The Open Door
Here again is something that is very peculiar and not very uncommon.
We, myself and three other friends of mine, were asked by another friend
of ours to pass a week's holiday at the suburban residence of the last
named. We took an evening train after the office hours and reached our
destination at about 10-30 at night. The place was about 60 miles from
Our host had a very large house with a number of disused wings. I do not
think many of my readers have any idea of a large residential house in
Bengal. Generally it is a quadrangular sort of thing with a big yard in
the centre which is called the "Angan" or "uthan" (a court-yard). On all
sides of the court-yard are rooms of all sorts of shapes and sizes.
There are generally two stories--the lower used as kitchen, godown,
store-room, etc., and the upper as bed-rooms, etc.
[Illustration: ABCDE is the shady foot-path from the lake to the front
of the house. * is the open door.]
Now this particular house of our friend was of the kind described above.
It stood on extensive grounds wooded with fruit and timber trees.
There was also a big tank, a miniature lake in fact, which was the
property of my friend. There was good fishing in the lake and that was
the particular attraction that had drawn my other friends to this place.
I myself was not very fond of angling.
As I have said we reached this place at about 10-30 at night. We were
received very kindly by the father and the mother of our host who were a
very jolly old couple; and after a very late supper, or, shall I call it
dinner, we retired. The guest rooms were well furnished and very
comfortable. It was a bright moonlight night and our plan was to get up
at 4 in the morning and go to the lake for angling.
At three in the morning the servants of our host woke us up (they had
come to carry our fishing gear) and we went to the lake which was a
couple of hundred yards from the house. As I have said it was a bright
moonlight night in summer and the outing was not unpleasant after all.
We remained on the bank of the lake till about seven in the morning,
when one of the servants came to fetch us for our morning tea. I may as
well mention here that breakfast in India generally means a pretty heavy
meal at about 10 A.M.
I was the first to get up; for I have said already that I was not a
worthy disciple of Izaak Walton. I wound up my line and walked away,
carrying my rod myself.
The lake was towards the back of the house. To come from the lake to the
front of it we had to pass along the whole length of the buildings. See
rough plan on page 32.
As would appear from the plan we had to pass along the shady foot-path
ABCDE, there was a turning at each point B, C, D and E. The back row of
rooms was used for godowns, store-rooms, kitchens, etc. One room, the
one with a door marked "*" at the corner, was used for storing a number
of door-frames. The owner of the house, our host's father, had at one
time contemplated adding a new wing and for that purpose the door-frames
had been made. Then he gave up the idea and the door-frames were kept
stored up in that corner-room with a door on the outside marked "*". Now
as I was walking ahead I reached the turning B first of all and it was
probably an accident that the point of my rod touched the door. The door
flew open. I knew this was an unused portion of the house and so the
opening of the door surprised me to a certain extent. I looked into the
room and discovered the wooden door-frames. There was nothing peculiar
about the room or its contents either.
When we were drinking our tea five minutes later I casually remarked
that they would find some of the door-frames missing as the door of the
room in which they were kept had been left open all night. I did not at
that time attach any importance to a peculiar look of the eyes of the
old couple, my host's father and mother. The old gentleman called one of
the servants and ordered him to bolt that door.
When we were going to the lake in the evening I examined the door and
found that it had been closed from inside.
The next morning we went out a-fishing again and we were returning for
our tea, at about 7 in the morning. I was again ahead of all the rest.
As I came along, this time intentionally I gave a push to the door with
my rod. It again flew open. "This is funny" I thought.
At tea I reported the matter to the old couple and I then noticed with
curiosity their embarrassed look of the day before. I therefore
suggested that the servants intentionally left the door open, and one
morning they would find the door-frames, stored in the room, gone.
At this the old man smiled. He said that the door of this particular
room had remained open for the last 15 years and the contents had never
been disturbed. On our pressing him why the door remained open he
admitted with great reluctance that since the death of a certain servant
of the house-hold in that particular room fifteen years ago the outer
door had never remained closed. "You may close it yourself and see"
suggested the old gentleman.
We required no further invitation. Immediately we all went to that room
to investigate and find out the ghost if he remained indoors during the
day. But Mr. Ghost was not there. "He has gone out for his morning
constitutional," I suggested, "and this time we shall keep him out." Now
this particular room had two doors and one window. The window and one
door were on the court-yard side of the room and communicated with the
court-yard. The other door led to the grounds outside and this last was
the haunted door. We opened both the doors and the window and examined
the room. There was nothing extraordinary about it. Then we tried to
close the haunted door. It had warped probably by being kept open for
15 years. It had two very strong bolts on the inside but the lower bolt
would not go within 3 inches of its socket. The upper one was very loose
and a little continuous thumping would bring the bolt down. We thought
we had solved the mystery thus:--The servants only closed the door by
pushing up the upper bolt, at night the wind would shake the door and
the bolt would come down. So this time we took good care to use the
lower bolt. Three of us pushed the door with all our might and one man
thrust the lower bolt into its socket. It hardly went in a quarter of an
inch, but still the door was secure. We then hammered the bolt in with
bricks. In doing this we broke about half a dozen of them. This will
explain to the reader how much strength it required to drive the bolt in
about an inch and a half.
Then we satisfied ourselves that the bolt could not be moved without the
aid of a hammer and a lever. Afterwards we closed the window and the
other door and securely locked the last. Thus no human being could open
the haunted door.
