A fascinating poltergeist case in late 2019 had the Cropster packed and ready to head to Bhutan, a stunningly beautiful country tucked away in the eastern Himalayas between India and China.
For various reasons the trip never happened. As Covid19 was just about to hit big-time it was probably for the best, but I was deeply disappointed. The case was fascinating and I’d been waiting over 20 years since Humpty Doo to see another stone-throwing poltergeist in action.
The original story was written in December 2019 by Kuensel Online journalist, Rajesh Rai. Kuensel is the national newspaper of the Kingdom of Bhutan and it features regional news reports in the English language. Some of the photos in this post were kindly provided by the very helpful Rajesh and they remain his copyright.
Rajesh’s article described how a stone throwing ghost had returned to terrorise the Ghalley family from Sombek village in Sangachholing, Samtse. The Samtse district is in remote south-western Bhutan, very close to the Indian border and politically quite a sensitive area.
The paranormal pelting had commenced on the night of November 19, when Sunil Ghalley, 15, and his grandfather Bhagilal Ghalley, 76, were sleeping in a remote cattle hut. Around 7 pm, stones started to hit their roof. Startled, they made their way to a nearby relative’s hut but the pelting continued. Now genuinely scared, they went to a nearby village for the night.
The next day Sunil’s father, Sabir Ghalley, arrived at their grazing land and was shocked when the stones began to fall again around 3.30 pm. Sabir and Sunil then moved again to a relative’s hut only to be hit with even larger stones.
“Something was chasing us. It followed us all the way,” Sabir said.
The next day, 21 November, the stone pelting began at 7 a.m. Even weirder, household pots and pans were thrown out into the open.
Local villagers observed that incidents only seemed to happen only when young Sunil was around. Sunil had recently dropped out of school after his family had claimed he had “special powers” and that he had occasionally fallen into a trance-like state.
In one startling incident, Sunil and his Uncle were returning home from a market in a vehicle with several other people and all the windows closed when stones began to hit young Sunil inside the car. It seems clear that whatever was happening, young Sunil was at the centre of it.
Bhutan is a deeply religious country, with religion embedded in almost all aspects of Bhutanese life. Whilst largely Buddhist, shamanism still is a strong force in many rural and regional areas. While practices vary, the shaman’s role is typically to act as medium between the people and what they believe must be any aggrieved spirit and work out how they can be appeased. Well, that’s the plan, anyway.
When the first shaman appeared in Sombek he was immediately struck by a flying stone. Feeling the situation demanded more spiritual firepower, he departed to consult with his master and gather reinforcements. Soon after 10 monks and a lam (a senior monk) arrived at the village to conduct rituals. At one time, there were more than 40 people in the Ghalley home but to everyone’s astonishment, stones kept raining on the roof. Village coordinator Khadka Singh Ghalley confirmed that stones had fallen during the monks ceremony.
“I am yet to understand what it is,” he said.
Sher Bahadur Ghalley, a shaman based in nearby Sipsu, spoke to the family and was sent one of the stones.
“This stone sparked and became like a magnet when I put it on a bronze plate for a ritual,” he told Rajesh. “Then I knew there was something wrong and decided to go to Sombek.”
The startled shaman felt sure he had an explanation for the puzzling pelting – it was all because of Sabir’s great grandfather. “He was a great shaman but had renounced shamanism to become a sadhu,” he said. A sadhu is a religious ascetic that has renounced a worldly life and dedicated themselves to seeking enlightenment.
According to Sher Bahadur Ghalley, Sabir’s grandfather had not been able to become an accomplished sadhu. When he died, his family had not conducted the correct death rites and that was why he was haunting the family.
The stones had continued to fall from November 19 up to November 29.
On December 3, another shaman visited the family’s house to conduct rituals and the incidents ceased. Journalist Rajesh Rai also arrived in Sombek on the same day. While he didn’t observe any stones falling, everyone he spoke to in the village was convinced the case was genuine.
“I met every everyone in the family and they had the same story” he told me. “I met some religious (people), local leaders, and their relatives, their neighbors, and they all had the same thing to say… they saw stones coming out of nowhere, you know, from the ground at times… and (they) struck on the roof.”
The quiet was temporary. On December 4, Sabir’s grandmother Man Kumari Ghalley was hit on the temple by a stone.
All fired up after speaking with the enthusiastic and helpful Rajesh in mid December, I started making plans to get to Bhutan. From Sydney, it’s around 12 hours flying time, through Bangkok then onto Paro in Bhutan. Getting to Sombek from the capital was really tricky, around 9 hours driving on largely dirt roads with the last 2 or 3 hours requiring a four wheel drive.
Travel time aside, visiting Bhutan is not a simple exercise. Access is strictly controlled and all bookings must be made via a Bhutanese tour operator or their partner. Tourists must pay USD$250 per day – in advance – for their package and must be accompanied by a registered local guide.
In addition, some parts of the country are simply off limits, Sombek included as I was eventually to find out. The government authorities I contacted were polite but very firm – it simply was not possible to visit that district as a tourist. After about a week of emails I surrendered to the inevitable. I wasn’t going to get permission and the case was going to have to run its course without me.
It appears the stone throwing at Sombek continued into 2020. When I emailed Rajesh in April 2020, he said he had been told by the head of the village that the stoning had finally ceased after a shaman was brought in two times to conduct rituals.
A year later and I still have mixed feelings about the case. I understand and respect the Bhutanese desire to protect their unique culture, but I do regret losing the opportunity to investigate an active stone throwing poltergeist. In global sense they are not that rare, so post-COVID there’s a good chance another active case will turn up in Africa, India or South-east Asia that I can get too.
Perhaps one day I’ll also get the chance to visit Bhutan and meet Sunil Ghalley. I imagine he would have an interesting story to tell.