The Bridal Party





In Benares, the sacred city of the Hindus, situated in the United

Provinces of Agra and Oudh, there is a house which is famed pretty far

and wide. It is said that the house is haunted and that no human being

can pass a night in that house.







Once there was a large Bridal party.



In India the custom is that the bridegroom goes to the house of the

bride with great pomp and show with a number of friends and followers

and the ceremony of "Kanya Dan" (giving away the girl) takes place at

the bride's house.



The number of the people who go with the bridegroom depends largely upon

the means of the bride's party, because the guests who come with the

groom are to be fed and entertained in right regal style. It is this

feeding and entertaining the guests that makes a daughter's marriage so

costly in India, to a certain extent.



If the bride and the bridegroom live in the same town or village then

the bridegroom's party goes to the bride's house in the evening, the

marriage is performed at night and they all come away the same night or

early the next morning. If, however, the places of residence of the

bride and the bridegroom are say 500 miles apart as is generally the

case, the bridegroom with his party goes a day or two earlier and stays

a day or two after the marriage. The bride's people have to find

accommodation, food and entertainment for the whole period, which in the

case of rich people extends over a week.



Now I had the pleasure of joining such a bridal party as mentioned last,

going to Benares.



We were about thirty young men, besides a number of elderly people.



Since the young men could not be merry in the presence of their elders

the bride's father, who was a very rich man, had made arrangements to

put up the thirty of us in a separate house.



This house was within a few yards of the famed haunted house.



We reached Benares at about ten in the morning and it was about three in

the afternoon that we were informed that the celebrated haunted house

was close by. Naturally some of us decided that we should occupy that

house rather than the one in which we were. I myself was not very keen

on shifting but a few others were. Our host protested but we insisted,

and so the host had to give way.



The house was empty and the owner was a local gentleman, a resident of

Benares.



To procure his permission and the key was the work of a few minutes and

we took actual possession of the house at about six in the evening. It

was a very large house with big rooms and halls (rather poorly

furnished) but some furniture was brought in from the house which we had

occupied on our arrival.



There was a very big and well-ventilated hall and in this we decided to

sleep. Carpet upon carpet was piled on the floor and there we decided to

sleep (on the ground) in right Oriental style. Lamps were brought and

the house was lighted up.



At about 9 P.M. our dinner was announced. The Oriental dinner is

conducted as follows:--



The guests all sit on the floor and a big plate of metal (say 20" in

diameter) is placed in front of each guest. Then the service commences

and the plates are filled with dainties. Each guest generally gets

thrice as much as he can eat. Then the host who does not himself join

stands with joined hands and requests the guests to do full justice, and

the dinner begins. Very little is eaten in fact, and whatever is left

goes to the poor. That is probably the only consolation. Now on this

particular occasion the bride's father, who was our host and who was an

elderly gentleman had withdrawn, leaving two of his sons to look after

us. He himself, we understood, was looking after his more elderly guests

who had been lodged in a different house.



The hall in which we sat down to dine was a large one and very well

lighted.



Adjoining it was the hall in which our beds had been made. The sons of

_mine host_ with a number of others were serving. I always was rather

unconventional. So I asked my fellow guests whether I could fall to, and

without waiting for permission I commenced eating, a very good thing I

did, as would appear hereafter.



In about 20 minutes the serving was over and we were asked to begin. As

a matter of fact I was nearly half through at that time. And then the

trouble began.



With a click all the lights went out and the whole house was in total

darkness.



Of course, the reader can guess what followed.



"Who has put out the lights?" shouted Jagat, who was sitting next but

one to me on the left.



"The ghost" shouted another in reply.



"I shall kill him if I can catch him" shouted Jagat.



The whole place was in darkness, we could not see anything but we could

hear that Jagat was trying to get up.



Then he received what was a stunning blow on his back. We could hear the

thump.



"Oh" shouted Jagat "who is that?"



He sat down again and gave the man on his right a blow like the one he

had received. The man on the right protested. Then Jagat turned to the

man on his left. The man on Jagat's left evidently resisted and Jagat

had the worst of it.



Then Narain, another one of us shouted out.



"What is the matter with you?" asked his neighbour.



"Why did you pull my hair" shouted Narain.



"I did not pull" shouted the neighbour.



