A personal travel blog by Reetwika Banerjee
(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)
Ghosts of Morgan House
‘Morgan House’ is quite recognized amongst Indian tourists as one of the most haunted rest houses from British era. Built on black granite stone with costly wooden interiors, it is now a Government owned bungalow located atop the Durpindara hill near Kalimpong. The main town is around three kilometres from here, mostly surrounded by cantonment area on three sides and a landscaped garden facing the Himalayas in north.
Glimpse of Morgan House
It is often said that in the first floor room no 103 of Morgan House, lodgers come across eerie happenstances with a womanly spirit, supposedly that of Lady Morgan’s who was found dead under mysterious conditions in the same room a century ago. And the very legend thrilled us to book the same room for a night out.
Yes you read it correct – this year we planned to celebrate our wedding anniversary at this haunted British bungalow in the landlady’s favourite bedroom.
Drive from Bagdogra to Morgan House via Teesta Bazar
It took us around 3.5 hours (around 80 kilometres) to reach from Bagdogra including a quick momo break at Teesta Bazar. We preferred to hire a direct drop than to break at Kalimpong town and again hunt for a private taxi. It did cost us more but worth the additional bucks.
Momo Break at Teesta Bazar
At present Morgan House is managed by WB tourism department and our room was booked through their online reservation system. Earlier it was known as Singamari Tourist Lodge, later renamed to Morgan House in memory of the well-off British couple post a series of name changes.
Way to 9th Mile
After crossing 9th Mile, we reached Kalimpong town. From the central bus stand, we took the uphill road towards Chandraloke. Upon reaching the entrance, we followed the driveway to Reception.
Front side of Morgan House
A beautiful lady of mid thirtees greeted us inside. The overall staff behaviour did not appeal us but the atmosphere filled our heart with immediate solitude and that perhaps justifies its immense popularity in cine world.
Key to “haunted” Room No 103 of Morgan House
Inside view of Lady Morgan’s “haunted” room (presently Room No 103)
There are a total of seven rooms rented out to tourists. I was very excited to get into our room – No 103, the room where Lady Morgan’s corpse was discovered under utterly cryptic circumstances during 1940s. A beautifully planned apartment in first floor by the grand wooden staircase, a narrow hanging balcony clad with ivy and wisterias, inside there’s an ancient fireplace towards southern wall, stone chimneys on top, facing the backside garden in west, large iron windows on the remaining walls – all what defines Lady Morgan’s haunted bedroom, alias today’s room no 103 of Morgan House. The maintenance did not appear great, but the heritage aspect compensated for all the amenity centric shortcomings.
Grand wooden staircase in front of Lady Morgan’s mysterious room
Hanging balcony clad with ivy and stone chimneys on top
We were utterly hungry after a strenuous journey and hence despite the spooky feeling, an immediate meal was the need of the hour. After a gastronomic feat, we thought of taking a walk around the building.
Main exit of Morgan House
We could figure out three exit points – one opens to the main road through which we had drove in, the other one was just diagonally opposite towards the cantonment side and the third one led us to a series of newly built cottages after a ten minute shadowy walk through the pine forest.
Walk through the mysterious pine woods
The walk was indeed enjoyable adding a mystic touch but we were utterly disappointed at its unexpected culmination. Needless to say, we were expecting to end up losing our way amidst the greens but the modern concrete constructions spoiled the prevailing obscurity. Later from the security guard got to know that years ago it used to be a private retreat of the queen of Bhutan, but after India’s independence, the property was handed over to the state government for renovation and since then WB tourism department has been supervising it. Those rooms can also be booked online through the same website as Morgan House.
Renovated residence of Queen of Bhutan on the other side of the walk
Opposite to the main entrance, there is an army golf course, as per the plaque it is identified as the most scenic golf course of the country inaugurated in the year of 1973 at a height of 4400 feet above sea level.
Country’s most scenic golf course opposite Morgan House
The idea of constructing this quaint golf bed was conceived by Major General Dalbir Singh and Lieutenant Colonel CF Hamilton. The course spreads across 3652 yards with 64 pars and nine holes (twelve greens). Though entry is banned for civilians, tourists can take a break at the adjoining Watershed View Point which also offers an attached south Indian pure vegetarian canteen. With a cup of filter coffee we relished the surreal beauty with occasional glimpses of Kalimpong town, Relli valley, Labha monastery, Kapher and Deolo hills in different directions.
Way to Kalimpong Environmental Park and Training Area
A minute’s walk from this view point lays the Kalimpong Environmental Park and Training Area of the army. Designated by a big arched gate, it also serves as a picturesque view point. Beyond it, the road is closed for outsiders. By the time we came back to Morgan House it was 3pm.
