The headless horseman of the Shencottah Gap


Agricultural clearing in the mist

OK fine, I dont know if he is really headless or not. In fact chances are he does have his head, because he was staring at me. But it seemed like a good title…

Ghostly visits are often a part of field experiences, especially when your study site consists of lonely surroundings, few artificial lights and old abandoned estate buildings. For example, there is the story of the old manager of the estates, who used to live alone (~100 years ago) in a bungalow in the middle of the forest on top of the hill, and ride down to the plantations every day. He was (allegedly) attacked and killed by a tiger one day as he rode down, and his spirit still haunts the hillside…

Well, these days there are a lot less tigers – they have been extirpated from 93% of their global range. But perhaps the ghost populations are more viable. The road up to my old field station passes through 5 hairpin bends. A couple of years ago, I had a series of strange experiences on this road. Everything was fine if I drove around during the day. But if I was coming up alone at night, which was very often, things became different. At the second and the fourth hairpin bends – but nowhere else – I would get the distinct feeling that someone was sitting either next to me, or behind me, and staring at me! When I turned and looked, of course, there was noone. The fourth bend is above the second, so this phenomenon only happened around that particular area on the hillside.

Anyway, this freaked me out for a few days but then it stopped, and never happened again. But there is an interesting postscript to this. One day (a couple of months later), I was coming down the road with one of my field assistants. I slowed down at the fourth bend for some reason (I think to check whether I had a flat tyre). My field assistant, who was totally normal until now, suddenly became very agitated and started shouting at me to keep driving. I was taken aback at his rude behaviour (he is normally very polite), but he seemed really disturbed so I kept driving. Later, after he had calmed down, I asked him what his problem was and why he was shouting like a lunatic. He apologized profusely, and told me that he had seen a poochaandi (monster/ ghost) standing by the side of the road, and cackling at us. I didnt pursue the subject further.


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