Dear Ghost Stories,
If there was a ghost appreciation scale, where zero equaled renting a place which the broker says is a 100% haunted and ten equaled installing a separate “GhostBusters approved” lock on all doors of one’s house, then I would be somewhere at 4.5. While I think The Blair Witch Project is a disastrous idea for academic exploration, I don’t usually recite the Hanuman Chalisa when I take a trip to the bathroom at night. I call on Hanuman ji’s blessings for what I assess are bigger tests of my character, like getting my toddler dressed for school.
Growing up, uncles and aunts with a sharp sense of what is age-appropriate for children (..not), had enthralled me with the standard-issue ghost narrative which includes, but is not limited to:
- Lady in white saree and long black tresses on a highway flagging down cars
- Slow tap dancing on roof
- A dark-ish, usually monochromatic cat
- Rustling leaves after sundown
- Leaky faucets and taps, other plumbing
- Someone humming something very deliberately and low timbre (aa-aaaa-aa-aaaaaa), later televised into Zee Horror Show’s theme tune
- Old abandoned fortress/ house down the lane
- Apparitions near trees or tree tops, likely a banyan
Over time, ghost stories came to me in various forms of discourse. Most stayed in the bell curve distribution of jingly anklets, radio transmissions, whispering flora, restless fauna, gently tinkling bells, vibrating dishwashers or some other aural stimuli. Occasionally, it was updated with a wind chime or an old Volkswagen screeching to a stop.
My favorite story is of a horse with a horseman in a carriage, shuttling people from small town A to small town B. This ghost was a prankster more than poltergeist, the only sign of his supernatural other-worldliness was that his eyeballs would spin inside his sockets to scare off passengers, albeit only at the end of the journey. How this affected fare recovery I don’t know. At that time, hearing first-hand accounts of ghosts was a privilege. It still is.
The story worked. Between this story and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, I never call for a horse while booking my Uber.