Occult related folklores, associated with the rural areas have always fascinated me. The incident that I am about to narrate, took place near a well known hill station. There are couple temples built in the 18th Century in the same district and tourists who visit the hill station mostly go to the temples as well.
It was year 1995, first half of November. This is the time when the tourist season is just about to begin. We were a large group, few families together and had just finished couple of days stay at the hill station. We had hired a mini bus exclusively for ourselves. On our way back we stopped at the temples where we were going to make an overnight stay before starting for Bombay on the next day. I speak the local dialect well and always make it a point to mingle with the villagers to ask few queries about haunted places. This way I have collected lot of information which off course is mostly rubbish and hearsay. But in this particular village I heard something that aroused my curiosity and I was keen to test the authenticity of the claim.
I was told if I travel around twenty miles north across the district road, I will come across a pada (collection of four to five huts). There is cattle road from there which will take me to a tomb. Here, there were two schools of thought among the villagers. One group said that it was not a tomb but a shrine created by one of the lesser known cults in remembrance of their chief lady. Others were confident that it was a tomb of a very old woman who was known to practice witchcraft for the benefit of the community. Both the groups were unanimous about the construction period and the fact that when the witch had died she was above ninety. The tomb was built four to five hundred years back.
Gradually the villagers had started offering food to the place and they felt that they benefitted by the worship. It had become a tradition now. Whenever there was marriage or death within a 15-20 miles radius, the family provided offerings to the tomb. It was an absorbing story but what interested me most was the warning that followed. The tomb construction was not good and lot of small pebbles and stones were had started to fall out. I was told that the spirit of the lady was very harsh on those to tried to take the stones with them. She made sure that they were recovered and returned back to the tomb. This also sounded very familiar and at that time I thought it was a story spread by someone intelligent to protect the tomb against damage and theft. I was curious though and decided to test it.
In the afternoon I started for the northbound road. After traveling for an hour in a horrible local bus, I finally reached the small establishment. My arrival aroused curiosity but not too much of it. The folks must be accustomed to guys that move to the city but still follow their traditions. It worked well for me so I made no attempt to enlighten them. When they realized I was not going to offer any money or pay them to get a goat sacrifice, their interest dwindled considerably. I asked for the direction of the tomb and started walking towards it. After following the cattle road for twenty odd minutes and climbing one or two steep rocks that were on the way, I finally reached the tomb. I did sense the "atmosphere" around it. In fact when I was about walk around the bend that took me directly to the tomb, I had sensed change in the atmosphere. It was charged up to the level where an alert subconscious could sense the aura around. The tomb was not completely "dead" in the paranormal sense. But then I had come across quite a few places where this type of charge was present. It does not mean in any way that there would be a curse of sort associated with it. There were flowers on the tomb but at that moment no one was around. Some devotee must have left them in the morning I did not have any plan of hovering around more then necessary. I folded my hands towards the tomb, prayed and apologized for what I was going to do. I then tried to move couple of smaller stones from the small black construction. Truly enough, a few of them were loose and I managed to extract a medium sized one after exerting myself a bit.
I put it into my wallet and without looking again at the tomb, started to walk back. Initially I felt nothing but once I moved out of the range of the "atmosphere" I felt as it I was being stared at. I stopped to look all around me and resumed my walk. The mind plays up these games and no matter how much experience one gains, it is very difficult not to fall pray to the traps. After a while I was back on the district road and soon to my way back to the temple. By this time I was convinced that I had managed to get the stone out of the influenced area. I was also pretty determined to take it home.
The first realization that this may not be a harmless folklore came to me when I was climbing down the stairs of the temple after late evening prayers. In all the famous temples the steps are always adorned by beggars hoping for alms from the devotees. Sine the season was just about to begin there were not too many but eventually they would occupy all the steps. I had no money or food with me so I avoided their hopeful stares. When downstairs, I turned left towards the lodging. From the corner of my eye I saw a beggar hunched on the floor across the water fountain. I felt it was an odd choice as a begging place because the majority of the devotees would turn right towards the village. I looked at the beggar again who was a lady in fact. She was wearing a blanket around her body and only part of her face and hands were visible. She was very old. Her skin was like cracked, tanned leather. Even my grandmother who is in her nineties does not have skin like that. But what made me give a second look were her eyes. They were staring at me and there was something in the eyes that brought back all the uneasy feelings that I was pushing back. I had so far not related the stone to the beggar but my mind established the link. The atmosphere was charging again. I controlled myself. This was a coincidence. Quite a few of the beggars are elderly people who either run away or are dropped by the hapless poor family that cannot feed them.