Then a servant was seen approaching with a lamp and things became

quiet.



But the servant did not reach the hall. He stumbled against something

and fell headlong on the ground, the lamp went out, and our trouble

began again.



One of the party received a slap on the back of his head which sent his

cap rolling and in his attempt to recover it he upset a glass of water

that was near his right hand.



Matters went on in this fashion till a lamp came. The whole thing must

have taken about 4 minutes. When the lamp came we found that all the

dishes were clean.



The eatables had mysteriously disappeared.



The sons of _mine host_ looked stupidly at us and we looked stupidly at

them and at each other. But there it was, there was not a particle of

solid food left.



We had therefore no alternative but to adjourn to the nearest

confectioner's shop and eat some sweets there. That the night would not

pass in peace we were sure; but nobody dared suggest that we should not

pass the night in the haunted house. Once having defied the Ghost we

had to stand to our guns for one night at least.



It was well after 11 o'clock at night when we came back and went to bed.

We went to bed but not to sleep.



The room in which we all slept was a big one as I have said already, and

there were two wall lamps in it. We lowered the lamps and--



Then the lamps went out, and we began to anticipate trouble. Our hosts

had all gone home leaving us to the tender mercies of the Ghost.



Shortly afterwards we began to feel as if we were lying on a public road

and horses passing along the road within a yard of us. We also imagined

we could hear men passing close to us whispering. Sleeping was

impossible. We all remained awake talking about different things, till a

horse came very near. And thus the night passed away. At about four in

the morning one of us got up and wanted to go out.



We shouted for the servant called Kallu and within a minute Kallu came

with a lantern. One of our fellow guests got up and went out of the room

followed by Kallu.



We could hear him going along the dining hall to the head of the stairs.

Then we heard him shriek. We all rushed out. The lighted lantern was

there at the head of the stairs and our fellow guest at the bottom.

Kallu had vanished.



We rushed down, picked up our friend and carried him upstairs. He said

that Kallu had given him a push and he had fallen down. Fortunately he

was not hurt. We called the servants and they all came, Kallu among

them. He denied having come with a lantern or having pushed our friend

down the stairs. The other servants corroborated his statement. They

assured us that Kallu had never left the room in which they all were.



We were satisfied that this was also a ghostly trick.



At about seven in the morning when our hosts came we were glad to bid

good-bye to the haunted house with our bones whole.



The funniest thing was that only those of my fellow guests had the worst

of it who had denied the existence of Ghosts. Those of us who had kept

respectfully silent had not been touched.



Those who had received a blow or two averred that the blows could not

have been given by invisible hands inasmuch as the blows were too

substantial. But all of us were certain that it was no trick played by

a human being.



The passing horses and the whispering passers-by had given us a queer

creepy sensation.







In this connection may be mentioned a few haunted houses in other parts

of India. There are one or two very well-known haunted houses in

Calcutta.



The "Hastings House" is one of them. It is situated at Alipore in the

Southern suburb of Calcutta. This is a big palatial building now owned

by the Government of Bengal. At one time it was the private residence of

the Governor-General of India whose name it bears. At present it is used

as the "State Guest House" in which the Indian Chiefs are put up when

they come to pay official visits to His Excellency in Calcutta. It

appears that in a lane not very far from this house was fought the

celebrated duel between Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of

India and Sir Philip Francis, a Member of his Council and the reputed

author of the "Letters of Junius."



While living in this house Warren Hastings married Baroness Imhoff

sometime during the first fortnight of August about 140 years ago. "The

event was celebrated by great festivities"; and, as expected, the bride

came home in a splendid equipage. It is said that this scene is

re-enacted on the anniversary of the wedding by supernatural agency and

a ghostly carriage duly enters the gate in the evening once every year.

The clatter of hoofs and the rattle of iron-tyred wheels are distinctly

heard advancing up to the portico; then there is the sound of the

opening and closing of the carriage door, and lastly the carriage

proceeds onwards, but it does not come out from under the porch. It

vanishes mysteriously.



To-day is the 15th of August and this famous equipage must have glided

in and out to the utter bewilderment of watchful eyes and ears within

the last fortnight.[2]







There is another well-known ghostly house in Calcutta in which the only

trouble is that its windows in the first floor bedrooms open at night

spontaneously.