Before retiring to bed after dinner we further examined both the doors
once more. They were all right.
The next morning we did not go out for fishing; so when we got up at
about five in the morning the first thing we did was to go and examine
the haunted door. It flew in at the touch. We then went inside and
examined the other door and the window which communicated with the
court-yard. The window was as secure as we had left it and the door was
chained from outside. We went round into the court-yard and examined the
lock. It did not appear to have been tampered with.
The old man and his wife met us at tea as usual. They had evidently been
told everything. They, however, did not mention the subject, neither did
It was my intention to pass a night in that room but nobody would agree
to bear me company, and I did not quite like the idea of passing a whole
night in that ugly room. Moreover my hosts would not have heard of it.
The mystery of the open door has not yet been solved. It was about 20
years ago that what I have narrated above, happened. I am not sure that
the mystery will ever be solved.
In this connection it will not be out of place to mention another
incident with regard to another family and another house in another part
Once while coming back from Darjeeling, the summer capital of Bengal, I
had a very garrulous old gentleman for a fellow traveller in the same
compartment. I was reading a copy of the _Occult Review_ and the title
of the magazine interested him very much. He asked me what the magazine
was about, and I told him. He then asked me if I was really interested
in ghosts and their stories. I told him that I was.
"In our village we have a gentleman who has a family ghost" said my
"What kind of thing is a family ghost?" I asked.
"Oh--the ghost comes and has his dinner with my neighbour every night,"
said my companion. "Really--must be a very funny ghost" I said. "It is a
fact--if you stay for a day in my village you will learn everything."
I at once decided to break my journey in the village. It was about 2 in
the afternoon when I got down at the Railway Station--procured a hackney
carriage and, ascertaining the name and address of the gentleman who had
the family ghost, separated from my old companion.
I reached the house in 20 minutes, and told the gentleman that I was a
stranger in those parts and as such craved leave to pass the rest of the
day and the night under his roof. I was a very unwelcome guest, but he
could not kick me out, as the moral code would not permit it. He,
however, shrewdly guessed why I was anxious to pass the night at his
Of course, my host was very kind to me. He was a tolerably rich man with
a large family. Most of his sons were grown-up young men who were at
College in Calcutta. The younger children were of course at home.
At night when we sat down to dinner I gently broached the subject by
hinting at the rumour I had heard that his house was haunted. I further
explained to him that I had only come to ascertain if what I had heard
was true. He told me (of course it was very kind of him) that the story
about the dinner was false, and what really happened was this:--
"I had a younger brother who died 2 years ago. He was of a religious
turn of mind and passed his time in reading religious books and writing
articles about religion in papers. He died suddenly one night. In fact
he was found dead in his bed in the morning. The doctors said it was
due to failure of heart. Since his death he has come and slept in the
room, which was his when he was alive and is his still. All that he
takes is a glass of water fetched from the sacred river Ganges. We put
the glass of water in the room and make the bed every evening; the next
morning the glass is found empty and the bed appears to have been slept
"But why did you begin?--" I asked.
"Oh--One night he appeared to me in a dream and asked me to keep the
water and a clean bed in the room--this was about a month after his
death," said my host.
"Has anybody ever passed a night in the room to see what really
happens?" I asked.
"His young wife--or rather widow passed a night in that room--the next
morning we found her on the bed--sleeping--dead--from failure of
heart--so the doctors said."
"Most wonderful and interesting." I remarked.
"Nobody has gone to that part of the house since the death of the poor
young widow" said my host. "I have got all the doors of the room
securely screwed up except one, and that too is kept carefully locked,
and the key is always with me."
After dinner my host took me to the haunted room. All arrangements for
the night were being made; and the bed was neat and clean.
A glass of the Ganges water was kept in a corner with a cover on it. I
looked at the doors, they were all perfectly secure. The only door that
could open was then closed and locked.
My host smiled at me sadly "we won't do all this uselessly" he said
"this is a very costly trick if you think it a trick at all, because I
have to pay to the servants double the amount that others pay in this
village--otherwise they would run away. You can sleep at the door and
see that nobody gets in at night."
I said "I believe you most implicitly and need not take the precaution
suggested." I was then shown into my room and everybody withdrew.
My room was 4 or 5 apartments off and of course these apartments were to
As soon as my host and the servants had withdrawn, I took up my candle
and went to the locked door of the ghostly room. With the lighted
candle I covered the back of the lock with a thin coating of soot or
lamp-black. Then I scraped off a little dried-up whitewash from the wall
and sprinkled the powder over the lamp-black.
"If any body disturbs the lock at night I shall know it in the morning"
I thought. Well, the reader could guess that I had not a good sleep that
night. I got up at about 4-30 in the morning and went to the locked
door. _My seal_ was intact, that is, the lamp-black with the powdered
lime was there just as I had left it.
I took out my handkerchief and wiped the lock clean. The whole operation
took me about 5 minutes. Then I waited.
At about 5 my host came and a servant with him. The locked door was
opened in my presence. The glass of water was dry and there was not a
drop of water in it. The bed had been slept upon. There was a distinct
mark on the pillow where the head should have been--and the sheet too
looked as if somebody had been in bed the whole night.
I left the same day by the after-noon train having passed about 23 hours
with the family in the haunted house.
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