What is it that leads to a “mysterious” tag being attached to a place, a lake, a well or a strange happening? Are rational factors involved? Are supernatural elements such as ghosts involved? Are environmental or geographical factors involved? Are paranormal elements such as ancient curses or tragic connections involved? Are optical illusions involved? Usually, it seems to be a combination of such factors, varying in proportion from case to case, that is involved. Take for instance, the “Lake of No Return” in India which was mentioned in my previous column.
Located in Arunachal Pradesh, the “Lake of No Return” is also known as India’s Bermuda Triangle, the notorious world famous waters in the North Atlantic Ocean where many ships and aircraft are said to have disappeared without a trace. According to Wikipedia, “the most common account of the origin of the Indian lake’s name is the one told…..on the Changlang District’s website—the district is in Arunachal Pradesh, India—which speculates that the name is due to “the number of Allied aircraft which crashlanded in it during World War II… American sources repeat that account.” The crashed planes are believed to be lying concealed in the depths of the lake.
Other stories of mysterious disappearances connected with the lake include those of American, British and Japanese soldiers. It is said that those who went to investigate, like those who had disappeared, never returned to tell the tale. Is it quicksands which account for these disappearances or are some other strange forces at work, as for example, in a lake in the United States? Incidentally, Brent Swancer, author and crypto expert has pointed out that the United States is home to not one but several supposedly cursed lakes.
The Round Valley Reservoir, in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 2,350 acres in area and up to 180 feet deep, is New Jersey’s largest and deepest manmade lake. Swancer writes that for years there have been persistent reports of people mysteriously drowning or even vanishing without a trace at Round Valley Reservoir, with over 30 deaths and disappearances in the area since 1971.W hat is peculiar, he writes, is not only the high rate of such occurrences, but also the mysterious circumstances that surround them and the fact that many of the bodies of these suspected drownings have never been found.
Making things odder, reveals Swancer, is that surviving swimmers who have nearly drowned or people who have fallen overboard in the reservoir have had some strange stories to tell about their experiences. Many witnesses have told of feeling as if they had been held or pulled under the water by some unseen force, sometimes even described as feeling like hands grasping at them. Boaters who have fallen into the water have reported the sensation of not being able to get back aboard their vessels due to this phenomenon, and swimmers in shallow water right near shore have claimed to have been locked into place and unable to reach the shore, inexorably drawn further away by some unknown force. This matches up with witnesses to drownings or vanishings here who have often reported that the victims seemed unable to get to their boat or to shore despite calm waters, eventually being dragged under to die or disappear altogether.
“Such strange tales have led to the persistent rumor that the lake is in fact cursed”, comments Swancer. One idea is that the lake was built over Native American sacred grounds or burial grounds, while another is that the curse has to do with a submerged town under the lake, the vestiges of a community forced out in order to commence the creation of the reservoir. Still others think that the ghosts of drowning victims haunt the lake and try to pull others down to the same watery fate.
In England there are many wells with a cursed history and paranormal tales attached to them. Just a few years ago, in 2016, archaeologists unearthing a ‘cursed’ medieval well made headlines. Local legends recorded by nearby monasteries related that St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus Christ, once bathed in the well and imbued the waters with magical healing powers, stated writer Brett Tingley. “While the well began as a healing site, it is believed to have been cursed at some point in the sixteenth century. According to an 1877 article in the St. Helens Reader newspaper, a land dispute between the monastery and one of its neighbors led to one of the monks casting what appeared to be a curse on the well…”
According to The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England by Robert Charles Hope (1893), “Robin Hood’s Well in Wakefield is reputed to be the starting-place of a padfoot called in the neighbourhood the ‘Boggard of Longar Hede.’ It haunted a three-lane end after leaving the well. One poor fellow said he saw it walk beside him for a quarter of a mile up the lane, and that very night his aunt died. It was of the size of a calf, with horned head, with long shaggy hair, and eyes like saucers; fastened to one of its hind legs was a chain, and usually a cry heard following it as of a pack of hounds.”
India too has wells with strange histories. I’ve written earlier about how several years ago, a young girl claimed that in her last life, she had been an icchadhari snake. Iccha means desire or wish, dhari means to adopt, i.e. those who can take whatever form they desire. She and her mate, also an icchadhari snake, used to live near a temple in a certain village —and she named the village. There was a well near the temple and one day, she and her mate were sitting on the parapet of the well when their traditional enemy—a mongoose or nevla—appeared suddenly, startling them and they fell into the well and died. Now, she said, she and her mate had been reborn so they could consummate their unfulfilled love. She went on to name the village where her mate had been reborn. Enquiries were made and they found not just the village, but also that a pair of snakes had indeed fallen into a well near the temple and died, as a result of which the well had been abandoned. Obviously, mysteries aren’t always ancient. There are modern mysteries too. But whether ancient or modern or a potpourri of the two, it is the unexplained that runs like a common thread through them all, often eliciting skepticism yet invariably fascinating.