A Strange Incident





When I was at college there happened what was a most inexplicable

incident.



The matter attracted some attention at that time, but has now been

forgotten as it was really not so very extraordinary. The police in

fact, when called in, explained the matter or at least thought they had

done so, to everybody's satisfaction. I was, however, not satisfied with

the explanation given by the police. This was what actually happened.







The college was a very big one with a large boarding-house attached to

it. The boarding-house was a building separate from the college situated

at a distance of about 100 yards from the college building. It was in

the form of a quadrangle with a lawn in the centre. The area of this

lawn must have been 2,500 square yards. Of course it was surrounded on

all sides by buildings, that is, by a row of single rooms on each side.



In the boarding-house there was a common room for the amusement of the

students. There were all sorts of indoor games including a miniature

billiard table in this common room. I was a regular visitor there. I did

not care for any other indoor game than chess. Of course chess meant

keeping out of bed, till late at night.



On this particular occasion, I think it was in November, a certain

gentleman, who was an ex-student of the college, was paying us a visit.

He was staying with us in the boarding-house. He had himself passed 4

years in that boarding-house and naturally had a love for it. In his

time he was very popular with the other boarders and with the

Superintendent. Dr. M.N., an English gentleman who was also an inmate of

the Boarding-House. With the permission of the learned Doctor, the

Superintendent, we decided to make a night of it, and so we all

assembled in the common room after dinner. I can picture to myself the

cheerful faces of all the students present on that occasion in the well

lighted Hall. So far as I know only one of that group is now dead. He

was the most jovial and the best beloved of all. May he rest in peace!



Now to return from this mournful digression. I could see old Mathura

sitting next to me with a Hookah with a very long stem, directing the

moves of the chessmen. There was old Birju at the miniature billiard

table poking at everybody with his cue who laughed when he missed an

easy shot.



Then came in the Superintendent, Dr. M.N. and in a hurry to conceal his

Hookah (Indians never smoke in the presence of their elders and

superiors) old Mathura nearly upset the table on which the chessmen

were; and the mirth went on with redoubled vigour as the Doctor was one

of the loudest and merriest of the whole lot on such occasions.



Thus we went on till nearly one in the morning when the Doctor ordered

everybody to go to bed. Of course we were glad to retire but we were

destined to be soon disturbed.



Earlier the same evening we had been playing a friendly Hockey match,

and one of the players, let us call him Ram Gholam, had been slightly

hurt. As a matter of fact he always got hurt whenever he played.



During the evening the hurt had been forgotten but as soon as he was in

bed it was found that he could not sleep. The matter was reported to the

Superintendent who finding that there was really nothing the matter with

him suggested that the affected parts should be washed with hot water

and finally wrapped in heated castor leaves and bandaged over with

flannel. (This is the best medicine for gouty pain--not for hurt caused

by a hockey stick).



There was a castor tree in the compound and a servant was despatched to

bring the leaves. In the meantime a few of us went to the kitchen, made

a fire and boiled some water. While thus engaged we heard a noise and a

cry for help. We rushed out and ran along the verandah (corridor) to the

place whence the cry came. It was coming from the room of Prayag, one of

the boarders. We pushed the door but found that it was bolted from

inside, we shouted to him to open but he would not. The door had four

glass panes on the top and we discovered that the upper bolt only had

been used; as a matter of fact the lower bolts had all been removed,

because on closing the door from outside, once it had been found that a

bolt at the bottom had dropped into its socket and the door had to be

broken before it could be opened.



Prayag's room was in darkness. There was a curtain inside and so we

could see nothing from outside. We could hear Prayag groaning. The

Superintendent came up. To break the glass pane nearest to the bolt was

the work of a minute. The door was opened and we all rushed in. It was a

room 14'x12'; many of us could not, therefore, come in. When we went in

we took a light with us. It was one of the hurricane lanterns--the one

we had taken to the kitchen. The lamp suddenly went out. At the same

time a brickbat came rattling down from the roof and fell near my feet,

thus I could feel it with my feet and tell what it was. And Prayag

groaned again. Dr. M.N. came in, and we helped Prayag out of his bed and

took him out on the verandah. Then we saw another brickbat come from the

roof of the verandah, and fell in front of Prayag a few inches from his

feet. We took him to the central lawn and stood in the middle of it.

