Gurkha Ghost Stories!

I have yet to meet a ghost albeit I have heard many interesting and strange ghost stories some relating to our former army barracks and camps back during the Hong Kong and Malayan days. These ghosts were of course regarded to be Gurkha ghosts, spirits of Gurkha soldiers or their dependants who had passed away in various circumstances. In the unit lines, there were many tales of encounter with spirits of these dead soldiers where wives who were allegedly Boksis (witches) had caused some of these untimely deaths through their black magic. The main targets would be anybody that these ‘boksis’ did not get along with. To counter this black art, we had Jhakris (shaman) from the East and Lamas from the West Nepal, these were soldiers who had obtained this knowledge through their gurus back home before they joined the Army. When the doctor’s medicine did not work the soldiers and their dependants did rely on the help of these Jhakris (shaman) and Lamas – this was an open fact which even the British Officers were aware of.

Based on these tales shared in the Brigade I bring you the first interesting one referred to as the ‘Sungere Bhut ‘ (Pig Ghost) which held fort at the Bailey Bridge that linked the barracks and new Gallipoli families line with the old families’ line in Gallipoli Lines, Hong Kong.


Many spooky tales were told of encounters with this ‘Pig Ghost’ and one in particular refers to a soldier’s experience when he with his wife and their daughter returned to their quarters at the old Gallipoli families lines through this bridge having visited their gaunles in the new Gallipoli families lines. It was near midnight when they were walking along the bridge when they suddenly heard awful grunts of a pig. They did not think twice about it as there were pigs kept by the local Chinese farmers close to the camp. When they reached home, the mother noticed that the daughter had gone pale and was feeling unwell, so she gave here some aspirins to help her rest and sleep. Early next morning the daughter was still poorly so they took her to the Families Hospital. After examining her, the doctor confirmed there was “nothing to worry about” and that it was just a case of mild fever and recommended her to take rest for a few days.

However, her parents did not see any improvement but that she remained very quiet and was hardly eating any food, she seemed to be losing weight by the day and was not her usual self. This continued for a few days and the daughter’s condition gradually worsened. Word got around when his Company 2ic called the soldier to his office and hearing how it all started told the soldier that he was aware of similar cases where the ‘Sungure Bhoot’ (Pig ghost) that haunts the bailey bridge especially during midnight preyed on children and vulnerable souls. The 2ic then advised him to seek the help of a Jhakri (shaman) and fortunately there was one in the same unit. The Jhakri visited the home and performed a healing ritual and lo and behold the daughter’s condition immediately improved and within an hour or so was back to normal! Immediately after this incident, Hukum (an Order) was passed within the Unit Lines to avoid crossing the evil bridge at midnight. Believe it or not!!


Even the bravest of the brave falter for when it comes to ghosts for chopping a ghost’s head is unheard of. So, it was only natural to feel uncomfortable when detailed for guard duty at the Ammunition Compound at the Old Mule Lines at Cassino Lines, Hong Kong. An eerie touch added by the Gurkha cemetery close by.

This was made worse by the Ghosts taking turns as it happened it seemed to be the Chinese ghosts when the Gurkhas were on duty and vice versa. There was certainly lack of communication when the ghostly figures at a given time and on occasions sailed through the compound. The mystery remained alive perhaps due to this barrier in language.


A stone’s throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange:
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.

– Rudyard Kipling ‘From the Dusk to the Dawn’

It was in the early 90’s one recruit was drawn out into the cold night charmed by a ‘churel’ (believed to be the disturbed soul of a woman who dies during childbirth).  This was to be one of the many such nights!

This recruit started to lose weight rapidly and always seemed lost. The RMO suspected it to be a case of TB but it was not so. As it happened one of the ‘gurujis’ who had white witchcraft knowledge sensed the recruit to be influenced by evil spirits. He immediately performed the cleansing ritual when he also came to know that the recruit was indeed possessed by a ‘churel’ and had on many dark nights been drawn out from his bed under a spell and taken to the nearby polo field and at times the athletic track, always dark and quiet areas. It is believed that such victims are entranced by the churel’s beauty and falls deeply in love, slowly affecting his mental and physical state to a very serious extent.

