A Ghost in the Well
A Ghost in the Well
Most people have this perception that ghosts are supposed to live in peepul trees and apart from that they are found in places connected with death such as dilapidated houses, dark marshy moors, graveyards, morgues and old hotels now forgotten with the passage of time. These places are devoid of human habitation, lonely and enclosed, where these ghosts can dwell in peace, free from human interference. But has anyone heard of a ghost in a well?
Well, old Raju, the night chowkidar at the Clarkes, one of the oldest hotels in Shimla recalls frightful experiences of sometimes witnessing a ghost emerging out of a well, located at the far end of the hotel grounds and hovering in the garden and the kitchen of the hotel.
“How does that ghost look like? Is it a woman’s or a man’s” I asked him.
“Sahib, it is a woman’s ghost I see on some nights, when I prowl in the garden on my nightly rounds. It has long black, matted hair and a shrivelled face. Her eyes are nearly going out of her sockets and what a desolate, ghastly look she has. Her skin is pale white and the figure is always draped in white sari. As silent as the night, she materializes herself, popping out of the well. I see her, hiding behind a tree in the garden, as she sails into the thin night air and enters the hotel’s kitchen from the back window on the back side of the hotel. I stand there speechless; with my heart wringing and pools of sweats pouring down my face. After half an hour, the ghost re-emerges from the window, with the same old forbidding look. It floats in the air for a few minutes and then disappears down the depths of the well.”
“Are you sure?” I blurted out, amazed.
“Absolutely. It is so. I think we should get that well bricked up. It is of no use; nobody goes to it for water anymore. If we cover it up, the lady ghost will not be able to come out again. Who knows, what would have happened had any of the guests seen her? The hotel’s reputation would have gone down and the business would have been ruined.”
The night chowkidar’s story was certainly implausible. But I asked “Why did the lady ghost go to the kitchen? Did you try to find out?”
Old Raju nodded. “Yes, sahib. I did investigations of my own. I met the cook, Babu Lal the next day. He told me that he left the night utensils unwashed for the night and did them in the morning. But, at times, he’d arrive in the morning to find out the dishes, all cleaned, neatly stacked on the shelves by someone. Trust me, sahib, it is that ghost from the well.”
“But whose ghost, is it? An old guest or an employee?” I asked.
The night chowkidar shrugged. “Who knows, sahib, I have only been around for five years. But you can ask Mr Singh, the hotel’s manager who has been working here for thirty years. He knows everything about the employees and guests this hotel has had over the years.”
On the night chowkidar’s advice, I checked the story of the ghost in the well with Mr Singh, the Punjabi gentleman, well in his fifties, who sat at the front desk with a bunch of clerks. He tells me that the story is as true as steel.
He said “That’s true, sir. Although I haven’t seen the ghost myself, I know whose ghost it must be for I knew the lady. She was a young woman, in her twenties with a beautiful face and blue-green eyes who came to seek employment at the hotel about fifteen years ago. I was an office clerk in the hotel at that time and the manager was Kapoor, a burly, bad-tempered fellow who was the hotel owner. He was known to be tight-fisted and cunning and harsh on his employees. Nevertheless, he gave her the job of dishes which was the only job vacant in the hotel. And she did her work perfectly, diligently and was there every night to clean and arrange the dishes from the day’s dinner.”
“Then what went wrong?”
Mr Singh sighed. “Once, late night, Kapoor was in the hotel’s bar with his friends, drinking heavily more than ever. The service
was over for the guests but he kept on ordering food and wine for he thought that as the hotel manager he had every right to do so. The cook boy, tired of him, left for home while the poor woman stood in the kitchen washing the dishes. When Kapoor realised that he was not being catered to, he ran to the kitchen to yell at the cook boy, only to find the woman in the kitchen. He began cursing the women, who in terror broke an expensive dish from the Wedgewood white dinnerware. The plate was smashed into a hundred pieces, causing Kapoor to stab the woman with the knife in boiling rage. She was killed on the spot.”
“That’s a murder. What did Kapoor do then?”
“He was drunk, out of senses but conscious enough to call his friends to get rid of the woman’s body. They carried her away, first hiding her in Kapoor’s cupboard, then, in inside his bed but they knew that here, she’d be found and they’d be caught. So, from the window of his room, Kapoor saw the well. It gave him an idea. They flung her into the well and heard a loud splash as her body sank down the well. Kapoor and his friends swore each other to secrecy but the secret could not be kept for long. The well gave off a horrible stench, besides, it was used by the gardener at that time, for watering the plants. The body of the woman was discovered the next day but of course, not many suspected Kapoor since most of the staff had been gone for the day.”
“How did the police catch him then?”
Mr Singh gave a half-hearted laugh. “Not all staff, sir for you see I was there, working till late in the office, to witness the whole incident that unfolded before my eyes. I tipped off the police on Kapoor who was put behind the bars. And that’s how I became the hotel’s new manager.”
Mr Singh promised to have the well covered up, layered with bricks and cement to stop the woman ghost who was still carrying on with her job, after all these years. It could be unnerving for the guests and customers of the hotel, even for the employees. Business had been bad enough, and guests might get terrified to stay at the hotel due to the lady ghost who appears out of a well, cleans the dishes and vanishes down it again.
And though we knew she was a great help, working hard in the kitchen without asking for her pay, we thought it better to let Babu Lal do the dishes in the morning.