‘Ghost writer’ back to her spooky ways

By Vishal Gulati, IANS
Sunday, December 5, 2010

SHIMLA - Less than six years after she came out with her first book of ghost stories, writer Minakshi Chaudhry is penning another collection of spooky tales based on this hill town.

“Real, strange and eerie tales which were not included in my first book ‘Ghost Stories of Shimla Hills’, will be part of the forthcoming book that will hit the book stores by the middle of next year,” journalist-turned-writer Minakshi, 41, told IANS.

She said the first book, published by Rupa and Co., encouraged many readers to get in touch with her to share their paranormal experiences in and around the town, the erstwhile summer capital of the British.

“These stories till now, like the ones in the first book, only circulated in closed groups. Tales of many unknown and shy protagonists have found their way into the second collection,” the Shimla-based writer said.

“Shimla is full of these tales. Fear of the unknown, eerie and the strange enhanced by the mist, darkness and the pattering rain drops are part of life in the hills. Do ghosts and witches exist? We do not know. Perhaps we can never know. But, yes, ghost stories do exist. And I am writing these real tales,” said the writer, who has nine books to her credit.

Currently, she is busy researching and looking for new stories. She interviews people who have “experienced an interaction with a spirit or ghost”, visits the sites, and goes through official records and references in local literature, history and folklore.

Sharing her experiences of researching for her first book, Minakshi said: “I spent six months in 1999 looking for ‘angrez’ (European) ghosts of the Raj (British colonial rule) days in Shimla hills. During these wanderings, I came across tales about many non-’angrez’ native ghosts and spirits too.”

So what did she learn about them?

“Ghosts prefer thick, dark groves, murky alleys and lonely spots, uninhabited forested paths, bowlis (natural water points) and springs. Ghosts and spirits love mountains and just like people in other hill towns, many generations of Shimlaiites grew up with stories about ‘bhoots’ (ghosts), ‘churails’ (witches) and such creatures,” she said.

There are numerous tales of ghost sighting in the ‘Queen of Hills’, as Shimla was fondly called by the British.

The common tales include one about a European woman, with her feet pointing backwards, asking for a lift near the Ridge; a house in Jakhu hills which couldn’t get tenants as locals believed a British soldier roamed there with his head in his hands; and a ghost orange seller often seen near Snowdon hospital (now known as Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital).

“These stories will die out with the elderly. I am just trying to stitch them together for the coming generations,” the writer said.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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