This time a whole solid brick came from the sky. It fell a few inches

from my feet and remained standing on its edge. If it had toppled over

it would have fallen on my toes.



By this time all the boarders had come up. Prayag stood in the middle of

the group shivering and sweating. A few more brickbats came but not one

of us was hurt. Then the trouble ceased. We removed Prayag to the

Superintendent's room and put him in the Doctor's bed. There were a

reading lamp on a stool near the head of the bed and a Holy Bible on

it. The learned Doctor must have been reading it when he was disturbed.

Another bed was brought in and the Doctor passed the night in it.



In the morning came the police.



They found a goodly heap of brickbats and bones in Prayag's room and on

the lawn. There was an investigation, but nothing came out of it. The

police however explained the matter as follows:--



There were some people living in the two-storied houses in the

neighbourhood. The brickbats and the bones must have come from there. As

a matter of fact the police discovered that the Boarding House students

and the people who lived in these houses were not on good terms. Those

people had organized a music party and the students had objected to it.

The matter had been reported to the Magistrate and had ended in a

decision in favour of the students. Hence the strained relations. This

was the most natural explanation and the only explanation. But this

explanation did not satisfy me for several reasons.



The first reason was that the college compound contained another well

kept lawn that stood between the Hostel buildings and those two-storied

houses. There were no brickbats on this lawn. If brickbats had been

thrown from those houses some at least would have fallen upon the lawn.



Then as regarded the brickbats that were in the room, they had all

dropped from the ceiling; but in the morning we found the tiles of the

roof intact. Thirdly, in the middle of the central lawn there was at

least one whole brick. The nearest building from which a brick might

have been thrown was at a distance of 100 yards and to throw a whole

brick 9"x41/2"x3" such a distance would require a machine of some kind

or other and none was found in the house.



The last thing that created doubts in my mind was this that not one

brickbat had hit anybody. There were so many of us there and there was

such an abundance of brickbats still not one of us was hit, and it is

well known that brickbats hurled by Ghostly hands do not hit anybody. In

fact the whole brick that came and stood on edge within 3 inches of my

toe would have hurt me if it had only toppled over.







It is known to most of the readers that Sutteeism was the practice of

burning the widows on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands. This

practice was prevalent in Bengal down to the year 1828 when a law

forbidding the aiding and abetting of Sutteeism was passed. Before the

Act, of course, many women were, in a way, forced to become Suttees. The

public opinion against a widow's surviving was so great that she

preferred to die rather than live after her husband's death.



The law has, however, changed the custom and the public opinion too.



Still, every now and then there are found cases of determined Sutteeism

among all classes in India who profess Hinduism. Frequent instances are

found in Bengal; and whenever a case comes to the notice of the public

the newspapers report it in a manner which shows that respect for the

Suttee is not yet dead.



Sometimes a verdict of "Suicide during temporary insanity" is returned,

but, of course, whoever reads the report understands how matters stand.



I know of a recent case in which a gentleman who was in Government

service died leaving a young widow.



When the husband's dead body was being removed the wife looked so jolly

that nobody suspected that anything was wrong with her.



But when all the male members of the family had gone away with the bier

the young widow quietly procured a tin of Kerosine oil and a few bed

sheets. She soaked the bed sheets well in the oil and then wrapped them

securely round her person and further secured them by means of a rope.

She then shut all the doors of her room and set the clothes on fire. By

the time the doors were forced open (there were only ladies in the house

at that time) she was dead.



Of course this was a case of suicide pure and simple and there was the

usual verdict of suicide during temporary insanity, but I personally

doubt the temporary insanity very much. This case, however, is too

painful.



The one that I am now going to relate is more interesting and more

mysterious, and probably more instructive.



Babu Bhagwan Prasad, now the late Babu Bhagwan Prasad, was a clerk in

the ---- office in the United Provinces. He was a grown-up man of 45

when the incident happened.



He had an attack of cold which subsequently developed into pneumonia

and after a lingering illness of 8 days he died at about 8 o'clock one

morning.



He had, of course, a wife and a number of children.