Way back to Morgan House
The view of the stone chimneys from the garden side at the backdrop of setting sun was brilliant. We could hear an unknown bird’s call coming from a distance. The gorgeous lawn chairs beckoned us for another round of hot beverage. Relishing a cup of steaming Darjeeling tea, we waited for the sunset and welcome the lady ghost.
Morgan House at dusk
Garden Chairs beckoned us for a cup of Darjeeling tea
The orange radiance of dusk reflected through the glass panes of Lady Morgan’s library, now converted to a guest lounge. It was in the ground floor right beside the reception. Before calling it a day, we thought of spending a few moments and no regret for the decision made.
Lady Morgan’s Library
It was so beautifully maintained – the stone charcoal fireplace, bookshelves, reading table with recliner (all modern furniture though), antique lampshades, chandelier, glass paned metal windows, assorted mix of old and new books – overall a classy place indeed. It was right here the affluent British couple used to throw expensive parties to their friends. However, I could not find Lady Morgan’s favourite piano anywhere, must admit I was really longing to see it around. Anyway, we could well imagine the Morgan couple’s romantic taste from their very artistic creations which withstood the testament of ages.
Stone charcoal fireplace
Gigantic glass windows of the library
One of the walls bore the celebrity guest testimonials framed in wooden mounts and the list includes big shots from Bollywood and Tollywood like Utpal Dutta, Nargis Sunil Dutt, Om Prakash, Kishore Kumar Amit Kumar and Leena Chandravarkar. We could not stop nosing into the one signed by Uttam Kumar and Supriya Devi who stayed here for a night on 29th November 1976.
Testimonials by celebrity guests of Morgan House
Just above this library was Mr. Morgan’s living room and beside that was his lady’s bedroom. Spending over an hour, we headed towards the room upstairs. Time will be close to 6pm. I was a step ahead of my husband. While climbing up the wooden stairs, both of us could clearly hear the tapping sound of a pencil heeled shoe coming from just a floor above us – finding nothing unnatural, we kept ascending. Doubts stumped when I did not find anyone in the wooden corridor above. I immediately looked down in surprise and it didn’t surpass my husband’s eye.
Climbing up the grand wooden staircase
Where did the sound vanish? I was just halfway down the stairs and it did not take me more than two minutes to reach the first floor. Also, from the apparent circumstances, it did not seem that any of the other room doors were open just a while ago. In majority of the rooms, lights were off – either the guests were out or they were unoccupied. So, where did the lady go? Was she Lady Morgan? Oh, did we miss her by a whisker?
Unlike the season, surrounding climatic conditions forced us to get a room heater to beat the untimely cold. Clouds were forming and so chances of mountain sighting in the morning were getting bleak. Busy in discussing our day’s experiences so far, I opened my laptop to look for the haunted story of Morgan House. My husband preferred to surf through his favourite sports channels than to accompany me in my search. Thanks to the Wi-Fi connection, I landed up on quite a few pages where her spiritual existence is cited but no one could tell me the exact story of the couple’s sudden disappearance.
And then there was a massive power cut. Complete darkness outside. The white glare of my laptop screen was the only spoiler. As we looked outside the windows, the well-lit garden was already engulfed by the clouds. There was not a drop of light in the vicinity. Far away, through the dense pines on the opposite hill, few dim lights could be seen. What a mystic ambiance!
In today’s technology dominated world, couples hardly get such an undisturbed spell of time to enjoy their togetherness. Closing the artificial source of light, we slowly walked towards the bed, reclined our bodies, slipped into the blanket and started gossiping. He was on my left. I was reclining towards window side of the bed, both of us facing the fireplace in front.
Frightening each other with ghost stories, we kept waiting for the womanly spirit loudly imagining the cold fireplace inside our room to suddenly catch fire like that by Simon’s ghost, stone chimneys to release charcoal smokes and so on. But alas, nothing happened like that – neither it was Mr. Brown’s bungalow not there was anyone like Simon.
As we were chitchatting, my husband sporadically kept brushing my right feet with his toes – though I did not like the feeling, I ignored for the first few times. But as he kept repeating it with increasing frequency and pressure, I expressed my dislike and asked him to stop. My left leg was slightly in touch with his body so when I said, “Stop that please”, he did not react much but moved away a bit. But again in sometime when he repeated it, I was little annoyed this time. Expressing my irritation I clearly said, “Stop it, I said naa”. With a strange voice he said, “What? I am not doing anything.” Then I gently tapped him with my right feet and said, “Isn’t that you?” The touch was not like a normal warm blooded human body. It was too soft and uncharacteristically cold. He said, yes thinking that I was referring to my left feet casually touching his leg. I still could not believe what was waiting for us next. I tapped back harder with my right feet and raised my voice with sheer surprise, “Is this really you?” Now, my husband too could sense the gravity of the situation and at once removed the blanket clung over our body. Believe me, there was nothing touching my right feet. My husband’s toes were too far to touch my right side of the body. Hardly could they brush my left side. Just then the power came.
