India’s Most Haunted Places

Troubled pasts make for interesting visits.  
Jamali Kamali Mehrauli New Delhi
Some visitors say they have heard inexplicable animal sounds at the Jamali Kamali. Photo: Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

If their fabled histories aren’t attractive enough to inspire a visit to these places, perhaps their spooky sagas will. Though the Indian Paranormal Society (IPS) does not have enough evidence to prove these spots are actually haunted, they are definitely scary enough to send a shiver down your spine.

Kuldhara, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan

Kuldhara Jaisalmer Rajasthan

Balls reportedly bounce around of their own accord, stones whiz through mid-air and mysterious voices are heard in Kuldhara. Photo: Kartik Jasti

The Paliwal Brahmins who inhabited Kuldhara and 83 villages around it are said to have vanished overnight in 1825. There are several explanations for the disappearance, the most popular one being that an evil king had been molesting little girls, drawing a curse on the area. The residents fled, leaving behind their belongings. A visit to the village is an insight into life in the early 1800s. There are ruined homes, carts, utensils and beds. Balls reportedly bounce around of their own accord, stones whiz through mid-air and mysterious voices are heard. The IPS has recorded sudden dips in temperature and unexplained fluctuations in the electromagnetic field, evidence of an otherworldly presence, they say. It is said that no new structure can be built here without it bursting into flames.

Location: Kuldhara is on the western outskirts of Jaisalmer.

Bhangarh, Alwar, Rajasthan

Bhangarh Alwar Rajasthan

Many agree that the “no entry after dark” sign put up by the Archaeological Survey of India is justified by the unsettling presence of an otherworldly force. Photo: Parth Joshi

Bhangarh was built in 1573 by Raja Bhagwant Das as the residence for his second son Madhoo Singh. The structure is said to have been abandoned in 1783 amidst a severe drought. The area is dotted with banyan trees and ruins of temples, havelis and peasant homes. The Shiva, Gopinath, Mangla Devi and Keshava Rai temples are the best preserved ruins here. Local legends offer two alternative explanations for the town’s ruin. One story involves an arrogant king and an offended sadhu, while the other is a tale of obsession involving a tantrik and a beautiful princess. Whichever version visitors choose to believe, many agree that the “no entry after dark” sign put up by the Archaeological Survey of India is justified by the unsettling presence of an otherworldly force, bizarre sounds and accompanying anxiety.

Location: Bhangarh is 80 km northeast of Jaipur. (Open 6 a.m.-6 p.m.; entry free.)

The Savoy, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

The Savoy Mussoorie Uttarakhand

Guests at The Savoy have reported hearing flushes going off, seeing the floating silhouette of a lady, and doors opening mysteriously. Photo: Nick Kenrick

Built in Mussoorie in 1902, The Savoy was amongst the grandest hotels of its time and the guestbook read like a social register. But in 1910, a guest named Lady Garnet Orme was found dead in her room. Strychnine had been slipped into her medicine bottle. Agatha Christie found this to be the perfect setting for a mystery story and based her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, on Lady Orme’s death. The perpetrator was never found and the ghost of Lady Orme is said to still roam the halls of the hotel. Guests have reported hearing flushes going off, seeing the floating silhouette of a lady, and doors opening mysteriously. The IPS has recorded the sound of a woman whispering and singing softly. Perfect for guests who need a lullaby at bedtime.

Location: The Savoy is in Mussoorie. (0135-2637000.)

Abandoned Army Cantonment Meerut Uttar Pradesh

It is believed that the spirits of the soldiers who died here wander the abandoned cantonment. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Abandoned Army Cantonment, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh

The Meerut Army Cantonment was the site of the Mangal Pandey uprising in 1857. The British cracked down on Indian revolutionaries and crushed rebellion. Over 150 soldiers were killed here. This is where history leaves off and legend begins. It is believed that the spirits of the soldiers who died here still wander the abandoned cantonment, although their activities are less regimented nowadays. Visitors have reported seeing headless apparitions, spooky shadows, hearing mysterious sounds of dripping water and sensing a supernatural presence. Gaurav Tiwari of the IPS spent a night here and says that the presence does things like running around in circles and making animal-like sounds.

Location: Meerut is 70 km northeast of Delhi. (Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; entry free.)

Jamali Kamali, Mehrauli, New Delhi

The Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb are a part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Complex. Jamali and Kamali were Sufi saints who preached here and were buried in the tomb when they died, around 1528. The tomb and mosque are now said to be home to jinns, but not the benevolent, wish-granting sort. Some visitors say they have heard the inexplicable sound of animals growling, others report being chased (and even slapped), and some claim that they have had recurring nightmares after their visits.

Location: Mehrauli is in South Delhi. (Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; entry free.)

Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Golconda Fort Hyderabad Andhra Pradesh

The spirit of Taramati, a courtesan turned queen, is often spotted at the Golconda Fort. Photo: Fredrik Renander/Alamy/Indiapicture

Textbooks have plenty to say about this imposing 13th century structure and how it shaped the history of South India. A visit to this ancient city is a history lesson in itself. It has seen the rise and decline of various dynasties and was the original home of the famous Koh-i-noor diamond. But history books don’t talk about the spirits of thieves that are said to live in the trees, the baffling shadows seen gliding around, and the sounds of people crying out in pain. The spirit of Taramati, a courtesan turned queen, is often spotted here. Visitors aren’t allowed to linger after dark. But since it’s a popular film location, movie crews are often here past the deadline and see much more than they’d like.

Location: About 13 km from Hyderabad city centre. (Open 9 a.m.-5.30 p.m.; entry ₹5, additional charge for camera)

Appeared in the July 2012 issue as “India’s Most Haunted”. Updated on March 2016.

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    Mihika Pai is a freelance writer who has worked for NGT India, ELLE India & L'Officiel India. She loves checking out airport departure boards when she's travelling. They make her dream about the places she one day hopes to visit. She tweets as @mihikapai.

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