Is South Park Cemetery, Kolkata (Calcutta) haunted?

Dilapidated South Park Cemetery, Kolkata

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Sensational stories related to haunted places, paranormal activities have been around us for centuries and they attract no less attention  than other stories of equal sensationalism. Such incidents gain prominence because of fear psychosis and the eerie nature of the surroundings. Commonly historical places, old unused buildings,  burial grounds or graveyards, etc are the places where paranormal activities are purported to be sighted. 

According to traditional belief and fiction, a ghost is a manifestation of the spirit or soul of a  deceased person. How did a person die? Is it unnatural or natural?  These are the moot questions that need to be addressed. The degree of the fear factor associated with the dead person increases, corresponding to the nature of his death. If he commits suicide by hanging, it is quite obvious, people living in the same place won't be comfortable. This is also true of other forms of violent death faced by the deceased person. Though there are theories related to the belief in the ghosts of deceased animals or any other spirits, popular usage is confined to a dead person's spirit. The real evidence for ghosts is largely anecdotal, but the belief in ghosts and paranormal activities throughout history has been persistent across the globe. Movies or TV serials related to a spirit, particularly of a woman, facing unnatural death on account of her husband's or relatives' torture and taking revenge by way of killing them appear then and there in India with lots of spooky scenes accentuated by special effects. These weird visuals have made the people more susceptible to the fear of spirits, etc.

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As far as ghost sighting is concerned, the South Park Street Cemetery, Calcutta offers a good fodder to the scoop-hungry media and the sensational news- hungry public.  One of the oldest graveyards of Kolkata (then Calcutta) built in 1767, it houses more than  1600 graves, mostly British soldiers who died in India in isolation far away from their motherland. In their final hours, their death would not have been a quiet one. It is likely, they breathed their last with some unfulfilled desires, hence, their end was not a happy one.  Obviously, there is an ample scope for a few spooky tales of  ghost sighting, etc. Many of those buried in the cemetery died young. William Dalrymple wrote about this in White Mughals: “…two monsoons were the average life span of a European in Bengal; one year, out of a total European population of 1200, over a third died between August and the end of December.”


The state government is taking serious efforts to restore the graveyard from the shadows of isolation, mystery and degradation and steps have already been taken up with some organizations in India and abroad.

 Considered as one of the earliest non-church cemeteries in the world, and also the largest Christian cemetery outside Europe and America in the 19th century,  it was opened in 1767 on a large plot that was once a marshy place. The cemetery was in use until about 1830 and having become a heritage site now,  it is under the ASI - Archaeological Society of India. For unknown reasons, the European communities stopped the Christian burials and this cemetery fell into disuse in the year 1790.

Jone's grave,

Many of the age-old graves - big and small, simple and embellished are covered with creepers and moss now. There are growths of wild trees and plants, creating a dilapidated, an eerie and bizarre appearance in the midst of scary silence. The hazy shadows of tall swaying trees on the walls of the tombs, the gentle fluttering sound of tree leaves and the hissing sound of the normal wind blowing across the grave are good enough to increase people's adrenaline if they step into such surreal places as the South Park Cemetery after sundown. Besides, these may create hallucinations of some kind of unnatural sighting if the anxiety and fear have a strong grip on the weak mind.

 It is reported that in the past some people on a visit to the graveyard to take photos, all of a sudden, experienced strange things.  The photographer and his friends became breathless and  disoriented at the same time for unknown reasons. Some creepy shadows emerged in the photos, it is reported. Ever since the appearance of a vague, fuzzy figure on the photo and the consequent sudden illness,  this place, where the Europeans, once the denizens of Calcutta, are taking eternal sleep, has been tagged as the haunted place. This place, that appears horrible because of absolute silence during the day, turns into a nightmarish and macabre place after sundown.

Listed below are a few British people who were once the residents of Calcutta, the city that gave them employment, name, and happiness. Unfortunately, their pretty old graves are objects of some scary mysteries, freakish stories and unearthly beliefs that chill the spine and blood. Such strange stories resurrect them from their eternal slumber in their respective graves. Here you feel isolated from the din and the cacophony in the middle of a huge city when you walk through the graveyard and get a feel of what Calcutta was in its heyday. You tend to relive the glorious past on a huge burial place which has now become a mound of damaged structures, trash and wild growth of plants and trees. Truly, it is a transient world; today's glory is tomorrow's forgotten story.

The tomb of Charles Hindoo Stuart.

Most of the graves in the cemetery are marked with crossed swords or gun because the soldiers were buried there. There are graves in large number that are marked with obelisks (tall narrow tapering structures). They are referred to as ghost in a veil. One Rose Aylmer's  (died 1800) grave is s a spiral obelisk. William Jones (died 1794), who brought to light the ancient language of India, Sanskrit and its close links with European languages, was buried here and his grave is marked with crossed spades as he happened to be a scholar, an Indologist and an archaeologist. It is believed to be the tallest one in Calcutta. The grave of one Charles Hindoo Stuart (died 1828),  the major general of East India Company, was like an ornate  Hindu temple with Hindu deities. He was more a Hindu than a Christian and never failed to perform Hindu rituals on the banks of the Ganges. .Elizabeth Barwell's (died 1779) grave has a pyramidal shaped tomb and covers a large area. She was a woman of bewitching beauty and wherever she went, she cut a glittering swath and made the eligible European bachelors' heart pound fast.


10 Scary Secrets Of The Haunted Yet Surreal Cemeteries In India