Our reporter Jigme Wangchuk goes to Debsi to find out whether there is truth in a ghostly story surrounding a possessed van
It is raining. The mud track that winds through the deep thickets below Thimphu Gate a little away south from Babesa is all slushy and slippery. I am not at all in best of dress for the job, but I must grab the devil lording thereabout by the neck this day and show him some terror that I am capable of.
And there it is, the Tata Winger van where the devil has made his home. I am warned to dare not go anywhere near that accursed utility monster. But this is not my first time. I have in the past made some fearsome monsters get down on their knees and kiss my shiny shoes with respect.
I approach the van and pull the door. There is nothing. I wait for the devil to show up. I know what I am going to do with him if ever he presents his hideous form before me. He is nowhere to be seen, though. I wait for a little while longer. The rain is getting berserk. I am now thoroughly drenched. There is no sign of the devil anywhere. I like not this tasteless humour, at all.
This little grey van has been parked here, a little way next to Terma Linca Resort and Spa, for years indeed. It, the van, is fairly new, but wheels have now given up. I climb into the van and mess with the steering. Still the devil doesn’t show up. I feel deeply cheated. To the left of the seat, pretty dandelions have grown to appreciable maturity.
How this van ended up here has got stories of kinds, yes. A man and his girlfriend drove a long way from town and had some wild times in the van. When they were finally done and started the engine to head home, the van just let out bronchial coughs and rattles and refused to move. They got some help from friends but the van could not be pulled from there. And there it has remained, for a very long time indeed.
Here is another story about the van. When the van arrived where it remains parked, the sun was going down behind the mountains. There it remained parked until dawn. But devil entered the van and had made it his home. When the driver came early next morning and entered the van, some powerful invisible force attacked him. The driver died a few days later.
And so, the van remained there, untouchable for a long time.
But I wanted to see for myself if the stories are indeed true. Four years ago in 2011, I went to Tsento in Paro where I was told a devil had entered a television set. Locals told me much so much about a talking machine that almost walked but didn’t, of an evil man’s ungratified soul that got into the TV set after his harrowing death, of an adamant ghost that beat all wizardry and exorcism by all maestro and professed-maestro exorcists and ghost-beaters.
The possessed TV set in a village household continued to haunt the village making eerie noises – squawking and squealing – flashing images of horror even when it was left unplugged. After it had brought ill luck, disease and death to the household, the TV set was sold to someone in the neighbourhood. The buyer not only got the machine at a generous price, but also inherited a host of misfortunes. The story I got was that the curse followed him everywhere, tugging at his sleeves, sticking on his shoe-sole, whizzing and whirling in his hat.
Then came, at long last, an astrologer of fearsome repute. He counselled the villagers to get rid of the bedeviled machine altogether and so the frenzied and curse-laden machine had to go. It was taken to a cave faraway with befitting ceremony to give it a grand farewell. And there it lay, abandoned in the sheltered quietude of a grotto high above the village for 20 years.
“You must not go up there. The accursed machine’s defiled the entire hill. Devil will tag along with you wherever you go. You will go insane and die a brutal death.” That’s how one dead-scarred local warned me. But I brushed it all off and headed up. I waited for the devil there on that lonesome hill for hours. When no devil could scandalise me, I decided to enter the cave where the television set was said to have been abandoned. What I found there had me crack up like a crazy ape. There was no ghost or devil, but only a serene, lonely and vastly uncared for Buddha of long life, shrouded in cobwebs in a small wooden box.
And so it is with this van story, it appears. There is no devil there. Trust me I waited there for hours. No evil monster showed up. I rummage through the seats and find a vehicle logbook. It is all rotten and there is nothing interesting in there to be salvaged.
Now the rain has stopped. I get out of the van and do a small tour around. I talk to people. Still no devil around. Perhaps this is his way of accepting defeat, me thinks. I close the door of the van with a loud bang and head home.
By Jigme Wangchuk