Babu Bhagwan Prasad was a well paid officer and maintained a large

family consisting of brothers--their wives and their children.



At the time of his death, in fact, when the doctor went away in the

morning giving his opinion that it was a question of minutes, his wife

seemed the least affected of all. While all the members of the family

were collected round the bed of their dying relative the lady withdrew

to her room saying that she was going to dress for the journey. Of

course nobody took any notice of her at the time. She retired to her

room and dressed herself in the most elaborate style, and marked her

forehead with a large quantity of "Sindur" for the last time.



["Sindur" is red oxide of mercury or lead used by orthodox Hindu women

in some parts of India whose husbands are alive; widows do not use it.]



After dressing she came back to the room where her dying husband was and

approached the bed. Those who were there made way for her in surprise.

She sat down on the bed and finally lay down by her dying husband's

side. This demonstration of sentimentalism could not be tolerated in a

family where the Purda is strictly observed and one or two elderly

ladies tried to remonstrate.



But on touching her they found that she was dead. The husband was dead

too. They had both died simultaneously. When the doctor arrived he found

the lady dead, but he could not ascertain the cause of her death.



Everybody thought she had taken poison but nothing could be discovered

by _post mortem_ examination.



There was not a trace of any kind of poison in the body.



The funeral of the husband and the wife took place that afternoon and

they were cremated on the same pyre.



The stomach and some portions of the intestines of the deceased lady

were sent to the chemical examiner and his report (which arrived a week

later) did not disclose anything.



The matter remains a mystery.



It will never be found out what force killed the lady at such a

critical moment. Probably it was the strong will of the Suttee that

would not allow her body to be separated from that of her husband even

in death.







Another very strange incident is reported from a place near Agra in the

United Provinces.



There were two respectable residents of the town who were close

neighbours. For the convenience of the readers we shall call them Smith

and Jones.



Smith and Jones, as has been said already, were close neighbours and the

best of friends. Each had his wife and children living with him.



Now Mr. Smith got fever, on a certain very hot day in June. The fever

would not leave him and on the tenth day it was discovered that it was

typhoid fever of the worst type.



Now typhoid fever is in itself very dangerous, but more so in the case

of a person who gets it in June. So poor Smith had no chance of

recovery. Of course Jones knew it. Mrs. Smith was a rather uneducated

elderly lady and the children were too young. So the medical treatment

as well as the general management of Mr. Smith's affairs was left

entirely in the hands of Mr. Jones.



Mr. Jones did his best. He procured the best medical advice. He got the

best medicines prescribed by the doctors and engaged the best nurse

available. But his efforts were of no avail. On a certain Thursday

afternoon Smith began to sink fast and at about eight in the evening he

died.



Mr. Jones on his return from his office that day at about four in the

afternoon had been informed that Mr. Smith's condition was very bad, and

he had at once gone over to see what he could do.



He had sent for half a dozen doctors, but they on their arrival had

found that the case was hopeless. Three of the doctors had accordingly

gone away, but the other three had stayed behind.



When however Smith was dead, and these three doctors had satisfied

themselves that life was quite extinct, they too went away with Mr.

Jones leaving the dead body in charge of the mourning members of the

family of the deceased.



Mr. Jones at once set about making arrangements for the funeral early

the next morning; and it was well after eleven at night that he

returned to a very late dinner at his own house. It was a particularly

hot night and after smoking his last cigar for the day Mr. Jones went to

bed, but not to sleep, after midnight. The death of his old friend and

neighbour had made him very sad and thoughtful. The bed had been made on

the open roof on the top of the house which was a two storied building

and Mr. Jones lay watching the stars and thinking.



At about one in the morning there was a loud knock at the front door.

Mr. Jones who was wide awake thought it was one of the servants

returning home late and so he did not take any notice of it.



After a few moments the knock was repeated at the door which opened on

the stairs leading to the roof of the second storey on which Mr. Jones

was sleeping. [The visitor had evidently passed through the front door].

This time Mr. Jones knew it was no servant. His first impression was

that it was one of the mutual friends who had heard of Smith's death and

was coming to make enquiries. So he shouted out "Who is there?"



"It is I,--Smith" was the reply.



