Indian Ghost Stories by S. Mukerji
THE OPEN DOOR.
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.