Fortunately for the recruit there was a Corporal on the drill course who was known to be a powerful ‘jhakri’ (shaman) who performed further rituals. It also transpired that had there been further delay in receiving these healing rituals the recruit could succumbed to the evil power of the churel and have lost his life. The verdict was that the lost soul belonged to one of the Gurkha wives who had died during childbirth in the Families Hospital. The joint ritual not only healed the recruit, but they were also able to liberate the lost soul of the dead Gurkha wife. The recruit eventually joined his Regiment.  Many years later he got promoted and was posted back to the Training Depot.

For those not aware, such stories of ‘Jhakris’ and witches are not just myths but were indeed very much rife within the Gurkha families’ lines.

(Note: Names of those involved and Regiment cannot be disclosed due to the Data Protection Act!!)

3 Comments on Gurkha Ghost Stories!

  1. Colonel John Purves of 10GR published this story about ‘The Sai Kung Ghost’ in the Kalimpong Ex-Servicemen’s magazine ‘Lahure Ko Reli Mai’ in 2016:

    Hong Kong, the early 1970s, and 10GR was turning its thoughts to its UK tour. However, routine tasks such as Border Duty did not stop and company and individual training was taking place at, if anything, a more frenetic pace than usual.

    As an antidote to this, B Company, under Major Graeme Grant, deployed by Wessex helicopter for semi-tactical training to the Sai Kung peninsula with its rural villages, some occupied but increasingly more of them deserted as locals migrated to the bright lights of Hong Kong and Kowloon. The adventure training exercise was hard work but the weather was kind so the experience was both rewarding and enjoyable for all of us.

    ENDEX eventually arrived and that evening the benefit of first-class planning by the B Coy Second- in-Command and CQMS was revealed as cases of San Miguel and “Bhag ko Dudh” and the Company madals magically appeared beside our large camp-fire, around which the company was gathered after evening bhat.

    As the daylight faded, the singing and dancing began, throats and limbs being lubricated by the contents of the golden and blue coloured cans. Everyone had worked hard and now it was time to enjoy ourselves.

    Sai Kung’s small hills, around which the network of concrete pathways threaded between the paddy fields, began to ring with the strains of voices raised in the singing of “Jhyam Jhyam Pareli”, “Naini Thala” and “Chantari ma Basera” accompanied by the joyously insistent beat of the madals. Everyone in the Company was either singing, dancing (or both together) or happily chatting and enjoying the cool beer. Tim and I, the two “Sanosahebs”, had little time to sit and talk as we were constantly being dragged to the “dance-floor” which surrounded our blazing campfire. It would be hard to imagine a more relaxed and carefree collection of warriors celebrating the end of a happy and enjoyable stint of training under a hugely popular company commander.

    But suddenly there was a noticeable drop in the volume of the singing as more and more voices dropped out and as the madal beat faded into silence there was a very apparent aura of unease visibly spreading among the men. Exhortations from the Company Sergeant Major Dhanbahadur prompted a few false starts to the singing but the atmosphere which now pervaded the gathering was disturbing (and perplexing for the three British Officers).

    I turned to Kabitman, my platoon sergeant, and whispered, “Ke bhayo? Why are the boys so unsettled and nervous?”

    “The jhankri says that there is an unhappy spirit coming here to our campfire,

    The hairs started to rise on the back of my neck but, trying my best to look unperturbed, I blurted, “Surely you don’t believe that sort of thing, Sgt Kabitman!”

    Kabitman, a tall, strong man, probably the most powerful man in the company, met my eyes with his and replied, “I do not know what you believe, Sir, but look over there. There it is, the unhappy spirit, and it is certainly coming this way!”

    I looked where he had pointed with his lips and, away in the distance, I could see a very bright light moving slowly and generally in our direction.

    Somewhat relieved, and happy to be able to display a bit of the leadership which I had been trained to believe was so important in an Army officer, I replied confidently, “Come on, Kabitman! It’s a local Chinese from one of the villages walking along one of the concrete pathways carrying a “Tilley” lamp, that’s all!”

    The sergeant was not in the least convinced.

    “No, Sir, it’s an unhappy spirit and it is definitely coming here.”

    Graeme Grant had obviously been having a similar conversation with Captain Chandrabahadur but had decided that “The show must go on!”, so the boys were told to get on with the singing and dancing again and not to be superstitious.
    “More beer!”

    The singing recommenced, somewhat half-heartedly, but there were no takers for the dance-floor.