People have slept at night for a reward in this house closing the

windows with their own hands and have waked up at night shivering with

cold to find all the windows open.



Once a body of soldiers went to pass a night in this house with a view

to solve the mystery. They all sat in a room fully determined not to

sleep but see what happened; and thus went on chatting till it was about

midnight. There was a big lamp burning on a table around which they were

seated. All of a sudden there was a loud click--the lamp went out and

all the windows opened simultaneously. The next minute the lamp was

alight again. The occupants of the room looked at their watches; it was

about 1 A.M. The next night they sat up again and one of them with a

revolver. At about one in the morning this particular individual pointed

his revolver at one of the windows. As soon as the lamp went out this

man pulled the trigger five times and there were five reports. The

windows, however, opened and the lamp was alight again as on the

previous night. They all rushed to the window to see if any damage had

been done by the bullets.



The five bullets were found in the room but from their appearance it

seemed as if they had struck nothing, evidently the bullets would have

been changed in shape if they had impinged upon any hard substance. But

then this was another enigma. How did the bullets come back? No man

could have put the bullets there from before, (for they were still hot

when discovered) or could have guessed the bore of the revolver that was

going to be used.



On the third night to make assurance doubly sure, these soldiers were

again present in the room, but on this occasion they had loaded their

revolver with marked bullets.



As it neared one o'clock, one of them pointed the revolver at the

window. He had decided to pull the trigger as soon as the lamp would go

out. But he could not. As soon as the lamp went out this soldier

received a sharp cut on his wrist with a cane and the revolver fell

clattering on the floor. The invisible hand had left its mark behind

which his companions saw after the lamp was alight again.



Many people have subsequently tried to solve the mystery but never

succeeded.



The house remained untenanted for a long time and finally it was rented

by an Australian horse dealer who however did not venture to occupy the

building itself, and contented himself with erecting his stables and

offices in the compound where he is not molested by the unearthly

visitors.



There is another ghostly house and it is in the United Provinces. The

name of the town has been intentionally omitted. Various people saw

numerous things in that house but a correct report never came. Once a

friend of mine passed a night in that house. He told me what he had

seen. Most wonderful! And I have no reason to disbelieve him.



"I went to pass a night in that house and I had only a comfortable

chair, a small table and a few magazines besides a loaded revolver. I

had taken care to load that revolver myself so that there might be no

trick and I had given everybody to understand that.



"I began well. The night was cool and pleasant. The lamp bright--the

chair comfortable and the magazine which I took up--interesting.



"But at about midnight I began to feel rather uneasy.



"At one in the morning I should probably have left the place if I had

not been afraid of friends whose servants I knew were watching the

house and its front door.



"At half past one I heard a peculiar sigh of pain in the next room.

'This is rather interesting,' I thought. To face something tangible is

comparatively easy; to wait for the unknown is much more difficult. I

took out the revolver from my pocket and examined it. It looked quite

all right--this small piece of metal which could have killed six men in

half a minute. Then I waited--for what--well.



"A couple of minutes of suspense and the sigh was repeated. I went to

the door dividing the two rooms and pushed it open. A long thick ray of

light at once penetrated the darkness, and I walked into the other room.

It was only partially light. But after a minute I could see all the

corners. There was nothing in that room.



"I waited for a minute or two. Then I heard the sigh in the room which I

had left. I came back,--stopped--rubbed my eyes--.



"Sitting in the chair which I had vacated not two minutes ago was a

young girl calm, fair, beautiful with that painful expression on her

face which could be more easily imagined than described. I had heard of

her. So many others who had came to pass a night in that house had seen

her and described her (and I had disbelieved).



"Well--there she sat, calm, sad, beautiful, in my chair. If I had come

in five minutes later I might have found her reading the magazine which

I had left open, face downwards. When I was well within the room she

stood up facing me and I stopped. The revolver fell from my hand. She

smiled a sad sweet smile. How beautiful she was!



"Then she spoke. A modern ghost speaking like Hamlet's father, just

think of that!



"'You will probably wonder why I am here--I shall tell you, I was

murdered--by my own father.... I was a young widow living in this

house which belonged to my father I became unchaste and to save his

own name he poisoned me when I was _enceinte_--another week and I

should have become a mother; but he poisoned me and my innocent

child died too--it would have been such a beautiful baby--and you

would probably want to kiss it'



and horror of horrors, she took out the child from her womb and showed

it to me. She began to move in my direction with the child in her arms

saying--'You will like to kiss it.'



