Britishers were in love with Shimla; so much that they made this small city as their summer capital. Looking at the scenic beauty around Shimla, one can only imagine how utterly magnificent it must have been over a 100 years ago. With lesser population, no commercialization, and many of the modern day curses amiss; Shimla must have in those days been a paradise in itself for which many of the English decided to make it their homes. It must have reminded them of Europe I think. Such was their love for Shimla that several of them lived their lives here and refused to leave even in death. The old buildings in Shimla, which are now the only remnants of the English era are home to several of such ghosts and their tales. One such story is of Dukhani house.
When you read about a so called “haunted” place, the terms that are mostly used are; “as per the locals” or “as per the “myths” or ” as per the folklore”. In all of the cases however, the ghosts, sightings and stories related are attributed to the locals. In case of Shimla however, it is quite the contrary. The narratives here are of not locals but English themselves. It is their own account of several places and incidents which eventually got many of these buildings tagged as haunted.
And I am not referring to just some tea-time English gossip giving birth to scary tales. Rather it were the works of critically acclaimed writers and respected people like Rudyard Kipling. In case of Dukhani house, we would refer to a certain Sir John Smyth who lived in Shimla in 1920s. He later wrote about a certain night when had had a supernatural experience in a house in Shimla that he called as Dukhani house. In his own words;
“My wife and I used to go, fairly often, to stay for weekends at a lovely rambling old house in the Shimla hills called the Dukhani. This was owned by an elderly gentleman by the name of Buck (always known as Bucky), the Reuters correspondent at Delhi. On one occasion Bucky was having a very special weekend party at Dukhani. I think it was to celebrate his seventieth birthday.
I arrived in Dukhani, hot and exhausted, to find that owing to difficulties of accommodation, the sexes had been segregated and I was to sleep in a camp bed in Bucky’s own room, which was in the old part of the house. Bucky was a notorious snorer. But I was tired and very early slipped away from the music, the singing and the bridge to seek my camp bed and was fast asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
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When I woke up rather suddenly, the light of the half moon was filtering into the room, through a French window, which led into the garden. What had woken me was a curtain blowing into the room, making a flapping noise. Should I get up and shut the window or should I lie? I had decided to do nothing and go to sleep again, when, in the middle of the room I saw the figure of an elderly grey-haired gentleman in a dressing gown. Naturally I thought that it was Bucky. “Oh. Do shut the window,” I said to him. But at the very instant from Bucky’s bed, in the far corner of the room, came a loud snore.
I suddenly had the same eerie feeling that I had in the Bower ( another haunted building in the vicinity). The old gentleman looked sad and lonely. He was perfectly clear in the moonlight. As I advanced, he retreated towards the window. Then he quietly melted away into the garden. I dashed to the lawns but there was no one there. I felt very shaken. After breakfast, someone searched out details about Shimla, and found that exactly 40 years ago, an old man in a dressing gown, had shot himself in the very room.”
Is Dukhani House Really Haunted?
This was the famous haunting incident reported by Sir John Smyth in Shimla. Is the tale true? Is Dukhani House really haunted? I cannot really say for sure. To test the authenticity and confirm he haunting, one must first find the so called Dukhani which right now in itself is a herculean task. However, with new modern constructions replacing the old mansions everyday, it is quite difficult to trace the buildings referred to in these writings.The following picture mostly gets posted on the web as that of Dukhani house which is not really true.
Image Credit: Reckontalk
This picture was taken by a famous English photographer Samuel Bourn sometime in 1868. The building in the background which gets named as Dukhani House is in fact a “Hamilton & Co show rooms”; not the so called haunted Dukhani House.
Where is Dukhani House located in Shimla?
The last time I was in Shimla, I went around looking for Dukhani house and not even one person could tell me where it exactly was. This actually is just one account of the ghosts in Shimla that the English mentioned. There were several others but most of them have vanished post independence. With each passing year, the old buildings are getting teared down and replaced with new constructions. With these buildings, these tales too are getting further buried in the past.
Do you know of any other ghost story related to Dukhani house or Shimla? If yes, then please feel free to share in the comments section below or at our Community Forum.