I turned away but I could not forget the eyes. They were like a very deep well and there was something at the bottom that was trying to come out and reach me. Or was it just a hallucination? I turned back to take one more look... My eyes must be playing tricks on me. I could still see a black shape where the old woman sat but it no longer appeared like a beggar. It looked more like a small rock or a tomb that was melting away in the atmosphere. I was afraid now. It took me four to five minutes to go to my room, lie on the sofa. My palms were sweaty and heartbeats had increased as if I had run for a mile.
The next day we were supposed to attend a very early morning 4.30 AM prayer and then leave for home. All went according to the plan but when I was about to leave the temple, the local priest came near me and whispered in the voice which was barely audible. He told me that he had also seen the beggar and had figured out what had happened. He advised me to return the stone and if I was not ready to do that then at least I should avoid turning around and looking back at anything I find suspicious. It could be a trap. I would be safe when I am out of the region. I was now sure that I had not been hallucinating last evening.
I rushed to the bus. After a while everyone was seated and we started our homeward journey. The dawn had not broken out yet. It was still quite dark outside. We were going with good speed. All of a sudden, the driver applied the breaks and cursed. I was in the front seat. I opened the door to see what had happened. Meanwhile the driver had jumped down on the road. I could hear voices. He told me that there was an old village woman who wanted a lift to the next town. Since there was no bus in the morning, she had stepped in front of our bus hoping for the lift. The driver saw her just in time and pulled the breaks. This time I was really afraid. The women had moved near the door and was standing outside it. There was very little light and the women had covered herself completely. But I could still see the two eyes looking at me with such a hatred and anger that I shivered. I told the driver to drive on. He was in two minds but looking at my mood started the bus. His hands were shaking. When I asked him the reason, he said he was quite sure that he had run the women down. It was a miracle that the front part of the bus had just brushed the women. I was not so sure but kept quiet. The light had improved now though the outside was still hazy.
In the mini buses the last seat is a continuous one with no passage between. I decided to go there and get some sleep. I was about to recline when I made a mistake which I should not have done. By now I was so shaken up, that my conversation with the priest was more like an early morning dream. I had forgotten his warning and looked back from the emergency exit window which forms rear end of the bus. It was a good three and half feet wide glass which gave good view of the road behind. When I looked out of the window I realized my mistake but it was too late. It was like a nightmare coming true.
In the 6.00 AM twilight I could clearly see a very ancient lady running after the bus. Her face was only few yards away from the window. It then dawned upon me that the bus was doing sixty miles an hour and still the gap between the face and the window was getting narrower all the time. This time there was no pretense of covering up rest of the body. Her very thin and wrinkled hands were stretched on both sides of her body. The old lady had full white hair that was flying all around her face. She was wearing a torn ragged gown of blackish color and made from the type of cloth I had never come across. Her toothless mouth was open. The eyes were no longer like a deep wells. What had been languishing inside had come out. There was movement inside her eyes. I could see the "white of the eye", the sclera, which forms part of the supporting wall of the eyeball but after that there were no pupils or iris. Instead there was something that was made of green and red particles continuously moving and colliding with each other. In all my life there was only one more occasion when I was terrified like this. My next memory was directly waking up at 12.30 by which time the bus was about hundred miles from the furthest Bombay suburb. No one had disturbed me thinking that I had been fast asleep.
This time I really seemed to have moved out of the area of influence. To date no other approach has been made by the spirit. I still have that stone with me. In the last so many years I have never dared to go back anywhere near the region again. We generally hire the same bus service. I happened to come across the drive again once or twice. The subject of that morning always came up and the driver still thinks that he actually did run the woman down and it was a pure miracle that she was unhurt.