Imagine yourself inside a draughty building, eerie, quiet and completely dark. You've been given the task of entering a mortuary chiller and can hear nothing but the sound of your own breathing and the wind outside. Now, imagine doing this for a career!
Well, it's exactly the path Gaurav Tiwari, CEO of the Indian Paranormal Society, has chosen to walk on. Shedding light on a little known and understood phenomenon, the ghostbuster says he has encountered actual paranormal beings on a few occasions though most times they were just 'apparitions' fuelled by irrational fears.
A pilot by profession, Tiwari, who has done stints on MTV Girl's Night Out and Zee TV's Fear Files, is acknowledged for his paranormal research. His quest has taken him to over 6,000 haunted locations not just in India but also to places like Nepal, US, Mexico and Britain. In India, he has been to Bhangarh in Rajasthan, believed to be the most haunted place in the country.
Most recently, he has been exploring haunted locations in Australia for a show called Haunting: Australia. He set up the Indian Paranormal Society in 2009 which is based in Delhi. This organisation exists to educate people and help them get rid of their fears and bust myths regarding the paranormal. This organisation conducts events that include tours of the most believed-to-be haunted places.
The big question
Do ghosts exist? Answering that most important question, the paranormal specialist says, "I believe for everything to manifest in reality, it has to first exist in our minds."
"Today, we can very well say that ghosts (in most cases) are nothing but products of our imaginations. It also depends on who you ask. For most people, ghosts are scary, ugly, spooky creatures who only mean to harm humanity."
Explaining further, he says, "In Hindi, bhoot means past, and the same meaning applies in terms of ghost. A spirit, according to me, is a ghost. There isn't much difference. It can also be said that a spirit that can show itself in the form it was once living is a ghost."
In Tiwari's view, most beliefs are preconceived notions of science and religion. The idea of God, he feels, is a form of spirit.
According to Tiwari, religion and faith have always labelled their fears. "There are more than 84 types of ghosts and spirits that are talked about in India. To name a few, chudails, bhoots, prets and kakini. When I'm at a haunted location, what I look for is out of body intelligence that can really challenge the basics of science. I have come across many experiences to know there is something really out there."
He cites a recent experience at the Larundel mental facility in southern Australia. "It is said that thousands of mentally challenged were mass murdered there. I came across an apparition there that I photographed on my spectrum camera."
He recalls another instance, also in Australia. "At the North Kapunda Hotel, one of my team members fainted in a room. He left his recorder on inside. Later when we went back and collected the recorder, there wasn't anyone in the room, but there was a voice in it that said, 'I hate blue eyes'. Incidentally, my team member who fainted had blue eyes."
And what about beings known as fallen angels, aliens, spirits, and demons? "They are 'consciousness' without a physical body. But the nature of spirits can vary. I have faced docile, benevolent spirits, and also malevolent. I've been pushed, tugged, scratched by things that I couldn't see."
Tiwari and his team have been conducting seminars and tours to educate people on scientific explanations for the paranormal. "Even if something paranormal is happening at a place, I try to remove the fear from people's minds by making them aware and educating them about it."
He further explains that there is a scientific explanation for what people believe is unexplained. A person with a lot of emotional suppression like of anger, can sometimes displace his/her own energy, causing temperature changes in the place around them or sometimes bang the doors shut or open them inexplicably.
He adds that evil energies are like bullies. The key is not to be scared. "The more you get scared, the more they feed on your negative energy and get stronger. Once you show that you can face them, they won't trouble you," he says, adding that in his experience he has encountered actual paranormal beings about two to three per cent of the time.
Tantriks, black magic and planchettes
"Our society has a very wrong notion about tantriks," Tiwari says, defining tantra as a science of cosmic principles. Those who practise it believe that anything is possible in the cosmic world. "They use metaphysical properties of the universe, but tantra-vidya has both positive and negative sides. Those who use tantra to harm people are practitioners of black magic. Every tantrik is not necessarily bad."
Equally misunderstood, he says, is the very common planchette — a triangular shaped object used as a pointing device on an ouija board. Many people believe that using ouija boards, or talking boards, open up demonic or spiritual doorways. But any object can serve as a planchette. Ouija boards or 'talking boards'. were introduced by two businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard in 1890. An employee of Charles Kennard, took over the production and named them 'Ouija' boards. 'Ouija', is derived from the French word 'oui' and the German/Dutch word 'ja' (both words mean 'yes'). Evidence suggests that ouija boards utilise the 'ideomotor effect', which means that the planchette is controlled by our own subconscious responses transmitted unknowingly on our muscles, which then affect and drive the planchette, explains Tiwari.
Tiwari will soon head to Ireland to shoot for another ghost-hunting international series. "I am excited about facing the dark side of Ireland" he says.
Chills and thrills
A lot of legends surround the palace of Bhangarh. Some believe it to be cursed, and therefore locals believe that ghosts dwell there. Entry is prohibited before sunrise and after sunset. However when Tiwari went there to investigate with his team, he found that the place was infested not with ghosts, but only rumours. One of the incidences was when he and his team heard strange noises. They realised later that the Sariska wild life sanctuary was nearby and a lot of animals like jackals (the source of the strange noise) wandered here at night. Another one was when while walking towards the fort, they saw a tree shake violently. When they pointed at the tree with flashlights, they saw about 50 monkeys shaking it vigorously. There were no unusual readings in their gadgets, nor were any temperature changes detected; which are two important parts of their ghost busting investigations.