Mussoorie Mystery - Hotel Savoy

Ruskin Bond's spooky tales have been always class apart, mostly places around Mussoorie and Doon Valley. After reading two of his stories "In a crystal ball - A Mussoorie Mystery" and "Ghosts of Savoy", I wanted to explore the hotel Savoy in Mussoorie.

What's the reason that once India’s most popular hotel turned in to India’s most haunted hotel. More than 100 years old heritage hotel without any ghost story, how it could be possible? Many believe the ghost of Miss Granett-Orme still haunts the hotel and she can be seen even in the day time. Many people believe the royal Ballroom of the hotel comes alive at night, they have heard melodies music coming out of piano and seen chandelier swaying back and fourth.

The hotel is spread over 11 acres and currently has 50 rooms (undergoing renovation and then plan is have 100+ room).Very difficult to get booking during peak tourist season. I planned to stay in Mussoorie for 3 days, Friday to Sunday and I wanted to stay in Savoy for experiencing its spookiness. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any rooms there for 3 days when I looked at all booking websites. Maybe because of the weekend. Finally, I managed to get the booking done at Sterling that was 2 km from Library chowk and mall road. Friday evening while roaming around Mall road, I decided to explore hotel Savoy. It was walkable distance from Mussoorie Library chowk.

The moment you see the building you will be amazed by its design, architecture, and quality of the woodwork of the hotel. Cant take eye of the chandelier at the dining room and the elegance of the writer’s bar.

Night time with all the lights on, Hotel looked beautiful,  I was excited and hoping to encounter miss Granett-Orme. While having tea at the dining room, I thought of asking one of the waiters about hotel's reputation as one the most haunted place. I was bit hesitant initially but I took my chances. Waiter smiled and said it’s not true and it's all rumors. Maybe that’s part of their job to shrug off rumors.

To understand The Savoy and its reputation of being one of the most haunted, one has to go back in time and understand the history of the hill station

Hotel Savoy was opened in 1902. At that time, it was the largest hotel in Mussorrie, and soon became popular amongst the Britishers during the Raj period. It was an era when there was no electricity in Mussoorie, age of candelabras, gas lit street and when the hotel was built, there was no road up from Dehradoon (35 km from Mussoorie), so using bullock cart, a large amount to wood, furniture, grand pianos, billiard tables all were carried uphill. The hotel architecture is a gothic style and mostly built using wood. Its more than 100 years but still has not lost its charms. it's guest list included Nehru, Dalai Lama, kings of Nepal and various Maharaja (before independence)

In 1912 Rudyard Kipling (remember the Jungle book) wrote a letter to Sir Arthur Connen Doyle (Yes!! Best known for his Sherlock Holmes fictions).Here is the opening word of the letter

There has been a murder in India, a murder by suggestion at Mussoorie which is one of the most curious things in its line on the record. Everything that is improbable and on the face of it impossible is in that case. 

Which murder case he was talking about? Why it's so mysterious?

For that, we will have to go back to the summer of 1911, when 49 years old Miss Frances Granett-Orme and her friend Miss Eva Mountstephen came to stay in Mussoorie..Miss Granett-Orme had seen a very tough life and attracted to spirituality. She used to roam around India restlessly in the hope of communicating with her lost love and parents. In Lucknow she met Miss Mountstephen a spiritualist. It was told that Miss Mounstephen was an expert in crystal gazing and occult. Because of the common interest between the two of them, they both lived together for many years. 

In September 1911, Eva returned to Lucknow for some work. While Eva was still away, Miss Granett-Orme found dead in bed on the morning of 19th September. The interesting thing was, the door was locked from inside and an empty glass on her bedside table. An autopsy was performed and the verdict was death by poisoning. It was Purric acid aka hydrogen cyanide, quick-acting acid, once consume the cells in the body die because of they no longer able to use oxygen and produce energy. It was well known to everyone in the hotel that Miss Garnett-Orme was suffered from indigestion and used to take medicine before retiring to bed. Could the poison have been introduced into medicine bottles or glass of water? During the police investigation, a nursemaid in the hotel reported a shadowy figure slipping through a sky-light and over the roof. But Police dismissed that claim initially. 

After several weeks, the police arrested Eva Mountstephen. She had a convincing alibi that she was in Lucknow. The police went into different directions and suggested that she had used some sort of occult, that influence Miss Garnett-Orme to take the medicine with poison at a particular time. The trial started in March 1912 at Allahabad and it was sensational, because of police claim of murder by remote- control. After going through all the pieces of evidence, hearing about occults, crystal gazing, finally the court found Miss Eva innocent.

Murder or Suicide? After Miss Eva acquitted due to lack of evidence, no other investigation was performed and this case is never resolved. Miss Eva later applied for probate of her friend's will but Miss Garnett-Orme's family sent her brother to contest the claim in Allahabad court. Miss Garnett-Orme's brother won the case and disappointed Miss Eva had to return to London. You can read more about the case here 

There was another puzzling thing happened after 2 months, when Mr Charles Jackson, a mutual friend of two women also died. He was found to die in similar passion with the same kind of poison.

We don't know when the haunting started in Hotel Savoy and when people started a claim of seeing Miss Garnett-Orme's ghost, The Hotel itself has seen many worst days, it was left abounded for some time, many ownership changes, renovation and finally in 2009 it was acquired by ITC Welcomgroup.  

2 hours I spent there was more like exploring the hotel, admiring its architecture and hoping to encounter something paranormal. Haunted or not, I can't say anything now. I would love to go there again, spend a couple of nights and then I can give my verdict.

p.s. - This murder mystery inspired Agatha Christie to write her first novel "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". Similar plot, where the poisoner was far away by the time her victim reached the fatal dose, the poison having precipitated to the bottom of the mixture.

No comments