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Book Review: Haunted Villages by Lt. Col. W.H. Sleeman

This is a short story based on true events witnessed by the author when he was posted in India during the British Raj. The story dates back to Jansee (now Jhansi) territory and many villages that was part of it. As per the narrator, in the villages around, there’s strange belief of spirit guardianship. There every field or farm is being dedicated to some spirit. And these spirits guard the farms and orchards or trees against all types of predators and invasions.

If anyone, be it animal or human, thieves anything from the farm or guarded trees, or try to harm in any way, as a result, that person or animal either suffers great health problems and many a time they die mysteriously. The belief is so deep-rooted that even when land transfer takes place, it is not claimed by any living being. They are entitled to dead men. Villagers can choose the spirit from their family members, died recently or long ago, or they also have the option of choosing someone they know, though not from their kin.

The story runs like an account of some place, it has backdrop of that time i.e. 18th century. However, there are no fixed anecdotes or characters like other horror stories. The following excerpt from the story will help you understanding the story in a lucid way.     

A very respectable old gentleman from the Concan, or Malabar Coast, told me one day that every man there protects his field of corn and his fruit tree by dedicating it to one or other of the spirits which there abound, or confiding it to his guardianship. He sticks up something in the field, or ties on something to the tree, in the name of the said spirit, who from that moment feels himself responsible for its safe-keeping. If anyone, without permission from the proprietor, presumes to take either an ear of corn from the field, or fruit from the tree, he is sure to be killed outright or made extremely ill. No other protection is required.

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