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

Calcutta.



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

we.



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

of Bengal.



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

companion.



"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

house.



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

upon."



"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

be unoccupied.



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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