Shadows stalk sidewalks of de Monte Colony which remains uninhabited following an exodus 10 years ago

After a late-night horror movie, a group of college students went to de Monte Colony to see if the place was indeed haunted. These youngsters may be forgiven for this childish pastime: a slew of ghost stories centred around this Alwarpet neighbourhood are in circulation. As with any legend, there is a historical basis to these stories.

De Monte Colony off T.T.K. Road is named after one of its early residents, a Portuguese businessman who is reported to have led an unhappy life with a wife who was mentally unstable and a son who died an untimely death. The details of de Monte’s troubled personal life, coupled with the locality’s dilapidated and deserted look, seem to have contributed to the sensational belief that de Monte Colony harbours ghosts.

The colony consists of two streets, with a line of uniform one-storey houses on either side. Or what used to be houses, which now lie empty as mere ruins of their original structures, hidden behind a tall wall running across the length of the road. Earlier inhabited by employees of Easun Engineering Company, it was on lease from the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. As per the terms of de Monte’s will, this property, with many more, was donated to the Church.

Since the last exodus over a decade ago, it has remained uninhabited. At present, a few labourers, whose work site is nearby, live in makeshift huts. With the passage of time, the walls have begun to crumble, and an overgrowth of shrubs have laid claim to the organised layout. Efforts were earlier made by the Church to keep the property well-maintained, but without much success. People living in the neighbouring streets in the locality also began to complain regarding improper security. Vacant houses in the deserted de Monte Colony are visited by anti-social elements, using the space for their own purposes. Naidu, the watchman and caretaker of one of the houses, tells of a group of men who came there to drink one night. These revellers turned violent when he asked them to leave. Such incidents are known to be common.

With the construction of a wall, things have, however, improved. With the gates kept locked, access is now more difficult. A police constable patrols the neighbourhood at night. The colony wears a deserted look after sundown. At the end of the street, a few cars are parked. “I don’t come here at night. My work is during the day, and I leave by noon,” says Kalyani, a servant in one of the few houses.

Motorists who want to escape the traffic on the main road during the day drive through the colony. Karthi, one of the labourers living in a hut, says, “We are usually away during the day and return after work. We’ve never experienced any disturbance at night.”

Asked if he has ever entered any of the vacant houses, he shakes his head. “No, never. For fear of snakes and some creatures believed to be found there, I stay away from these houses.” He was referring to the ghost stories stalking the neighbourhood. It is a pity that such a prime locality should gain such a reputation.

As a sign of hope, there is some talk of developing it, though the details of this move are still unclear. Till then de Monte Colony will remain a pocket of mystery.