History & Culture

More on the mysterious aura that surrounds Metcalfe House

Tall tales can be stranger than fiction and give us a break of the monotony of daily life

If reports are to be believed, a club near Birla Mandir in Connaught Place has been declared unsafe. It was once patronized by South Indians, but now lies deserted. Those living nearby say it is haunted. The notice printed on the front wall declaring it out of bounds though, could mean that the building has become unsafe because of age or structural defects. Be that as it may, such places do acquire their own attraction.

Now take Metcalfe House. It too is long supposed to be haunted though DRDO has its offices there with a large number of scientists working on its premises. It was built by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, British Resident in Delhi from 1835. Another such building, the Metcalfe Testimonial, built by his brother, Sir Charles Metcalfe, in Agra, was destroyed in a mysterious fire in 1895. In the heart of the capital, the Khooni Darwaza has its own spooky tales associated with the beheading of Dara Shikoh by his brother Aurangzeb. Earlier the murder of the sons of Abdul Rahim Khan-e-Khanan, the poet in Akbar’s court, on the orders of Jahangir, took place there.

Later, two sons and a grandson of Bahadur Shah Zafar were shot there by Lt. William Hudson in 1857. Some freedom fighters were also hanged in its vicinity when the Delhi Jail was situated at the site now occupied by Maulana Azad Medical College. On Hailey Road, the Agrasen ki Baoli is also believed to be haunted by those who were drowned in it.

From the dungeons in Metcalfe House, they say the sound of clanking chains is heard sometimes. In the ruins of the Metcalfe Testimonial at Agra, the sound of spoons striking empty plates was heard up to the time it made way for a housing colony. It was a reminder of a macabre Christmas Eve party: the host was murdered by unseen hands in 1898.

In the Khooni Darwaza blood stains appear sometimes, especially during the monsoon. They say that the sound of music emanates at night suddenly, in a flashback to the days when acabaret was held there. What does one make of all this? The best explanation is that such scary tales add some spice to a sedentary existence. So don’t be startled if you hear that Ghalib’s apparition is seen at his haveli on moonlit nights and at the Kala Mahal where he was born, some 3 km from the Taj.

More on the mysterious aura that surrounds Metcalfe House

The spectre of the poet’s patron, Bahadur Shah Zafar, is believed by some to haunt the Red Fort on Thursdays, something unimaginable as the king died in distant Rangoon. Apparently, ghosts can travel long distances!

The ghost of his court poet, Zauq, they say, is seen over the old Yamuna Bridge, running away with books, tightly clutched in his hands, to escape the British soldiers pursuing him in 1857. But this is definitely a fib because Sheikh Ibrahim Zauq died three years before the Uprising.

The writer is a veteran chronicler of Delhi

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:03:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/more-on-the-mysterious-aura-that-surrounds-metcalfe-house/article31141422.ece

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