    All eyes were now concentrated on the moving light which was certainly coming our way, though still quite slowly. The buzz of furtive conversations was audible above the now very stilted singing. I moved to beside the company commander to learn what he planned and just as we agreed that we would carry on as normal, the company jhankri appeared with the second-in-command and told Graeme, in no uncertain terms, that the spirit was definitely coming to the site where we had our campfire and that if we did not move, horrible things could happen.

    At this news, the blood started to drain from the faces of the 3 British Officers and I felt an increased prickle at the back of my head. Things were now getting a bit too serious.

    The singing had dried up again and the jhankri’s words were being passed in whispers from one soldier to another and we could see worried looks being exchanged in the light of the campfire.

    The ever-calm Company 2iC produced the solution.

    “Sir, I suggest that you order the company to move up to that small hill behind us where we shall not be too close to where the Jhankri says the unhappy spirit will come and where he says we will not be in danger. We can observe what happens from that vantage-point.”

    “Agreed, Saheb. Jaun!”

    So we all, most with some feeling of relief, and with as much dignity as we could muster, redeployed to the small hillock about 50 metres from the fire from where we could observe not only the campfire site but also the ever-approaching light. My orderly, Gyanbahadur, sat protectively in front of me as we watched. Oh, yes. It was coming to our fire all right!

    Silence now. No more whispering, as we watched the light come nearer and nearer. A small part only of my brain told me that very soon we would see a Chinese villager come into view carrying a lantern with a glaringly bright mantle. I think it was a process of hope more than expectation.

    As the light drew near to the circle of illumination given off by the campfire every hair on my head was standing rigidly to attention. As it came close we could all see that the light was not held up by a man. In fact it was not held up by anything at all. The light just hung there in the air about 4 feet from the ground totally unsupported.

    The only sound to be heard was the crackling of our fire. I was holding my breath along with the rest of B Company as the light flared even more brightly for a second, then died a little before it flared dazzlingly again. This was repeated another two or three times before suddenly the light extinguished and was no more.

    We all breathed out and waited. Nothing.

    “Aba sabai thik chha! Gayo sakyo!” cried the jhankri. “Hami agu tira wapas sakinchhaun”.

    We waited. I turned to LCpl Machindra, who was crouched beside me.

    “What do you think, Machindra?” I asked.

    Before he could reply, Rfn Suman, the OC’s orderly arrived from further along the hill where he had been sitting with the OC and 2iC.

    “Grant Saheb says we are to return to the campfire. The spirit has gone now
    and will not be coming back again.”

    And so we returned to where we had been sitting. The madals reappeared, as did some extra cases of San Miguel, and our end-of exercise party started up again. The beer flowed and the singing grew again in strength.
    I don’t remember much about how the evening ended but I do recall feeling a little fragile as I emerged from the shelter of my poncho basha the following morning. There was little time to dwell on the previous night’s happenings since the LCT was due at midday to take us home and there was a lot of packing up to be done before we were ready to start our journey back to Queen’s Hill Camp.

    We assembled for a company photograph, perhaps to reassure ourselves that we were still there, and before long the LCT hove into view in the bay. Soon we were on our homeward voyage and no-one was saying much about the previous night’s events.

    So, 43 years later, three questions remain:

    1. Was it a ghost?
    2. Why did it come to our campfire?
    3. Did it happen at all or did I just dream it?

    One or two who read this will know. Others will just have to wonder.


    In response to John Purves’ article, Colonel Rupert Litherland subsequently published this article, entitled ‘Beyond My Senses or Understanding’:

    Colonel John Purves’ article ‘The Sai Kung Ghost’ (Lahure Ko Reli Mai, 2016, p.71-74) evoked a number of memories and the questions he poses at the end of his article have spurred me into committing to paper the recollections and thoughts his article provoked. I share them with you because they happened, or I am inclined to believe they might have done?

    I recall Richard Thwaites telling me that he and the small patrol that was with him out in the Sai Kung area, in the early 1970s, watched a patrol of British soldiers in single file go passed their lying up position. They could see them clearly in the moonlight. It was strange for two reasons. First, there were not meant to be any British soldiers in the area at the time, and second, they were wearing Second World War helmets, battledress and webbing and armed with Lee Enfield .303 rifles. Richard and the Gurkhas with him were convinced they had seen a patrol of ghosts.

