India is a country having numerous forts. Many of them have been in existence since time immemorial & have played a very important role in shaping the history of the country. The state of Maharasthra in India is house to many such forts. Many of these are located in the Sahyadri Mountain ranges and are a trekker’s paradise especially during the monsoon and winter seasons. Since these forts have been the scene of large scale death, destruction and carnage during battles between warring factions for supremacy, some of these forts also have a reputation of being haunted.
This incident happened in the early nineties when I was in college. It was December and exams were just over. We had a couple of weeks to go before start of the new term. Four of us namely I, Paru, Nikhil & Kannu decided to go for an overnight trek to one of the old deserted forts to unwind, relax and enjoy nature in general. We had heard some stories of the fort being haunted but nevertheless decided to carry on just for the experience.
This fort is situated around 150 Kms from Mumbai and is around 1400 meters above sea level. It is a six hour trek to the fort. We started at around 7 a.m in the morning & were fully geared up to spend the night on the fort. Nikhil had brought a gas stove and other food items required for cooking. We had even planned a barbeque later that night.
The weather was very pleasant and the cool breeze really refreshed us and made the trek less tiring. We reached the gates of the fort at around 1.00pm in the afternoon. There were a couple of other trekkers like us on the fort. They were very friendly and we soon began chatting. They told us that they had trekked to the fort a couple of times before but always left before sundown. When we told them of our plans to stay there overnight, they looked concerned and told us about reports of spirits and hauntings which were reported earlier. When they found that we were determined to spend the night there, one of them insisted that we stay in the temple located at the entrance of the fort which was considered safe by locals.
The scenery from the fort was breathtaking and Paru along with Nikhil had a great time photographing nature at its best. After a great lunch we rested for sometime and began looking around. The fort was huge with a lot of items of historical significance. We also located a pond which would fulfill our requirements for water required for drinking and cooking.
It was 6.00pm and the sun had nearly set. Our trekker friends had left an hour back wishing us best of luck. We had already kept our stuff near the temple where we could cook & spend the night after dinner.
My friends suddenly had this crazy idea of going to the pond and enjoying a nice swim. Though I am a good swimmer, I was apprehensive since it was getting dark & the waters were unknown. The element of risk involved prevented me from joining them and I sat outside enviously watching them splashing around. This is when something strange happened.
Kannu felt something grasp his leg and pull him into the water. He immediately shrugged himself free and looked a bit shaken. Though concerned, we tried to convince him that his foot might have got entangled in the weeds in the water. I asked everyone to come out immediately so that we could head back and start preparations for dinner.
While walking towards our camp Kannu told us that he was suddenly feeling very cold & started shivering. By the time we reached the temple, his teeth were chattering and he had developed high fever. All of us were surprised to see this since Kannu is a robust guy who seldom falls ill. We quickly prepared a bed for him inside the temple, covered him with a blanket to keep him warm and gave him some medicine. Kannu was delirious for some time talking gibberish but soon fell asleep.
We then started preparations for our dinner. The plans for a barbeque were cancelled and we decided to have a simple dinner consisting of rice and lentils and hit the sack.
By around 10. 00 pm we finished our dinner which tasted so good since we were all really famished after our long hard day.
The three of us sat down chatting by the temple and the topic soon drifted to the hauntings which were reported earlier. Nikhil is a complete non believer in ghosts & the paranormal and scoffed at the reports. He also told us that he could go to the pond right away, enjoy a smoke and spend half an hour there without any fear. Despite my pleas he left us promising to return in exactly half an hour. Paru and I were concerned about the whole thing but couldn’t help it. We started chatting about the breathtaking scenery from the fort and forgot about Nikhil. Time passed quickly & when I glanced at my watch, it was 11. 45 pm. It was around an hour since Nikhil had left and we hadn’t heard from him. Irritated at his irresponsible behaviour and being concerned about his well being at the same time we immediately set about to find him.
As we neared the pond we saw Nikhil lying near the water. From a distance it looked as if he had dozed off. When we came near, I glanced at his face. Believe me, what I saw next still sends a shiver down my spine. He was lying on his back with his eyes wide open as if in a trance, staring straight at the sky. Fearing the worst we shook him vigorously to try and get him out of his stupor. Fortunately for us he woke up and seemed fine. He started sweating profusely & told us what exactly had happened.
After leaving the temple, he came to the pond and was enjoying his smoke. He suddenly got the feeling that he wasn’t alone. He saw something move in the bushes. He brushed aside his fear saying to himself that it might be a stray dog who had made the fort his home. It also came to his mind that Paru and I might be playing a prank on him. He ignored the movement and continued smoking. He suddenly felt an icy cold hand on his neck. He swung back instantly and saw that it was a woman dressed in a red saree, horribly disfigured, unkempt hair swaying across her face & a creepy smile on her face looking straight at him. He had no recollection of what happened later until the time we woke him. There was an outline of three fingers clearly visible on Nikhil’s neck where the cold hand touched him.
Without wasting any more time we ran to the temple. We were relieved to see Kannu sleeping soundly. My watch showed the time as 12. 30 am i.e half an hour past midnight. We entered the temple and closed the door securely from inside. All of us were visibly disturbed after what had happened. Out of sheer exhaustion, we were about to fall off to sleep when we suddenly heard a knock on the door. We did not have the courage to open the door but the knocking still persisted, slowly at first & becoming more and more vigorous later on. Someone was banging the doors and windows of the temple. We heard a woman’s voice abusing us & daring us to come outside.
Nikhil slowly opened the window in an attempt to see who it was. There was no one to be seen but we could clearly hear the woman’s voice abusing us. After around 20 minutes the banging stopped.
Just when we felt that the worst was over, it started all over again. This time the banging & abuses continued with increased intensity for around forty five minutes before it finally ceased.
All of us had become nervous wrecks. It seemed that the only thing which was preventing the evil entity outside from coming in was the presence of the deity inside the temple.
None of us could sleep. All of us sat around the deity and prayed hard in such a way that we had never done before. Getting out of the fort safely was the only thing going through our minds at that time.
Then at around 6.00 am in the morning there was a knock on the door. This time it was a man’s voice asking us to open the door. Gradually mustering up courage, I opened the window and was relieved to find that it was the temple priest who had come there as usual to perform his religious duties. He was surprised to find us there since no one generally stayed in the fort after sundown. We related our account to him and he confirmed that a few others too had similar experiences during their stay. He told us that he had been coming to the fort since he was a child but personally did not experience anything weird inside the fort.
Since the start of our ordeal, Kannu was the only one person who was sleeping comfortably inside the temple and did not wake up even once. In fact when we woke him in the morning he was feeling fit and fine unlike the previous day. He had absolutely no recollection of our ordeal inside the temple.
We quickly packed our stuff and immediately started back. Nikhil was lucky to have escaped unhurt. This incident left a deep mark on him & completely changed his perspective of looking at paranormal occurrences. He recovered soon and the marks on his neck vanished within a week.
Kannu still doesn’t remember anything from the time we came out of the pond until next day morning. Paru & I still meet up occasionally and sometimes discuss as to what might have happened if we had opened the door of the temple that night.