Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve is celebrated every year on October 31 to commemorate the souls of the dead, which includes that of saints and martyrs. It originated from the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which marks the beginning of the “dark half” of the year and the arrival of winter. The festival has a strong connection with the supernatural, because it’s believed that on Halloween, the worlds of the spirits and the living come closer. It’s the time of the year when people love to spook the living daylights out of each other with tales of ghost, goblins and witches. In recent years, India, which has its share of ghostly lore, is increasingly growing fascinated with Halloween. Every part of the country has its share of urban legends and horror stories replete with chudails, bhuts, pretas and yakshis. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Blood-Sucking Yakshis of Kerala
In the Kerala folklore, stories there are countless legends of the undead, vampiric women called yakshis who have died unnatural, violent deaths. They return from the dead to feast on the blood and flesh of the living. These women are beguiling in nature, with beautiful pale faces and long, thick hair. When they arrive, a heady scent of pala flowers lingers in the air. Haunted Halloween Tour in Mumbai: Go to These 5 Spooky Places Around the City Which Have Mysterious Spirits.
They are known to reside atop palm trees and venture out at night in search of victims, mostly men. Typically, yakshis approach them, asking for some “chunnamb” or lime for their betel leaves. Unsuspecting men swayed by their hypnotic beauty offer them the chunnamb only to see the beautiful women transform in front of their eyes. The yakshi bares her long fangs, her blood-red tongue rolling out of her mouth. She grabs the victim by his throat and drags him up the palm tree where she feasts on his blood and flesh. In the morning, all that remains of the unsuspecting victim are his hair and nails at the bottom of the tree.
Nishi Dak From Bengal
What would you do if you hear your mother call you by your name in the middle of the night? Would you respond to it? In Bengal, one wouldn’t. The voice could be that of Nishi Dak, a night caller or a ghostly being that mimics the voice of a loved one to lure victims out into the dark. Apart from Bengal, the nocturnal spirit is also heard of in Jharkhand and Bihar.
A nishi is the spirit of a person who hasn’t been given a proper pind-daan after his or her death. Only by killing others can the nishi stay “alive.” It calls out to victims by mimicking a loved one's voice, twice. If the victims respond to the nishi’s call, it takes its true form and kills them. Halloween 2018 Quotes: Scary Quotes About Everybody’s Favourite Spookiest Time of the Year.
There are some ways of staying safe from falling prey to nishi daak. Don’t respond to voices calling out your name in the dark. Since a nishi is incapable of uttering a name more than twice, only respond if someone calls out your name thrice.
The Woman With The Twisted Feet
The tale of a ghostly woman with twisted feet is commonly told by people living in metro cities like Mumbai. The ghostly woman clad in white has been known to approach autorickshaw drivers in the dead of night. She would request unsuspecting men to drop her at discrete locations at night.
When they arrived at the destination, she would open the knot on her sari pallu to pay the driver. The woman would inadvertently drop some coins on the ground. When the driver bends down to pick it up, he notices that her feet are turned backwards. Horrified, when he looks upwards, he sees the woman’s face has turned ghostly.
Urban legends of women with twisted feet are quite common in many parts of India. Such ghostly apparitions are known as pretnis from preta meaning corpse in Sanskrit.
The Three-Headed Chudail
In the mid-90s, Mumbai was rocked by “sightings” of the three-headed witch or teen-mundi waali chudail. According to local legends, many households were roused from their deep sleep after hearing a rapping sound on the door. When they opened the door, they found a woman with three heads, staring back at them in the dead of night.
The panic was so widespread that children were prohibited from stepping out after 6 in the evening. People started huddling together and even retired early to sleep. Some started adorning their main doors with religious paraphernalia to ward off the ghoulish being.
The Ghosts of Bhangarh
Bhangard holds the reputation of being the only “legally” haunted place in India. The Archaeological Survey of India has prohibited entry into the place after dark. The Bhangarh fort was built in 1573 by Raja Bhagwant Das for his son Madhoo Singh. The fort was abandoned in the 18th century after a severe flood that affected the area. Local legends speak of the story a sadhu’s curse, which caused the place’s ruination. Even to this day, visitors who dare to venture into the fort premises after dark hear weird sounds and see eerie sights.
People even report feeling an unsettling presence, as if they are in the company of something unearthly. Whether it is just mass hysteria or machinations of the supernatural, one cannot be entirely sure.
Maan Kapya or The Headless Hunter
The maan kapya another ghostly urban legend from many parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai. Localities talk of a headless hunter who preys on the living at night. Anyone who is foolish enough to venture out in the dark may encounter the ghoulish being who will appear out of nowhere.
The name maan kapya in Marathi means someone who chops off heads. Any lone walker who steps outside after sunset will be waylaid by the hunter who may decapitate him. Other accounts talk of the headless man walking around the mill areas, searching for fresh victims every night. But instead of chopping off the head, he twists their necks to kill them.
No one knows the origins of the maan kapya legends. Many of the stories have died down in recent years after the rapid urbanisation of the city. But old-timers may still regale you with a tale or two about the headless fiend who terrorised chawl dwellers.
Muhnochwa of Kanpur
Muhnochwa means the one that claws the face. In the early 2000s, there was considerable paranoia in Kanpur and Banaras, UP about a mysterious creature that in the rural areas. In the middle of the night, the creature was said to emerge out of a blanket of darkness, emitting red and green lights. Witnesses say that it flies in the sky, landing on the ground to attack people and to claw their face viciously.
Many people were reportedly injured due to the muhnochwa scare, due to the chaos created by its sightings. Men and women injured themselves as they scampered about in the middle of the night, falling on top of each other.
People banded together and kept a watch on the village. Many lost their sleep in the process.
Nobody knows whether there’s a grain of truth in these hellish legends. But many of us have grown up to tales of yakshis, maan kapyas and chudails, recounted by grandparents at bedtime. Which one’s your favourite?