Three students went into the woods to find the Blair Witch of Burkittsville, Maryland, but never came back. The only thing found later was their broken camera, with footage of their encounter with the paranormal. As I watched the supernatural horror film The Blair Witch Project from the edge of my seat, I caught myself thinking, it all seems so real. And by the time the film was over, it kindled my spirit of adventure. I yearned to embark on a similar quest—to venture into the woods, chasing an urban legend.
I grabbed my laptop and googled haunted places in India. To zero in on something credible, I added a couple of keywords, real and legal to the query. Countless articles popped on my screen. To my surprise, most of them invariably mentioned one destination—Bhangarh fort in the Indian state of Rajasthan.
The more I read about Bhangarh fort, the more it piqued my curiosity. Located in the Alwar district of Rajasthan at the border of the Sariska Tiger Reserve, the fort had everything a haunted destination should have—a dark legend, a deserted location in the woods, a grisly warning by the officials, and a slew of terrifying folktales and experiences. In fact, to this day, no one dares enter the fort after sunset, for it is then that the ghosts and spirits are believed to wander the area. Thoroughly intrigued, I booked my ticket to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan.
The sun was high in the sky when I reached Bhangarh after a long journey from Jaipur. I alighted near a village that looked like a set right out of a horror movie. The ruins of hundreds of years old havelis were scattered across the main street of the village, and apart from a few children playing around the corner of the street, the place was empty. But luckily, I managed to find a guide who agreed to take me up the hill to the ‘famous Bhangarh fort’.
While driving to the fort through the rough terrain of the village, my guide narrated the history of the place. The fort was built in the 17th century by Raja Bhagwant Singh for his younger son Madho Singh. Incidentally, Madho Singh’s elder brother, Man Singh was the general of Emperor Akbar’s army. Thanks to this connection with the Mughals, Bhangarh prospered back in the day. At its peak, the town even had a population of 10,000. Today though, only a handful of people live in and around the area. When asked why people deserted the place, the guide went on to narrate a few legends that further intrigued me to explore this mysterious village.