Room lights on, steams slowly coming out of the heater blades, TV’s red LED gleaming again and the garden too was brightened by the lamps. A feminine shadowy escape through the pines did not miss my sight. A weird smell inside the room forced us to open the windows in the prevailing chilliness. Shortly after, an ear piercing dinner call brought us back to normality.
The in-house restaurant was on ground floor. We chose the same table where we had taken our lunch in the morning. For supper I had ordered his favourites – chicken broth, chow-chow and chili chicken. The same waiter served the food but unlike lunch we kept absolutely mum, absentmindedly playing with the forks. The steaming yummy food was slowly getting cold. We did not realize that the old cook was observing our unusual silence from the kitchen. There was another family who were also having their dinner. After they left, the old man politely asked me, “Did she scare you my lady?” Together, we were stunned at his query. Is the haunted tag of Morgan House really true? The timeworn lips narrated us the story behind creepy haunts of the mansion.
Chow Chow at dinner
Before her marriage, Lady Morgan was a shrewd trader owning acres of indigo plantation in the Dooars region. On a 1927’s winter she got hitched to a wealthy jute merchant named Mr. George Morgan and to commemorate their wedding, the couple had built this luxurious bungalow in British colonial style. The scenic view of the mountains from her room overlooking the green splash was mesmerizing – a perfect abode for newly wedded couples. The lady was very fond of ivy and thus her man specially arranged to import the seeds from London and decorated the entire mansion with freshly bloomed ivy and wisterias.
Till 1938, it remained their midsummer retreat where the couple celebrated private parties. Major half of the year they used to spend downhill amidst their indigo and jute plantations, but during scorching summers, the Morgan couple relished the dreamy surroundings at this lavish hideaway.
One such night Mr. Morgan was so over drunk that his partying associates exploited the opportunity. They assailed Lady Morgan against her wish in presence of the drunken lord. Next morning when Mr. Morgan realized the severity of damage, he responded very unpredictably to the situation. Surprising everyone, he started abusing the lady insanely blaming to have unlawful desire towards his male acquaintances. In no time, very uncharacteristically, he disowned Lady Morgan as his mistress and started treating her as his kept. With every passing day thereon, life started decaying their marital bond. A sudden change in Mr. Morgan’s attitude towards his wife decayed the remaining feelings.
Lady Morgan was left helpless with the overnight change in her man, inhumanely torturing every night. Lady Morgan’s painful screams could often be heard by local villagers but none had the guts to stand against the affluent baron. Only the old warden who used to take care of the mansion during their absence came for her rescue. He was genuinely affectionate to Lady Morgan. The unforeseen fissure in the couple’s conjugal life broadened the way to Hell.
Suddenly in the year of 1941, on a winter morning Lady Morgan was found brutally choked in her bedroom and Mr. Morgan went missing, leaving no legal heir. From the prevailing condition of the dead body it seemed that before losing her breath, there had been immense struggle between the assassin and victim. Scratches all over her body were also clearly visible.
It was the same old caretaker who discovered Lady Morgan’s corpse and reportedly said that he neither met the couple the previous night nor did they arrive at the daybreak. Ambiguities evolved then from where suddenly her dead body came and it remained a mystery forever. Moreover, no one had seen Mr. Morgan after his strange disappearance, nor was his body discovered ever. Thus gradually with time the mansion earned its ‘haunted’ label. People began spreading gossips that unable to bear her pains, the old warden must have killed the lady to free her from the devil’s clutch. Posthumously it was Lady Morgan’s displeased spirit in the house who must have engulfed her vicious husband’s body.
As per our cook, whosoever stays in the room (No 103 as per modern indexing), she knocks them seeking for help and let the world know about her sad story. Boarders often misunderstand that as a scary activity and spread the ghost stories about Morgan House.
Old cook’s abnormally luminous eyes while narrating Lady Morgan’s uncanny demise left us with an equally uncanny feeling. Was he trying to convince us that Lady Morgan’s spirit is innocent? That she needs our help and does not want to scare us? That the old caretaker wasn’t a slayer rather he relieved the poor lady from extreme agony?
Strangely, given a thought, we did not remember seeing the old cook throughout the day anywhere in the campus, neither at restaurant. An icy chill ran down our spine imagining a ghost in him. Enough dose of adventure had already sunk in. We preferred to finish our dinner fast and retire for the night.