Shishir and The Athletic Pichash

Some early poltergeist reports contain an impressive amount of rich detail. This Indian case, from the Hindu Spiritualist magazine in 1906 and reprinted in full in the The Daily Republican (Marion, Illinois) on June 16, 1906,  closely follows the stone-throwing poltergeist playbook. Objects that defy physics and  respond to witness requests, with a young girl at the centre of the strange events.

The author was Shishir Kumar Ghose (1840-1911),  noted  Indian journalist and founder of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, a well-known Bengali language newspaper, in 1868.

Shishir Kumar Ghose

Ghose was one of the founding members of the Indian League and in later life edited the Hindu Spiritual Magazine, where the original report appeared.

His article is reprinted below in full.

“A popular notion in India is that ghosts pelt stones, and I had an ocular demonstration of the fact. It was in the month of December eight years ago that I witnessed a scene which proved that there are many things in earth and heaven that are not dreamt of in our philosophy.

I was in the town of Deoghur in my own house situated in an open place. Close to my house was that of one Gonori Mahato, which was also situated in an open place. It came to my notice that ghosts had appeared In his house. Shortly after I had heard this I saw Gonori himself. I asked him about the ghost and he said: “Yes, sir, it is a ‘pichash,’” which means a ghost of very low degree. I was a little surprised to hear this from him. For Gonori had become a Christian, and was not likely to put faith in the existence of ghosts, lower or higher. I asked him what the ghost was doing in his house, but he was not communicative and went his way. I forgot all about it, when a strange incident brought the pranks of this ghost again to my notice.

Gonori, being a milk man, supplied me with milk, and an Ooria servant of mine went to fetch it. He was brought back almost in an unconscious state by a friend of Gonori just before evening. I asked Shiva, the servant, to explain the reason of his sorrowful plight. He said after great effort, for he could scarcely utter a word, that hearing that ghosts were playing mad pranks in the house of Gonori, he had gone to fetch the milk a little before the usual time be used to bring it – that is, before the sun had gone down. Evening was just setting in, and he was coming with the milk, when, no sooner had he left Gonori’s house, than a black and hideous “thing” pounced upon him and inflicted a blow upon his breast, so that be fell senseless with a groan. Gonori had incited a few friends to his house to pass the night with him to ‘protect him from the “pichash,” and thus, when they heard his groan they came to his rescue and brought him home.

On the following morning I went to Gonori’s house, which was about two minute’s walk from mine, accompanied by two friends, both of them highly educated and intensely intellectual. His house, as I said before, was situated in an open space only on one side of which there was a cluster of bamboo trees where the ghost might conceal himself, but even this would be impossible in day time if he was a fraud. On entering the house we found a girl about twelve sweeping the yard with a broomstick, the yard being surrounded with huts and wails. The other inmates of the house, Gonori himself, his mother, about seventy, his wife, about forty-five, were all absent. Seeing that the girl was the only inmate of the house doing household work, we went outside chatting at random, nearly forgetting all about the ghost. My friends were a few yards from me talking together, and I took this opportunity of addressing the ghost in these words:

“Sir Ghost, if you are here, please show yourself to us, for we are highly respectable gentlemen and you should behave properly with us.”

No sooner had I said this than a clod of earth came rolling down the slope of the hut near which I was standing! This amused me greatly, for I could not believe that it was actually a ghost that had responded to my call. So I asked my friends to note the politeness of the ghost, which had actually listened to my request. They had heard the sound of the fall of the clod, but had not seen it coming down. So they came close to me to examine the clod. I again addressed the ghost. I said:

“Sir Ghost, this is highly improper. You should be impartial in the treatment of your guests. You have satisfied me, but not my friends. Please show yourself to them also.”

No sooner had I said this than there rolled another clod, and this time all three saw it. Let me confess, this time we were all surprised. But was that girl doing it? No, we could see from our position that she was busy doing her work of sweeping. I again addressed the ghost:

“Sir Ghost, remove all our doubts and do favor us again.”

No sooner said than done. Another cIod of earth came down, rolling, following the other two. We were petrified with astonishment. It was about 9 in the morning, the sun was up In the skies, and there was not a speck of cloud. And we three saw before our eyes in an open field where there were none besides the girl who was sweeping the yard. But no time was allowed us by the good ghost to speculate upon what we had witnessed, for the merry thing now began to roll down stones of Its own accord, one after another, in rapid succession.

Then clods and stones began to fall in the yard which the girl was sweeping. We ran there, and then commenced, as it were, a perfect rain of stones, pieces of burnt brick and clods of earth. Where did they come from? From the skies? Perhaps. Perhaps not, for some of them struck the mud walls of the hut horizontally. Of course, we were afraid of being struck by these missiles, but luckily we escaped unhurt; but some were hurt subsequently, though slightly. For the fact of this strange occurrence had gone abroad, and people were running to the house from all sides, even from the town, which was about half a mile distant from the place. The house was thus filled by hundreds of men in a short time.

At I said, it was broad daylight, and though there were hundreds present, none could tell whence the stones came. The inmates of the house had come back and they were kept in one place, huddled together so that they might play no tricks. But the scene that presented itself (it was literally hailing stones) convinced everyone that there could be no trick at the bottom. The yard was soon filled with these clods, stones, etc., and they became almost knee deep in a short time.

But the most wonderful feats performed by the ghost yet remain to be told. A big piece of stone, weighing over a hundred pounds (more than a maund) which it would be difficult for one strong man to carry, was brought out from the bottom of the well which stood on one side of the yard and thrown in the yard. A little before this; we had heard a splashing of water in the well, and the big stone was brought out and made to fail in the yard with a thud. This so terrified the sightseers that while some of them fled others took shelter in the huts.

I had a notion that the girl was a medium and it was through her that the ghost was playing his pranks. This notion I gathered by observing one fact. It was this: the clods fell most where the girl stood. So I led her and Gonori’s wife to the eastern side of the house in a field where mustard had been grown but gathered. It was an open field filled with clods of earth among which no doubt the ghost had found some of his missiles. I made the girl and the woman sit in the field. There they sat and, wonder of wonders, the clods around them began, as it were, to dance. Thus a clod would rise, say, four or five feet from the earth and fail down. At times more than one clod would thus rise up and fall down. Here, then, we had the scene of clods of earth in the midst of the field dancing as if they were imbued with life, and this at about 11 in the day and in the presence of hundreds. It seemed to me that in the field the ghost had not power enough to be able to throw the clods to any distance.

The intellectual critic, after he has read so far, might exclaim, cui boni? “What do you prove by the incident?” Well, we have not done yet; we have yet to record more wonderful doings of this ghost. Indeed, I succeeded eventually in making it talk to me In its ghostly way. Yet does not the incident, so far as described above, prove anything? Does it not prove that there are more things in earth and heaven than are dreamt of in our philosophy, and that the scientists have yet much to learn? If proves that a thing which has no material body can pelt stones and can also possess gleams of reason. Did not the thing, by listening to our request in the beginning, show that it could hear and understand us? Does not the incident of bringing the big stone from the bottom of the well prove that it had method in its mad pranks? So the incident, so far as has been described, proves that there is no impossibility in a man losing his body yet retaining his physical powers and reasoning faculties.”

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