"Smith--Smith is dead" stammered Mr. Jones.



"I want to speak to you, Jones--open the door or I shall come and kill

you" said the voice of Smith from beyond the door. A cold sweat stood on

Mr. Jones's forehead. It was Smith speaking, there was no doubt of

that,--Smith, whom he had seen expire before his very eyes five hours

ago. Mr. Jones began to look for a weapon to defend himself.



There was nothing available except a rather heavy hammer which had been

brought up an hour earlier that very night to fix a nail in the wall for

hanging a lamp. Mr. Jones took this up and waited for the spirit of

Smith at the head of the stairs.



The spirit passed through this closed door also. Though the staircase

was in total darkness still Mr. Jones could see Smith coming up step by

step.



Up and up came Smith and breathlessly Jones waited with the hammer in

his hand. Now only three steps divided them.



"I shall kill you" hissed Smith. Mr. Jones aimed a blow with the hammer

and hit Smith between the eyes. With a groan Smith fell down. Mr. Jones

fainted.



A couple of hours later there was a great commotion at the house of Mr.

Smith. The dead body had mysteriously disappeared.



The first thing they could think of was to go and inform Mr. Jones.



So one of the young sons of Smith came to Mr. Jones's house. The servant

admitted him and told him where to find the master.



Young Smith knocked at the door leading to the staircase but got no

reply. "After his watchful nights he is sleeping soundly" thought young

Smith.



But then Jones must be awakened.



The whole household woke up but not Mr. Jones. One of the servants then

procured a ladder and got upon the roof. Mr. Jones was not upon his bed

nor under it either. The servant thought he would open the door leading

to the staircase and admit the people who were standing outside beyond

the door at the bottom of the stairs. There was a number of persons now

at the door including Mrs. Jones, her children, servants and young

Smith.



The servant stumbled upon something. It was dark but he knew it was the

body of his master. He passed on but then he stumbled again. There was

another human being in the way. "Who is this other?--probably a thief"

thought the servant.



He opened the door and admitted the people who were outside. They had

lights with them. As they came in it was found that the second body on

the stairs two or three steps below the landing was the dead body of

Smith while the body on the landing was the unconscious form of Mr.

Jones.



Restoratives were applied and Jones came to his senses and then related

the story that has been recorded above. A doctor was summoned and he

found the wound caused by Jones's hammer on Smith's head. There was a

deep cut but no blood had come out, therefore, it appeared that the

wound must have been caused at least two or three hours after death.



The doctors never investigated whether death could have been caused by

the blow given by the hammer. They thought there was no need of an

investigation either, because they had left Smith quite dead at eight in

the evening.



How Smith's dead body was spirited away and came to Jones's house has

been a mystery which will probably never be solved.







Thinking over the matter recorded above the writer has come to the

conclusion that probably a natural explanation might be given of the

affair.



Taking however all the facts of the case as given above to be true (and

there is no reason to suppose that they are not) the only explanation

that could be given and in fact that was given by some of the sceptical

minds of Agra at that time was as follows:--



"Smith was dead. Jones was a very old friend of his. He was rather

seriously affected. He must have, in an unconscious state of mind like a

somnambulist, carried the dead body of Smith to his own house without

being detected in the act. Then his own fevered imagination endowed

Smith with the faculty of speech, dead though the latter was; and in a

moment of--well--call it temporary insanity, if you please--he inflicted

the wound on the forehead of Smith's dead body."



This was the only plausible explanation that could be given of the

affair; but regard being had to the fact that Smith's dead body was

lying in an upper storey of the house and that there was a number of

servants between the death chamber and the main entrance to the house,

the act of removing the dead body without their knowing it was a

difficult task, nay utterly impracticable.



Over and above this it was not feasible to carry away even at night, the

dead body along the road, which is a well frequented thoroughfare,

without being observed by anybody.



Then there is the third fact that Jones was really not such a strong

person that he could carry alone Smith's body that distance with ease.



Smith's dead body as recovered in Jones' house had bare feet; whether

there was any dust on the feet, had not been observed by anybody;

otherwise some light might have been thrown on this apparently

miraculous incident.





A Story Of Ravenna A Supernatural Phenomenon facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback