* The Spirits Talk to Me narrates 10 real-life cases from across India that Sarbajeet Mohanty and his team handled
* Readers will find mentions of devices that the PAIRS team uses, such as K2-meters, infrared thermometers, EVP recorders, night-vision cameras, and the “spirit box, which generates white noise that enables spirits to communicate with humans”
* Mohanty hails from Bhubaneswar in Odisha. An engineer who describes himself as “mildly psychic”, he has found his calling in the paranormal world
It started off as a casual visit to a ‘paranormal’ meetup organised in Mumbai by the Parapsychology and Investigations Research Society (PAIRS). In attendance were around 20 horror genre enthusiasts, including film directors, authors and people who believe they have had brushes with the “spirit world”. It culminated ina book on real-life paranormal investigation stories, The Spirits Talk to Me, co-authored by Sarbajeet Mohanty and me. It was published earlier this month.
It was Suhail Mathur, my literary agent at The Book Bakers, who’d suggested attending the paranormal meet to get ideas for my forthcoming horror novels. At the gathering, Sarbajeet and psychic medium Pooja Vijay, the co-founders of PAIRS, presented a glimpse into their work — exploring locations for signs of paranormal activity. Some of theattendeesshared their real-life haunting experiences, and there was a brief session with a Ouija board. Impressed, Suhail and I approached Sarbajeet and Pooja to chronicle their experiences in a book, and they readily agreed.
The Spirits Talk to Me narrates 10 real-life cases from across India that Sarbajeet and his team handled. They range from a “haunted dubbing studio” in Mumbai to a “mysterious tree in a forest that induced young men to kill themselves by hanging from its branches”, a girl who could “see the ghosts of the twin sisters who had previously inhabited her house”, a poltergeist in an urban flat, an “army of dead soldiers” on a historic battlefield, and more. According to Sarbajeet, “The initial task was to pull out the 10 best cases. We did that by considering those cases which are most evocative of the overall mission of PAIRS, and which highlight our growth as paranormal investigators.”
My first task was to familiarise myself with the work done by Sarbajeet and his team, which I did through interviews and visits to their work location. Once the stories were selected, Sarbajeet sent me an audio recording of his narrations, which I heard in the darkness of my room to immerse myself in the ambience. We prepared several drafts of the stories before finalising the manuscript.
While Sarbajeet recounted his stories, it was my job to focus on the human element in them. I wanted to portray how “hauntings” and “sightings” could influence a person’s psyche, and the lingering effects of such experiences.
The style of the book is narrative non-fiction. We had discussions on how to describe the technicalities, such as the names and functions of the equipment used, without sounding jargon-heavy. Readers will find mentions of devices that the PAIRS team uses, such as K2-meters, infrared thermometers, EVP recorders, night-vision cameras, and the “spirit box, which generates white noise that enables spirits to communicate with humans”.
Sarbajeet hails from Bhubaneswar in Odisha. An engineer who describes himself as “mildly psychic”, he has found his calling in the paranormal world. He and Pooja had earlier hosted a show on Kalinga TV titled Mana ki Na Mana. Today, his team gets calls from all over the country, from people who say that they want to get rid of unnatural happenings in their vicinity.
Insisting that his work is serious in nature and not a mere hobby, Sarbajeet says, “The paranormal world is largely misunderstood in India… Whenever we communicate with spirits, we find our energies drained. Also, one needs to be careful to not rub the spirits the wrong way. Being respectful is key.”
Of the stories in the book, my favourite is A Haunted Investigation. It recounts PAIRS’s investigation of a dubbing studio in Andheri, Mumbai, which reported mysterious happenings in the dead of the night. Apart from unexplained movements and shadows in one of the dubbing rooms, there were claims of dubbing tapes and reels moving from one room to another on their own. PAIRS concluded that these were the “residual spirits of certain illicit activities that had occurred on the premises in the past”. They advised the owners to keep a careful watch on the building to prevent further incidents and are still in constant touch with them.
Having written a dozen books in the horror genre, The Spirits Talk to Me was still a fresh experience for me. The opportunity to see the work of real-life ghost hunters from close quarters was an invaluable experience.
Neil D’Silva co-authored The Spirits Talk to Me with Sarbajeet Mohanty. The book was launched in October 2020