metcalfe take a pause as Mr. Warren Hastings, it is said, in a horse drawn coach with three officials crunches to a halt on the gravels outside the Hastings House at 20B, Judges Court Road in Alipore. Dressed in the Directorate Uniform a thin intense figure fades into the portico after the door creaks open. As if burning like a feverish light he restlessly rushes up the stone staircases in search of the old black bureau. It contains some prized papers and two miniature paintings which belong to Baroness Imhoff, his wife.
History has it that the British Parliament impeached Warren Hastings for bribes and in 1785 he finally quit India. These papers would have proved his innocence before the Parliament.
The General Post Office at Dalhousie Square has some paranormal happenings to share. Within the large Corinthian pillars, the sounds of sarangi float and the tinkling of ghungroo drift into ears late at night.
“I was working late in the evening in the MSN Point. I heard a ruffling sound. But what I saw was really a chilling experience. A lady dressed in a white attire raced up the staircases'- an official of GPO said.
Bengal’s last Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah built the white palace as his house of pleasure- the nachghar. The ladies who danced before the Nawab still pay visits. The same sound of ghungroo can still be heard in the District Judge's quarter in the Alipore Judges Court campus. A nachghar was there too.
Around 60 years back an ABPO died of a heart-attack in GPO. He has been seen around the area late in the night. The security guard has heard him say many times at night, “Leave the way to the entrance. I will go. Listen! Who are you?” The other guards say a strange eerie feeling shrouds the big edifice at night.
The Dalhousie Square happenings also lie in the house of clerks and administrative officials of the East India Company - Writers' Building in BBD Bag. The writers work with papers and wander around the rooms till date, as sightings suggest. Some say they can see the beckoning invisible pale figures of sahibs.
Although the security defy these incidents. They said, “For the last eight years, we are on duty here but never heard or seen anything. The building is old enough, and their may be some rats and cats. They make sounds and nothing else.”
The domain of ghosts that lurks behind the historic mansions of Calcutta has their presence felt in The Government Art College. Two English Principals who committed suicide haunts it, it is believed.
Mr. E.B.Havell, experimented with tantra until he drove himself insane and then jumped off the college roof. Students who work late claim they can catch fleeting glimpses of a man and can also, hear footsteps and knocks on the windows and smell the burning of incense.
The second Principal, Mr. Percy Brown hanged himself in the first floor of the then Principals' quarters. Chintamani Kar, the great sculptor, once got the feeling that he was in front of the ghost of Mr. Brown.
The City's Haunted Houses and the Apparitions are lurking in the last nooks and crannies of the British Raj.
Supernatural? Call it what you may.