    In 1974, when I was RSO based in Church Crookham, Captain Mukbahahur Mall (GRSO) and I thought it would be a good idea to take the platoon to the Signals Wing at the School of Infantry to use their facilities and exercises during the Easter break. This was agreed and arranged, and on the day we went down we arrived in time for the platoon to enjoy a game of football. The following morning as training started Mukbahadur came to see me and told me alternative accommodation was required for the platoon. The men would not remain in the same barrack block. Mukbahadur informed me it was because a ghost had twisted 9561’s ankle during the night. I was taken aback and with Mukbahadur inspected the barrack block again. I could sense nothing untoward and suggested that 9561 might have injured his ankle playing football or made his bed so tightly that in a bad dream he had turned his ankle. In reality I was concerned, as a Lieutenant, that the grumpy and very senior and old (to me at the time) Major Quartermaster at the School of Infantry would tell me not to waste his time with such nonsense and Gurkha sensitivities. Mukbahadur stuck to his guns and in some trepidation I drove to the Quartermaster’s quarter in the family lines where he was supposed to be enjoying his Easter break. I explained the situation. The Quartermaster asked me which bed 9561 had been sleeping in and when I told him he immediately agreed we should move to an alternative barrack block. Sensing my surprise he told me that at the end of the previous Regimental Signal Instructors (RSI) course a few days earlier, a young NCO who had failed the course committed suicide by hanging himself from the rafter above the bed 9561 had slept in. I am convinced there was no outward sign of the tragedy that had happened, but the men sensed something – was it the presence of a ghost? 9561’s ankle did not seem to bother him after the change of barrack room and the platoon’s morale improved. Why would the ghost have twisted 9561’s ankle? The platoon believed it did. I felt nothing and continue to struggle with what I cannot understand.

    I related the story above at a lunch party when the subject of the supernatural came up and I expressed my ambiguity about the view that Gurkhas are more sensitive to such matters than the average British person. Brigadier Peter Myers was at the lunch and he related two stories that convinced him that Gurkhas in particular are more aware of the afterlife or supernatural than most. He was commanding a company of 4/8GR behind the Japanese lines during the war in Burma and the company had established a good harbour position for the night. It was a sound defensive position, communications had been established and there was a good water supply nearby. Just as it was getting dark, his Company 2IC made representation and said the company had to move: the position was haunted. Peter Myers told him the company would not be moving. The 2IC and all three Platoon Commanders then made strong representation and against Peter Myers’ wishes the company moved in the dark to another position where there were no communications or water and he had no idea of the real disposition or defensive layout of the company. He spent an uncomfortable night fearing they might be attacked and unable to defend themselves adequately. Their route the next morning took them passed the first harbour area, and on very close inspection they were able to make out a heavily overgrown and almost invisible shrine which no one had seen the previous day. They had harboured on an ancient burial site. The men had sensed it. It was a tangible thing, hidden but still there or had the men sensed something else? Later during the early period of the Malayan Emergency he was commanding a company in 2/10GR. The company came to an area of open ground between two wooded ridges where there were good fields of fire. It was an obvious site for an enemy ambush. Ordering the lead platoon to cover the obstacle he ordered the second platoon to pass through and proceed across the open ground to the higher ground on the other side at best speed in open formation. With the operation underway he was astonished to see the crossing platoon kneel down in the middle of the open ground. They did not kneel in firing positions but knelt as if praying in church. At that stage communication with the platoon failed and he had to send his runner to tell the platoon commander to ‘Wake up and get his platoon out of the danger area’. This happened and later when Peter Myers asked the Platoon Commander to explain what had happened, the Platoon Commander simply said he did not know what had come over the platoon but it was an unhappy place. Peter Myers was so taken aback that a very good Platoon Commander should allow such a strange thing to happen that he recorded the matter in his diary and made a note of the grid reference. Much later, when he was working in another appointment in Brigade Headquarters he was asked to produce a map showing all the contacts with CT’s in the Brigade area. He made a mark on the map he was recording the contacts on and as he did so thought the grid reference was familiar. On checking his diary it was the same grid reference as the kneeling incident. It transpired that a patrol from a British Regiment had been ambushed and suffered eleven casualties including a number of killed at the very spot his men had knelt down. Peter Myers was certain there were no tangible signs of what had happened on the ground because the ambush happened almost three years before the kneeling incident. Nothing was left there and all signs would have been washed away. This was different, there was nothing tangible there, so what was it the men sensed? They saw no ghosts, so was it an unhappy place because lost souls were still there?

