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Mystery and History

House of Dolls or House of Terror? An exclusive look at Calcutta’s Infamous “Putul Bari”

“Putul Bari” in north Kolkata is well-known for its ghost sightings and supernatural history. However, is that really the case? Know more here!

Putul Bari

“Putul Bari” literally translates to “The House of Dolls”. Located near the Ahiritala Ghat in Kolkata, this massive heritage building has fallen into disrepair. Amidst its crumbling ruins lies the story of the notorious ‘babus’ of Kolkata and the ghosts of tortured women. How far are these accusations true?

17, Harachandra Mallick Lane, Ahiritala, Sovabazar has a far more popular name – “Putul Bari”. What is this house known for? Eerie sightings, ghostly apparitions, and the spirits of dead women trapped forever inside the walls of this palatial house. But, most importantly, “Putul Bari” is known for its dolls. Let’s see why.

What is it with the dolls of “Putul Bari”?

Now, this story is quite the complicated one. There are several versions of why this house got its name and its reputation. If you look at the top of the building, then you will notice certain doll-like figurines adding to the charm and strangeness of the house. More than a century old, this house got its name from these now broken and dilapidated figurines. This story is very similar to how the “Pari-wala Bari” in Nawabganj, Ichapore, got its name. Guess? From the fairy perched on top of the house!

Another version of events is similar to the story of the Island of Dead Dolls in Mexico. Presumably ‘unearthed’ for the first time in a news article, the claim is that the owner of the house had a daughter. She loved dolls so much that she filled the entire house with hundreds of them. Remind you of Annabelle: Creation (2017) yet? Upon her shocking and premature death, the house was sealed with the dolls inside. According to rumors, her restless spirit still roams the corridors of the romantic ruins.

Why was “Putul Bari” built?

In the early part of the 19th century and the last decades of the 18th century, the trade routes passed through rive routes. Hoogly was one such important river trading route. In lieu of that, Ahiritala and Sovabazar ghats became very essential for merchants. “Putul Bari” was initially used as a godown and storehouse for goods. Close to the Hooghly River, things could be transported as and when required. Spread out over a huge area, “Putul Bari” and several other such houses were built for fast and easy trade.

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In 1869, Baikuntha Natta, founder of the famed Natta Jatra Company, leased out and eventually acquired “Putul Bari” to host performances and hold rehearsals. Baikuntha Natta founded the company in 1914. Originally hailing from Machrang, Barisal (now in Bangladesh), Baikuntha Natta named his troupe of artists “Machrang Baikuntha Natta Samaj”.

An Address for Artists?

Putul Bari

“Putul Bari” soon became the hub of theatre artists and musicians. There were rehearsals and performances. Soirees were held, frequented by the ‘babus’ and elites of the Kolkata gentry of the time. Jatra was a popular and well-loved mode of entertainment and was enjoyed by all the classes in Bengal. In “Putul Bari”, performances were highly sought-after, expensive, private, and exclusive. The house is an architectural marvel and has ornate well-decorated columns, windows, and balustrades, belying the taste that went into decking it up for guests.

However, people claim that several young women were brought to “Putul Bari” and sexually exploited by the ‘babus’ of Bengal, who later had the bodies dumped or buried in the plot behind the house. People have heard the screams and wails of these women echo through the walls of the bungalow. Reminds one of Tagore’s “Khudito Pashan” or “The Hungry Stones”.

Is “Putul Bari” haunted?

The house is crumbling. The plaster has peeled back to reveal the underlying brick structure and peepul trees have made it their home. However, people still live here. And their claim is that ghost hunters keep on bugging them. As do social media influencers, who discover the haunted story of “Putul Bari” at least once every year. There is a board outside the house that tells people not to enter the property and disturb the inhabitants with tales of ghosts and the supernatural. It claims quite simply that there are no ghosts. Even if there are, then those ghosts are their business, and “their business is their business, not our business”

Notably, the last scion of the Natta Jatra Company, Makhan Lal Natta, acquired the house in 1958 and held rehearsals there just like the old days. Fairground for some ghosts to do their haunting, right? Nothing happened!

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Written By

Meghamala Ghosh is a post-graduate from the Department of English Literature at Presidency University, Kolkata. Her interests include films, music, books, and researching obscure historical facts in and around the City of Joy. She is particularly drawn to architectural, social, and entertainment-based journalism, although her passions also extend to academic research on political and cultural issues. In her spare time, she engages in Indian classical music and brushes up on her Shakespeare. Her aspiration is to be a writer who communicates not only through words but also through photography and performance.

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