Metroplus

Chennai’s urban legends

Blue Cross Road. Photo: R. Ravindran

Blue Cross Road. Photo: R. Ravindran  

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Basking in the Halloween spirit, Akila Kannadasan and Srinivasa Ramanujam visit some of the city’s popular ‘haunted’ spots

Blue Cross Road

Where: Besant Nagar

The temperature drops as you enter the road. Heavily wooded — a school compound lies along one side — it offers a pleasant ride any part of the day. Except at night. The thick canopy and the lack of street-lights make it eerie. D. Raniammal and A. Ganesan, who lounge by the verandah of a house in nearby Damodarapuram, deny rumours of any ghost stories associated with the stretch. “There are so many vehicles plying through the day,” says Raniammal. “Tell her how it was in your younger days,” calls out a lady next door.

The 62-year-old sighs: “This road was once called rettai pana maram road (the twin palm tree road). There were two identical palm trees at a corner and I’ve seen men sit under it and perform rituals of exorcism.”

It was a time of bullock and hand-drawn carts. “Dhobis would carry bundles of clothes to be washed, on their carts to the vannanthurai a little distance away. You could hear nothing but the clink-clink of the bullocks’ bells,” she recalls. “Those men and women would bring so many stories from their travels. They said that at particular times of the night, they heard strange sounds near the palm trees.” What kind of sounds? Raniammal hesitates. “That of a baby crying.” Suddenly, the clutch of people gathered around her fall silent. “That, of course, has no proof. Ghosts are nothing but tricks of the mind,” she assures us.

Victoria Hostel Road

Where: Behind Chepauk stadium

It stopped raining several hours ago; but Victoria Hostel Road still wears a wet look. The narrow bylane off Wallajah Road is deserted except for a handful of autos parked along the stretch opposite the dilapidated brick building the road takes its name from — Victoria Hostel. Auto-men come to the area to nap in the late afternoons.

The hostel building is still inhabited by students from nearby colleges, says an old caretaker who’s clearing a leafy yard behind creaking metal gates. A couple of women sweep the moist ground a little distance away — the hostel, a mere ghost of a building in the receding light, stands behind them. “You should leave,” he says and shakes his head when asked about the rumours that surround the road. “I’ve heard no ghost stories,” he says, and pauses, scratching his white beard. “There have been unfortunate incidents. Some 20 years ago, this place…” he trails off. “But this road is safe now; it’s patrolled by the police at night,” he ends abruptly and shuffles back into the compound.

At one end of the road is the Chepauk MRTS station while the Kasturba Gandhi (Maternity) Hospital is at the other end. Sandwiched between two busy roads — Pycroft’s and Wallajah — it’s fascinating how Victoria Hostel Road is cut off from all sound. And the lonely hostel building adds an intimidating character to the stretch. “People hesitate to use the road after 8 p.m.,” says A. Abdul Kadher, a resident of Pycroft’s road. “I’ve heard stories of the ghosts of women haunting it.”

B. Vijaya, a flower-seller on Pycroft’s road, agrees. “It does have a reputation,” she says, as she weaves a strand of mullai. “Many years ago, we would go there after dark to relieve ourselves; there were no toilets for the hawkers and we had no choice but to take advantage of the thick bushes,” she recalls. “One night, the wind howled louder than ever; I was walking along the hostel by myself. I’m sure I heard something; but I took to my heels. I didn’t want to find out what it was,” she says. “I didn’t come to work for a week after that. I came down with high fever.”

De Monte Colony

Where: Near St. Mary’s Road, Alwarpet

The first thing you notice about this colony, just off the busy St. Mary’s Road, is the formation of the trees. They curve a little more than normal, their branches are spread out far and wide and they almost create a canopy. Visit this area at night and you’ll see almost no light. What’s spookier is that the deserted stretch has houses that have been empty for a very long time, despite being located in an area where land prices have hit the roof. The story goes that John De Monte, a Portuguese businessman who used to live here, led an unhappy life with a mentally-unstable wife and a son who had an untimely death, and that the area is “possessed” by their spirits. It’s a place where mystery meets history, truly.

A recent hit Tamil film (Demonte Colony) put the spotlight on this desolate stretch, prompting several Chennaiites who’d not even heard of it to venture in. “People watch the film and come here to get a feel of the place. Some of them stay back late in the evening and venture into the dilapidated houses to see if they can spot anything eerie,” says Bhagyam, who sells tiffin near the Corporation Park in the neighbourhood. Post the film’s release, the area was cordoned off a few months ago.

With the recent demolition of the buildings, things are set to change in the colony. The haunted tag might just no longer be associated with it.

Broken Bridge

Where: Besant Nagar

The sun is about to set at Broken Bridge. Located a couple of kilometres from Elliots Beach in Besant Nagar, you have to trudge through slush, dirt and something that resembles a road to get here.

That’s exactly what a few college students have done for a photo and selfie session. Feeling a sudden gust of wind, they are ready to leave. For, after darkness envelops the area and the cops cordon it off for visitors, the bridge is said to be a haven of paranormal activity.

It’s these stories that have been told, and re-told that has got Febin A., an engineering student, to bring along a couple of friends from Madurai to the bridge. “I’ve heard stories of ghosts haunting this place at night. Someone said that they’d heard a wail coming from the area late in the evening. Thankfully, it’s rather safe in the day,” he says.

While the Broken Bridge — named so because work on it was left incomplete several years ago — is popular as a hangout and for shoots during the day, its distance from the mainland and absence of people in the night have led to several of these tales being circulated.

Paranormal activity

Five things that Ashwin Saravanan, director of horror flick Maya, reveals about his ‘ghostly confessions’...

* Everyone likes ghost stories or tales about spooky happenings. It makes for great discussion as it deals with an unknown factor that you cannot predict.

* Once the idea for Maya germinated and lent itself to the horror genre, I was determined to find an interesting location. We’ve seen haunted localities and houses in Tamil films but have never experienced a haunted forest. That’s what I wanted audiences to see in Mayavanam, a fictional place.

* Post the release of the film, I had several people wanting to know the whereabouts of the forest but I had to patiently explain to them that it was fictional. There’s a ghost book we show in the film — another fictional creation — but I had many people walking up to me claiming that they had read it and that it was interesting!

* Being a fan of the horror genre, I love gazing at dilapidated buildings and often wonder what stories they have to offer.

* My most creepy experiences have been during a visit to a graveyard near Thiruvanmiyur. I also find the lanes off ECR quite spooky at night.

(As told to SRINIVASA RAMANUJAM)

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Printable version | Sep 15, 2019 2:16:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/explore-chennais-most-haunted-areas/article7822752.ece

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