    In 1977, when we moved into a Birdwood Block flat in Victoria barracks on my appointment as ADC to CBF, my wife was adamant that she had seen figures hanging from a gallows outside the flat. It transpired that the Birdwood Block had been one of Victoria Barracks original barrack blocks and in the 19th century the gallows had been located just outside what subsequently became our flat. I saw and felt nothing despite trying and I have no grounds for doubting what my wife saw. Would I dare do such a thing?!

    More recently concerns were expressed that a house in a nearby village was haunted by a young man who had taken his own life. A priest, with a long experience of exorcism, was called to see if he might release the presence from its troubled state. He conducted an exorcism. The haunted state in the house ended and the priest made a remarkable judgement. He suggested the young man did not know he was dead and not knowing it was trapped in limbo between this world and the next.

    In 2006 I underwent major surgery and during a nine hour operation had what I believe is known as an out of life experience. It is the only thing I recall in the 40 hour period between the administration of the anaesthetic and my coming around. It was vivid, crystal clear and very real. I saw a kaleidoscope of people on a moving façade and then in a single static frame, the smiling faces of five deceased officers I had served with and knew well. They were on the other side and although they did not speak they seemed to be saying, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK over here.’ Then the montage of faces disappeared as if switched off like a light. Later when I was in a recovery ward the surgeon came to see me and sitting on my bed said, “I am so pleased you are still with us. You are a tough man. Weaker men would not have survived”. Further enquiry revealed that I had had to be resuscitated twice towards the end of the operation and had therefore been close to death if not clinically dead and brought back. Why it was not my time and why I was sent back troubled me for a while. Was it just the miracle of modern medicine or something else? I have concluded it is fruitless exercise to speculate why it was not my time and why I feel I was sent back rather than saved? Not a ghost story but possibly a supernatural one? I don’t know – the mind is a funny thing and there is much for us to learn about extra-sensory perception if that is what it is? There will come a time for whatever journey lies ahead. In the meanwhile I will continue to count everyday as a blessing and when the time comes I hope only that I am accepted into the next world without fuss and I do not become a lost soul that upsets anyone sensitive enough to detect me if I am trapped between this world and the next.

    My answers to Colonel Purves’ questions would be: 1. Yes. 2. It was lost and was seeking help and 3. It happened. That recorded however, there is at least one alternative and plausible explanation. It is possible that the San Miguel and ‘Bhag ko Dudh’ had affected the minds and dulled the cognitive functions of B Company, and the light they saw was in fact a large ‘jun kira’ attracted towards them by the flames of the fire.

  2. David Thomas has also commented:

    There were a number of curious instances during the Emergency of soldiers screaming in their beds at night in order to frighten away the ‘bhuts’ that were supposedly haunting them!

    Then there was also the equally strange tale of I think Bahau Camp where two young Chinese girls who worked there were murdered by the Japanese during the war. The story concerns one of our out sentries who was taken by one of their ‘bhuts’ who hated soldiers. The sentry disappeared completely and no amount of tracking or searching could find him so he was assumed to be dead. He turned up again some three weeks later completely in rags and unable to give any account of what it happened to him.

  3. Christopher Lavender wrote: “I remember taking C Company of the 1st Battalion to Fiji in 1982. The company had arrived two days earlier and a Rifleman (whose name I sadly forget, but he has been one of Peter Duffell’s orderlies, I think in Belize) fell into a trance while playing the bansuli [wooden flute] in the lines. We could do nothing to bring him out of this coma and send him to Lautoka Hospital where he was put on a drip. Our one Lama told us that he could do nothing ( he was the wrong type of Lama he said ) – so we arranged for medevac to HKG. Meanwhile a Fijian corporal who was guarding the camp suggested we approach Fijian witch doctor who turned out to be a witch doctoress! I thought we had little to lose so with my 2IC (Debbahadur) we called on her and she agreed to see him. After visiting him and sitting a while, caressing his arm and speaking to him in Fijian, she said he would be OK again in 3 days. I visited each evening after she had spent the best part of each day at his bedside, and when I arrived on the third evening the bed was empty! He then returned from the loo and said ‘Hello Saheb’. She had done the trick – but heaven knows how. He could not remember anything since playing the bansuli. He had had a spell put on him in Nepal by a Jankri for having an affair while he was married and had been told he would die on or around the date he arrived in Fifi. Bizarre!!”

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