Updated: Mar 2, 2020
India is a country that, admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about. But a look online in the general realm of interest in the paranormal suggests there are a lot of haunted places there. This isn’t exactly a shock — India is pretty big and has a pretty long history, so at least some paranormal activity — or at least talk of it — is to be expected. Let’s look at a reportedly haunted mansion in one of India’s top tourist destinations. Let’s talk about Charleville Mansion.
Charleville Mansion is in the mountains of Shimla, the capital of the Himachal Pradesh — a Pradesh is basically a province or territory. I believe the word is used throughout southeast Asia.
In 2011, the population of Shimla was just under 170,000, so it’s not as small as some of the towns we’ve talked about in previous videos. Most sources I read said Shimla is beautiful, with snow topped mountains, lush green fields, clear water and flowered valleys.* One source said it was even a retreat destination for Gandhi, though I couldn’t confirm this.
I found the text for this source at three separate locations — the one listed above and two others. (x, x) I’m not sure if they were reprinted with permission or plagiarized, or which one is the original source.
So if you don’t know, India was under British imperial rule from 1858 to 1947. The first story associated with Charleville Mansion doesn’t have a specific time period it takes place in. But it does involve an army officer, and all three of the stories associated with the mansion have to do with the British in some way.
So this army officer arrived at the mansion at some unspecified time. Before long, he heard rumors that the house had a poltergeist.
From the little I knew about poltergeists before making this video, they tend to attach themselves to people rather than places, like most ghosts. I don’t think this was the case here, since the poltergeist apparently stayed in the mansion and never left. But poltergeists are known for other things. One of their major characteristics is an unusual level of violence, or at least chaos and noise. They’ve been known to throw things, slam doors, physically attack their victims and even start fires! Some experts think poltergeist activity might not be from spirits, but people acting out on their own and blaming their behavior on paranormal activity.
Anyway, this officer didn’t believe in ghosts, but he did want to test the “theory” that ghosts existed. So he closed and locked all the doors in the house. Don’t ask me why he thought this would work, but it seems like it did. After closing the door to a room upstairs, he heard a crash. He ran upstairs and opened the door to find the room in shambles — mirrors were broken, furniture had been thrown against the walls and the room was generally in disarray. The officer left the house and never returned.
But the most well known, or at least most spread story associated with the mansion is that of the Bayleys. Victor Bayley was a British man who was appointed assistant secretary of India’s Railway Board in 1913. After arriving in the area for this new job, Victor and his wife began house hunting. Like many characters in ghost stories, they decided to stay at Charleville Mansion largely because the rent was cheap. But after asking why the rent was so low, they were told about the previous haunting.
The Bayleys decided to stay at the mansion, no doubt due to the rent as well as its location. They didn’t experience anything paranormal while they were there. But one night, when they’d been there for about a year, they were out at a dinner party. The only person at the house was one of their servants. At some point during the night, he thought he saw someone in the house. Some versions said he thought he saw Victor Bayley, others only described the other man as “an English gentleman.” Whoever the man was, the servant went to talk to him, but watched as the man disappeared through a closed door — the door to the same room that the poltergeist had trashed years earlier.
The Bayleys left the house after this incident. It’s reportedly been haunted ever since, but I’m skeptical of this. You’d think it would gain that reputation after the poltergeist story.
After this, the mansion’s history becomes unclear. One source said an English woman lived there until the 1940’s, but sold it to an Indian family after India gained independence in 1947. Most reports said the house is currently owned by an Indian man (or an Indian family) who has (or have) completely refurbished it.
But one other note I found interesting was from a man named Vargis Khan, on his website, vargiskhan.com. In a blog entry on Charleville Mansion, Khan claims that nobody can seem to find the mansion or knows where it truly is. He also claims the picture of Charleville from other sources is fake, and that its current owner has renamed it — which, if true, would make it difficult to find.
I have no idea if any of this is true. But it reminded me a lot of Himuro Mansion, which I talked about in another entry. Long story short, Himuro Mansion is supposedly a mansion in the mountains of Tokyo that few people know the true location of. There’s a whole legend behind it but, as it turns out, the “legend” seems to have evolved from a video game called Fatal Frame.
There doesn’t seem to be any origin story for Charleville Mansion, which makes it even more mysterious. But if its owner really did change the name after buying it, maybe he wants his family — and the mansion — to have some privacy.
In multiple sources I looked into when researching Charleville Mansion, it was said that author Rudyard Kipling talked about it in his short story My Own True Ghost Story. You’re probably familiar with at least Kipling’s name, even if you only know him from the cartoon adaptation of his famous work, The Jungle Book.
According to Britannica, Kipling’s family “belonged to the highest Anglo-Indian society.” I’m not 100 % sure what this means, but I assume his family was British — Kipling was born in Mumbai, but taken back to England at age six and put in a foster home. He spent time in the U.S. but returned to India in 1882, when he would have been about 17. He returned to England in 1889 and went back and forth between there and the U.S. until his death in 1936.
My Own True Ghost Story details an event that reportedly happened to Kipling while staying at a bungalow in Shimla while traveling. Charleville Mansion is never mentioned by name, so I’m not sure how people know this is what he was talking about — I’m pretty sure there are other haunted houses in Shimla, but I could be wrong.
According to Kipling’s story, he spent the night in a Shimla bungalow he referred to as Katmal dak-bungalow — I could not figure out what language this is in or what it means. During the night, he heard what sounded like people playing billiards. He thought these people were “doilies,” a nickname for newcomers in the air force academy. When he asked a servant about this the next morning, he said there were no doilies staying in the bungalow that night. But, the servant continued, a man had died there once — back when the bungalow was a billiard room. Kipling could have sworn he heard people playing billiards, but never saw anything.
I can’t say for sure if this story is true, if it’s really about Charleville Mansion or even if it was meant to be believed. But the entire story is online if you want to check it out for yourself.
One last thing I want to mention is a video I found of some people exploring what looks like it might be Charleville Mansion. The video isn’t in English — I believe it’s in Hindi — but you can see the (supposed) mansion and get a sense of what it looks like. If this is the real Charleville Mansion, it’s clearly abandoned and has been for awhile.
So that’s all I have for you today on Charleville Mansion. It’s obviously shrouded in a lot of mystery, and several contradictory accounts. We may never know all the details. But sometimes I think that makes it even more interesting. Though, I have to say, if it does turn out the current owners changed the name and don’t want people there, please respect their privacy.
If you’ve ever been here or to another haunted place in India, I’d love to know about it in the comments. There are also tons of other haunted places in in India I’d love to look into, including a couple of abandoned towns. So if you’d like more stories about haunted India, let me know.