From The Archives: Only the Bathroom is Haunted

You can always run away screaming. There are higher and lower price tags on that depending on the situation, and mostly I never do, but I find it comforting to know that I could. I often find myself yelling at the characters in horror movies to do exactly that, and unless it’s the kind of thing that will eventually cover the earth in a blanket of evil, I stand by that advice. If it’s going to multiply and eat you later, you should probably kill it while there’s only one of them. If it tries to gnaw your arm off but only when you go into the attic, maybe just blow in some insulation and lock the trap door.

Which brings us to Anjaan: Special Crimes Unit, a Hindi paranormal cop show I’ve been watching recently that resembles the X-Files, but with ghosts. ACP Vikrant Singhal and ASP Aditi Sharma are Mumbai police officers who get assigned all the weird murder cases that the local cops can’t solve and suspect might involve the supernatural. Aditi sees ghosts and usually spends most of the episode trying to find them and figure out how to get them to stop killing people. Vikrant is too cool to believe in ghosts and spends most of the episode interrogating suspects and looking for non-spooky solutions. The possibility of drugs comes up a lot in the beginning, like ‘hey, maybe they think they saw a bus full of ghosts ‘cause they took a whole lot of drugs?’ I get the sense he’d really like it to be drugs.

In The X-Files, Scully’s religion of science gave her a somewhat plausible excuse for continuing to be a skeptic for such a very long time, but Vikrant just seems grumpy about it and has even given speeches to a few of the ghosts. They also had an interesting twist where Aditi was missing for a while and Vikrant had to deal with the ghosts, and then Aditi came back and Vikrant went into a coma, so she started interrogating suspects and being more skeptical. They’re much better as a team though, and once they were together again they went back to Aditi seeing things but telling Vikrant it’s nothing and Vikrant mocking the local cops for being scared of going into the woods at night.

They work out of a dark, creepy station house that is full of old case files and appears to be haunted. Sometimes the file they need shuffles itself out of a pile and spills onto the floor. Myself, I’d take the run screaming approach to that work environment, but I have no ambitions as a ghost-hunting police detective. Probably that’s exactly where they need to be and it certainly comes in handy. Their cases take them everywhere from tiny villages to abandoned mansions, forests, and haunted stretches of backroad. It’s remarkable how often Vikrant insists on going out into the woods at night looking for things with flashlights, sometimes even very small things that would be extra hard to find in the dark. It strikes me as a poor choice, but again, I’m not looking for ghosts and I imagine you actually find more of those at night. Of course officially he’s not looking for ghosts either, but it would be a pretty boring show if they didn’t find him anyway.

I’m sure there’s all kinds of cultural context and nuance that I’m missing or is lost in translation, but the female ghosts mostly seem to want retribution for being murdered or wronged, while the male ghosts are more likely to be running amok or stuck in a repeating pattern of having murdered their girlfriends or wives. Or they’re upset because their mothers murdered their girlfriends before they could become their wives. Pretty much all the ghosts are murderous, although some restrict it to getting revenge on the people who wronged them while others just keep playing out their stories with anyone who comes along like some kind of horrifying human puppet show.

A significant number of the ghosts are tethered to an abandoned house that someone recently decided to move into or squat in for the night, and I’m entertained by how often the solution Aditi and Vikrant land on is to leave the house to the ghosts. Oh, you and your sister were murdered by your adopted son when he knocked on the door so now you kill anyone who answers the door? Well, we can’t think of any way around that so we’ll suggest that the owner abandon his plans to develop this lovely piece of property into a hotel and let you keep living here. Oh, you were brutally murdered by the first wife of the man you loved and were engaged to marry and now all you want is to have this entire mansion to yourself so you can dance? Sure, we’ll board it up and leave you to it. At the rate they’re going in Anjaan, the Indian countryside will be covered in uninhabitable haunted houses. Not to mention all the stretches of road that are unusable due to haunted wedding buses and the hitchhiking ghosts of murder victims.

Now I’m all for practical solutions, so if it’s really only the third room at the end of the hall she wants to dance in all day, I’d support the solution of a lock and a sign on the door explaining the situation. But it’s not really a permanent solution, is it? Even if you clearly label it, or brick it up like an Edgar Allan Poe story (cause what could possibly go wrong with that?), you know someone else will just come along and ignore the sign or tear down the wall, wonder why this lovely room was bricked over, and turn it into a cozy little study where they’ll promptly be haunted. And you just can’t trust people to run screaming when they should. It’s amazing how often they stand and stare at the blood seeping out of the walls, or ignore the creepy disembodied voice telling them not to open the door.

And some supernatural problems really can’t be solved by leaving them alone. How do you permanently close an entire road? I mean, people should probably know not to get on the creepy night bus but deciding that the road isn’t very popular and hopefully no one else will get picked up predictably ends with someone taking it as a shortcut and climbing aboard. And what about the house in the middle of the forest that only appears at 9:30 every night for half an hour? That should definitely make people run screaming, but realistically if they didn’t see it appear out of thin air it looks normal so there probably aren’t enough signs in the world to keep people out. It’s fortunate that a lot of the ghosts are willing to let Aditi see what happened to them rather than killing her and are satisfied with people knowing the truth.

So in short, my recommendation after watching Anjaan is that if there’s a ghost in the spare bathroom but it stays there and you really like your house, you could probably just let it have the room. If the ghost wants the whole house, you should definitely move out.


alex MacFadyen hopes that someday Aditi and Vikrant will make a ghost-related PSA called “Scream and run!”  

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