"I don't know whether I shouted--but I fainted.



"When I recovered consciousness it was broad day-light, and I was lying

on the floor, with the revolver by my side. I picked it up and slowly

walked out of the house with as much dignity as I could command. At the

door I met one of my friends to whom I told a lie that I had seen

nothing.--It is the first time that I have told you what I saw at the

place.



"The Ghostly woman spoke the language of the part of the country in

which the Ghostly house is situate."



The friend who told me this story is a responsible Government official

and will not make a wrong statement. What has been written above has

been confirmed by others--who had passed nights in that Ghostly house;

but they had generally shouted for help and fainted at the sight of the

ghost, and so they had not heard her story from her lips as reproduced

here.



The house still exists, but it is now a dilapidated old affair, and the

roof and the doors and windows are so bad that people don't care to go

and pass a night there.



There is also a haunted house in Assam. In this house a certain

gentleman committed suicide by cutting his own throat with a razor.



You often see him sitting on a cot in the verandah heaving deep sighs.



Mention of this house has been made in a book called "Tales from the

Tiger Land" published in England. The Author says he has passed a night

in the house in question and testifies to the accuracy of all the

rumours that are current.







Talking about haunted houses reminds me of a haunted tank. I was

visiting a friend of mine in the interior of Bengal during our annual

summer holidays when I was yet a student. This friend of mine was the

son of a rich man and in the village had a large ancestral house where

his people usually resided. It was the first week of June when I reached

my friend's house. I was informed that among other things of interest,

which were, however, very few in that particular part of the country,

there was a large Pukka tank belonging to my friend's people which was

haunted.



What kind of Ghost lived in the tank or near it nobody could say, but

what everybody knew was this, that on _Jaistha Shukla Ekadashi_ (that is

on the eleventh day after the new moon in the month of Jaistha) that

occurs about the middle of June, the Ghost comes to bathe in the tank

at about midnight.



Of course, Jaistha Shukla Ekadashi was only 3 days off, and I decided to

prolong my stay at my friend's place, so that I too might have a look at

the Ghost's bath.



On the eventful day I resolved to pass the night with my friend and two

other intrepid souls, near the tank.



After a rather late dinner, we started with a bedding and a Hookah and a

pack of cards and a big lamp. We made the bed (a mattress and a sheet)

on a platform on the bank. There were six steps, with risers about 9"

each, leading from the platform to the water. Thus we were about 41/2

feet from the water level; and from this coign of vantage we could

command a full view of the tank, which covered an area of about four

acres. Then we began our game of cards. There was a servant with us who

was preparing our Hookah.



At midnight we felt we could play no longer.



The strain was too great; the interest too intense.



We sat smoking and chatting and asked the servant to remove the lamp as

a lot of insects was coming near attracted by the light. As a matter of

fact we did not require any light because there was a brilliant moon. At

one o'clock in the morning there was a noise as of rushing wind--we

looked round and found that not a leaf was moving but still the whizzing

noise as of a strong wind continued. Then we found something advancing

towards the tank from the opposite bank. There was a number of cocoanut

trees on the bank on the other side, and in the moonlight we could not

see clearly what it really was. It looked like a huge white elephant. It

approached the tank at a rapid pace--say the pace of a fast trotting

horse. From the bank it took a long leap and with a tremendous splash

fell into the water. The plunge made the water rise on our side and it

rose as high as 41/2 feet because we got wet through and through.



The mattress and the sheet and all our clothes were wet. In the

confusion we forgot to keep our eyes on the Ghost or white elephant or

whatever it was and when we again looked in that direction everything

was quiet. The apparition had vanished.



The most wonderful thing was the rise in the water level. For the water

to rise 41/2 feet would have been impossible under ordinary

circumstances even if a thousand elephants had got into the water.



We were all wide awake--We went home immediately because we required a

change of clothes.



The old man (my friend's father) was waiting for us. "Well you are wet"

he said.



"Yes" said we.



"Rightly served" said the old man.



He did not ask what had happened. We were told subsequently that he had

got wet like us a number of times when he was a youngster himself.





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