Have you seen a ghost? If not then read on, if yes then you are a prized possession and need to be in a museum. Just kidding, we are all scared of ghosts but most want to see them for once at least. Calcutta has a rich colonial history and being a relatively old city it has a good share of ghost-infested locations. Most of them are the old Sahibs who still haunt their old workplace or their residence.
A good friend of mine has recently come up with a fantastic walk of the city at the dead of night. He calls it the “Ghost Walk”. No, you don’t get to walk along with them but to walk along with a group to meet these friendly night beings.
Anthony had arranged for one of his signature ghost walks this month. Scheduled to start at 11 PM from New Market the walk lasted more than three hours across the heart of the city.
We were joined by few more participants for this ghost walk in front of the main entrance of New Market. It was around 10.30 PM and New Market looked almost ghostly with all the street vendors packing up for the day. Almost all the stores had their shutters down and the crowded streets were almost empty.
The group consisted of representatives from both the gender and from various age group thus setting a perfect mixed group atmosphere. We started our walk from New Market which was built by Sir Stuart Hogg in the year 1874. He was actually the Chairman of Calcutta Corporation which took the onus in building the market for the British colonist so that they do not have to go to the same market where the natives went. Some say at night he still roams around the corridors as he refuses to leave the premises he help built.
This was a different ghost walk which included heritage spots which made it really different so the participants were taken through few diversions to show additional historical significant landmarks which are not haunted as such but of real importance.
One such place is the Chaplin Park which the municipal corporation had dedicated to the memory of Sir Charles Chaplin. There used to be a movie theater right next to it called Chaplin but now it has been raised to the ground for another purpose.
Just opposite to the park is the headquarters of Kolkata Municipal Corporation the building itself is significant for its architecture but the real treasure, the half-buried cannons which are placed in upright position. Apparently, there are more such canons across the city.
Next, we move towards Grand Hotel, this place is now called the Oberoi Grand. Initially, this hotel was managed by Mr. Arathoon Stephen but later it changed hands and was owned by the Oberoi’s. This place has a history to be haunted and many people have forgotten about the ballroom fire.
Next, we headed straight to the iconic Statesman House. Once a legendary newspaper in the history of both India and Kolkata, this building is unfortunately not anymore the property of the newspaper but SBI has taken over its possession after the group failed to pay back the loan it took from SBI. This iconic building with its Art Deco architecture style once stood out amongst the rest.
By now the streets were more or less empty and the only living souls were the sweepers cleaning the streets preparing the ever busy city streets for the next day.
We take the Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah Sarani and reach another iconic building the Great Eastern Hotel. Nothing haunted about it but it once stood like a jewel in the crown for this country. Once host to the best of the best in the world this was in complete distress before its complete reincarnation by the Lalit group.
Some of the old baking equipment’s are still kept inside more from a decorative point of view.
Our next stop was right in front of the famous Great Eastern Hotel but our first place of interest was not the hotel but a famous Italian restaurant the first in the city “Federico Peliti”. Once considered as one of the finest confectioners the city of Calcutta can offer now this is just an office building. Only the marble plaque reminds of its glorious past. During the day time when the collapsible gate remains open, you get to see the wooden spiral staircase which has its own beauty.
We then head straight towards the Raj Bhawan, it is to be noted that Rule 144 is imposed within five hundred meter radius of this iconic place thus it is best to be avoided at night in groups. This place has some of the finest British Era building in Kolkata.
We then take a right towards the Lal Dighi – Telephone Bhawan, it was well past midnight and the roads now seriously looked spooky. Walking up ahead towards the west from here we get The Standard Life Assurance Building, with its beautiful architecture this place looks like a beautiful lady both at night and day. Pay special attention to the sculptors at the top of the entrance, it has a Biblical connection and to know more you must come for yourself.
We proceeded to our second ghost spot the famous Garstin Place where once stood the old All India Radio Studios. Known to be extremely haunted the studio was forced to shift to its current address when the workers at the station refused to work.
It may be illogical but all of us suddenly felt a gush of cold air, even though winter had crossed the city and all of us were dressed casually we suddenly felt a rather unusually cold. Some took out their hoodies from their backpack and slipped them on.
All around us were building of various sizes and in various states. This added to the mystery and most of the participants started grouping rather than walking alone.
And then it all happened… a large sound “Dong, Dong”. It was the church bells from St. Johns Church nearby but this sudden bang really scared most of the participants. The young ladies in the group gave a loud shout and quickly clung her mother’s hand in fear begging her to go back.
I guess this is what it was all about a sudden feeling at a certain time when it really makes you feel that there are much more than what your eyes can actually see.
Our next stop was St. Johns Church and we approached it from the back so that we can see the grave of Job Charnok. This section of the church also houses many other graves and in the midnight hours in pitch darkness, it was really scary. The moon covered by the clouds created a real illusion which you must see to understand.
Surprisingly my camera was also not able to focus in the darkness and most of the images were blurry.
We walk past High Court and take a left turn towards Town Hall. At night the white palatial building had a look of its own.
We then head straight and take a left turn towards GPO (General Post Office). This place was the location for the original Fort William, the brass marks clearly mentions the outer limit. This also meant that the famous Black Hole of Calcutta was nearby. Lost completely to the history this is more of a debate right now but as per some records the black hole stood right after the GPO. A buried cannon marks the exact spot.
It was nearly 1.15 AM and the charm of a ghost walk were at its peak. Most of us felt a light drizzle in front of the black hole but there was nothing around, were these the tears of the dying British soldiers and their families?
From here we go straight past Writers Building with Lal Dighi to our right. Writers building is no ordinary and it had its fair share of ghosts. Some say at night they definitely hear footsteps of someone in boots walking down the hallway while other say the sound of the typewriters is deafening at night.
We stop in front of the St Andrews Church and it looked beautiful dead at night with all its lights on. Walking past Currency Building we reach back in front of Great Eastern Hotel where the walk ended. It was nearly 2.30 AM and we had to make the long walk back to New Market where our bikes were parked.
For me, one is never enough and I will keep coming back for these walks. Who knows when the unseen creatures of the night will pay a visit to the mere mortals?
Thank you Anthony ‘Travis‘ Khatchaturian for inviting me to be a part of this Ghost Walk, if you are interested in taking similar ghost walks then you may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 99 34 99 49 19.