Lambi Dehar Mines, Uttarakhand

Mussorie, for time immemorial, has been considered as one of must visit hill-stations of India. Right next to Mussorie, on the outskirts, situated in a valley are the Lambi Dehar mines, which very few of the thousands that visit Mussorie each year have ever heard of. Even in Mussorie there are people who would laugh if you asked them whether the mines were indeed haunted and would call the stories as utter nonsense but majority of the locals, especially the ones living closer to mines, would tell you to stay away because the mines are now believed to be home to a witch who has claimed several lives in the past.

Like every other so called “haunted” place in the world, even Lambi Dehar mines have had their share of misfortune, spread over several decades. But that I believe is case with every mining operation anywhere. Mining and accidents, serious or fatal, go hand in hand. There however are beliefs, claims, and facts that were twisted over the time in favor of superstitions.

Most of the sites that are showcased as haunted usually have the purpose of attracting tourists; Bhangarh is example of one such destination. Then there are places that are tagged as haunted because of their long history of gore and violence, Delhi’s Khooni Darwaza being one such. But there is also a 3rd category of places that cannot draw any tourism, have not stood witness to a long list of deaths but are claimed as haunted only because of the location. Lambi Dehar falls in the 3rd category. Imagine a very old series of mines, dark tunnels standing amidst the peaks of mighty Himalayas, surrounded by thick forests with clouds touching down in the valley and you will get the idea. It’s an ideal setting for a horror movie which eventually made these mines notorious as haunted.

No one knows when these mines were established, well at least no one knows for certain. There are always contradictory answers when you ask around about such places. Some say that the mines were at least 50 years old while some claim that it remained operational for hardly a period of 10 years and got shut-down due to mysterious deaths. According to some other people, mining was happening in this region since the time of the British. If one is to believe the local legends, these mines were the very reason that gave birth to Mussorie which is commonly believed as established by English as their summer get-away from scorching Indian heat. It is said that the mining was started at Lambi Dehar by English but since they couldn’t stay close to the mining area, they chose to build their residences atop the nearby hills. Slowly the population grew and the town of Mussorie came into existence. The mines are also believed to have been of high value to the English because of the revenues it generated for them. If we are to take a peak in history books, Mussorie was indeed established by British and called their summer home but if we think about what were they doing here, which would have been a very remote area in those times, inclination would slightly go towards the believing that maybe Mussorie indeed came into existence because of Lambi Dehar.

But this is all hearsay. Let’s take a look at some of the very little known facts about these mines.

The exact date of when mining started in this region is highly disputed but if one is to take a look at whatever records are available, the official date would be somewhere in the 70s. What we do know for a fact however that this mine was shut down in 1996 by the order of Supreme Court. What provoked the order is another disputed matter altogether. Per the authorities, mine was closed because it was located on highly unstable grounds. We all know what havoc monsoon can create in the state of Uttarakhand. The year of 2013 saw a tragedy that was classified as second to only the Tsunami disaster. Even back when this mine was functional, each year during monsoon, several areas of the mine will either collapse or flood, trapping the workers inside which sometimes resulted in their deaths. Entire state of Uttarakhand is highly prone to landslides and each year, even without rain, several people die because of it. A mine in such an area was anyways far too great a risk. There was always a risk of any part of the mine collapsing due to a landslide. Another reason which forced a lock on this mine was a significant reduction in annual produce. At its peak, this mine was considered as one of the largest limestone mines, with an annual production of over 4 lacs tons per annum whereas, at the time of closing, the production was hardly one tenth of this number.

But all this is what is written in black and white. The local version of this story is entirely different. As per the locals, this mining area was home to more than 50,000 workers. How did such a huge population of people manage to fit in such a small area, so close to the mines is beyond me. Due to inadequate security measures and medical facilities, death toll in the mines kept increasing which finally led to the decision of closing it down. To add to it, this mine was also an environmental and health hazard for people living around. People who worked in the mines used to die a slow and painful death but this is pretty much the same scenario for every mine that ever existed or still exists. Working in a mine is always a risk to life and your health so why government chose to close this one down is a question no one has answer to.

