Recently, Robbie Williams, the well known singer who has won a record number of awards, claimed that he once lived in a house which he believes was haunted by the spirit of singer Mama Cass.  Williams is reported to have said he rented a property from actor Dan Akroyd 18 years ago in Los Angeles but felt terrified the moment he entered the place, which was once home to the “Mamas and the Papas” singer, who died in 1974 aged 32.

“It was completely and utterly haunted,” the singer is reported to have said during the “Alien Nation” podcast. Williams recalled speaking directly to the spirit: “I know that you are here and I am going to respect your space. I please ask you to respect mine as I am scared of you.”  The singer said further that he was sharing the house with a friend, who had a similar spooky experience. “My friend who I was living with at the time came down. He’d just had a shower and he was white. I said, ‘What’s up?’ And he said, ‘I’ve just had a conversation with someone that wasn’t there’.” He also revealed that the atmosphere in the room changed one evening when ‘The Mamas and the Papas’ hit single “California Dreamin’” played on the television. “There was this silence I’ve never experienced before or since,” Williams said, adding his wolf puppy Sid later started whimpering and refused to stay in the room. Williams said he moved out three months later but when he left, the staff of the movers refused to go inside “because of the old lady sitting in the chair”.

Even though in a majority of cases, ghost sightings are just visual, many visuals, as in the incidents described by Williams, involve sound and changes in temperature as well. Similarly, many just sound alone. In visuals that are accompanied by sound, the overall impact of the happening on the viewer is, naturally, heightened considerably. I have already written about several of these, and to give a random, summarised example yet again, there was this incident in which I suddenly found myself where a storm of high velocity seemed to build up outside my hostel room. There was the distinct tinkling of curtain bells inside the room as a heavy curtain was pulled aside. Initially, this was puzzling as there were no bells on the curtains in the room. More was to follow. Invisible hands pulled a chair to the center of the room, and placed a pile of books on it. Then, before my horrified gaze, a duppatta appeared out of thin air followed by the ghostly figure of a slim young girl who climbed a little unsteadily atop the pile of books, and positioned the duppata on a fan hook in the ceiling.

She then tied the duppata round her neck, kicked away the books and chair and almost simultaneously there was a scream as she swung from the hook. Her face with the upturned, bulging eyes and protruding tongue has forever been imprinted in my memory.  I discovered later that there had been no storm outside. And neither had I been the first to witness the incident and will probably not be the last either. The sequence of the suicide which had taken place many years earlier was always – the storm, the tinkling of curtain bells, the scream and so on.  

But despite the subject of death and haunting being very deep and complex, we do know certain things. For instance, when a person dies, four things can happen. Normally, a soul, in the company of messengers of the God of Death, loved ones who have died earlier or other spirit guides leaves for the astral world. At times, especially when emotional ties are very strong, the soul stays on earth till such time as the major death ceremonies are over and then proceeds to the astral world. Sometimes, a soul doesn’t leave earth at all even later and becomes a ghost. This happening can again be divided and sub-divided.

One, a soul can become a wandering ghost because there has been a lapse in the performance of the death ceremonies. Usually, this can be fairly easily rectified. Two, a soul can become a ghost  because the soul force has become so weakened, perhaps through a long, debilitating illness, that the soul doesn’t  have the power to embark on its astral journey. In most such cases, special spirit guides “nurture” the soul till it regains strength.

Besides, if the soul belongs to a caring and ‘aware’ family with a wise priest, special ceremonies and prayers are performed to aid the soul and ensure that it leaves for the astral regions. In sudden or unnatural deaths also, particularly those on a large scale as in war, an earthquake or a tsunami, special spirit guides play a big role. But here, because of the sheer numbers of souls unable to reconcile to the fact of their ‘death’, and the abrupt, large scale ‘movement’ involved from the earth plane to the astral plane, there are more chances of a soul becoming a ghost.

Three, a soul becomes a ghost because it doesn’t want to leave earth and cannot be persuaded or forced to do so. This is relatively rare, but there are such instances. Four, a soul becomes and remains a ghost because it chooses to do so with a specific purpose, or has been assigned a purpose. In the village of Purkazi near Roorkee and elsewhere there are ghosts who have been assigned the task of guarding treasure. Five, there are of course the “pirs” and other holy beings who, though not ghosts in the strict sense of the term, have chosen to maintain or have been instructed to maintain close contact with earth to help in a variety of situations.

Six, there are souls who return and haunt a place or site only at specific times, such as an anniversary of an accident, the anniversary of their own death, or are present at the time of a major event in the life of a loved one and so on.  Seven, there are those unfortunate souls who are “captured” and used as “slaves” by voodoo practitioners, tantrics and others who dabble in black magic or necromancy. But no matter why or how someone becomes a ghost, or why a place is haunted, one more thing is obvious : many ghostly incidents appear to have been recorded—perhaps for eternity—by a process, a system, an agency of which we have little understanding beyond a mystical one. Perhaps it’s meant to remain that way—fascinating yet veiled in mystery.

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