But these arguments are not what makes Lambi Dehar interesting and famous. It is the several ghost stories that are spooky enough to scare anyone.

According to one legend, and the most unbelievable one, there was an accident at the mines which wiped out the entire population of the village. Each of the poor 50,000 souls working here died but their spirits and ghosts are still present here. This accident is also the reason why the mining operation came to a sudden halt. But listening to this, one starts to think that how is this even possible? This is not a story from 5 centuries ago, this happened in 1996. If there was such a huge accident where the death toll was so sky high, then how come there is no record of it anywhere? If indeed 50,000 people died here then this should have been listed as one of the greatest tragedies of all times? And how come Mussorie is still intact and was not affected by this so called accident?

Another ghost that is believed to be haunting these mines is that of an Army officer who used to live in Mussorie with his beautiful wife. Whether this officer belonged to Indian or the old British Army, no one knows. His wife was cheating on him with another man and wanted to get rid of her husband. So they planned his murder and one day the wife took the officer out for a walk at the mines. Her lover was waiting for them on top of a cliff and as the couple passed down below, he hurled a huge boulder towards them. Wife knew what was coming so she jumped to safety however the poor husband got crushed under the boulder. What happened to the unfaithful wife and her lover is unknown but it is believed that ghost of that Army officer is still trapped at the mines, forced to repeat the scene of his death every night, over and over again for eternity. People talk about how he has been heard still by several people, crying out in pain, every night. They say that he still doesn’t know what happened, that the woman he so dearly loved broke his trust and murdered him. Per the local belief, he is stuck in a death loop unless he finds out the reality, but the question is, who is going to tell him that? Who will dare to bell the cat?

The third legend is of a witch who has taken shelter in the mines and has been responsible for several deaths that occurred here. Interestingly enough, this woman was also an unfaithful wife in her life. She was the wife of a local miner and mother of two. One day her husband found about her extra-marital affair and the wife, out of fear and guilt, unable to face her husband ran to the mines and hid there for days. Her husband and other villagers looked and looked for her but she couldn’t be found. What she didn’t know was that her lover had also taken off and it created an impression of both of them leaving the village together. This further infuriated the husband and out of anger he killed both their children, not able to decide if they were his own or other man’s. Days later, the wife stepped out of the mines only to learn about the death of both her children. Ashamed of what she has done and how her acts destroyed her family, she ran to a nearby cliff and jumped off it. Ever since, it is believed that her soul is still trapped in the mines and is getting violent day by day. People say that right after the death of the wife, strange happenings started to occur in the mines. People started to die in strange and freak accidents every other day. Then there came a time that everyone feared for their lives and not even a single person was ready to step in this mines which by them had earned the fame of being called a death pit.

Then there is also the tale of a woman, wife of a miner, who one fine day heard an explosion at the mines. She immediately ran to the place where her husband was working to enquire of his safety. It turned out that there was no explosion and it was just her hallucination that she explained to her husband who was working his shift in one piece. After listening to what his wife had to say, the miner went down to enquire and ensure that everything was safe and sound and this is when the blast happened that killed him. Since then, people say that the ghost of this woman runs to the mines every evening trying to save her husband from the blast that she had a premonition of.

People talk about quite a few extraordinary phenomenons that take place here at night. They talk about hearing the painful cries and groans of the patients at town’s now deserted hospital. Presence of the screaming Witch has often been felt. Those who sometimes travel through this place claim to hear screams of the restless spirits of the dead. Strangely, they say, that as they moved closer, the screaming abruptly stops. Other than spooky encounters, people talk about how several times buses and trucks have fallen off the cliff. There is also one incident of a helicopter crashing down at the mines and the screaming Witch was been blamed for all these accidents.

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