Tuesday Terror! The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor by B.M. Croker

Colonial spookiness...

After last week’s terror, the porpy and I fled to India to escape from all these English haunted houses. But alas! We forgot that Victorian India was full of British Imperialists, and it seems they had taken their ghosts with them! So here’s a chilling little tale of the fate that may await the unwary traveller, for this week’s…

The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor
by B.M. Croker

Bithia Mary Croker
Winner of the FF Award
for
Best Hat in an Author Pic

(The helpful notes in my OWC copy tell me that dâk bungalows were a kind of hostel for travellers placed at staging posts on mail delivery routes.)

“And so you two young women are going off on a three days’ journey, all by yourselves, in a bullock tonga, to spend Christmas with your husbands in the jungle?”

Indeed they are – our narrator, Nellie Loyd, and her friend, Julia Goodchild, are young and romantic enough to find the prospect exciting. Their older friend, Mrs Duff, is wiser, and perhaps has been married long enough to find she can bear her husband’s absence at Christmas with fortitude. She asks the two young women if they know their route, and Julia replies that her husband has sent them a plan…

….“We go straight along the trunk road for two days, stopping at Korai bungalow the first night and Kular the second, you see; then we turn off to the left on the Old Jubbulpore Road and make a march of twenty-five miles, halting at a place called Chanda. Frank and Mr. Loyd will meet us there on Christmas Day.”
….“Chanda — Chanda,” repeated Mrs. Duff, with her hand to her head. “Isn’t there some queer story about a bungalow near there — that is unhealthy — or haunted — or something?”

Haunted! How the two secretly laugh at their friend! Haunted, indeed!

Mrs. Duff had set her face against our expedition all along; she wanted us to remain in the station and spend Christmas with her, instead of going this wild-goose chase into a part of the district we had never been in before. She assured us that we would be short of bullocks, and would probably have to walk miles; she had harangued us on the subject of fever and cholera and bad water, had warned us solemnly against dacoits, and now she was hinting at ghosts.

The first day’s trek goes well and, as pre-arranged, there are fresh bullocks ready at each stop to take them on the next stage. But on the second day, they find themselves in rougher territory, and Mrs Duff’s predictions begin to seem less silly. Finally they arrive at a stop where there are no fresh bullocks to be had so, leaving their servant Abdul behind to follow when he can get some, the women walk on ahead. After a few miles they arrive at a village…

There were the usual little mud hovels, shops displaying, say, two bunches of plantains and a few handfuls of grain, the usual collection of gaunt red pariah dogs, naked children, and unearthly-looking cats and poultry.

When Abdul finally arrives it is only to tell them that he can’t find fresh bullocks, so they must stay in this place overnight while the tired ones rest. But happily, he informs them, there is a dâk bungalow in the village, and so, although the villagers seem to be warning them not to, they make their way there,…

There was a forlorn, desolate, dismal appearance about the place; it looked as if it had not been visited for years . . . At length an old man in dirty ragged clothes, and with a villainous expression of countenance, appeared from some back cook house, and seemed anything but pleased to see us.

It’s worse inside, all cobwebby and mouldy and full of bats and smelling of earth. Thank goodness the women have some natives they can order to clean up and cook for them! And soon the place is all cosy and they retire to bed (while the natives sleep outside on the verandah). But, in the darkest part of the night, Nellie starts awake and, to her astonishment, sees…

There was a man in the room, apparently another traveller, who appeared to be totally unaware of our vicinity, and to have made himself completely at home . . . I leant up on my elbow and gazed at the intruder in profound amazement. He did not notice me, no more than if I had no existence…

Things are about to get spooky!

* * * * *

This is an enjoyable little tale, with a great mix of mild horror and light humour. The ghost story is pretty standard fare, but the setting gives it added interest, especially since the author pokes a little fun at the colonial arrogance of our heroines. Apparently Croker herself was the wife of a British official out in India, so her descriptions of Anglo-Indian attitudes feel authentic. Nellie and Julia are great fun – they enjoy their lives, they don’t fear this vast, strange land, assuming that their British superiority will protect them from all dangers, and they’re ripe for adventure. But they’re not expecting ghostly visions in the middle of the night – that’s a little too much even for them! However, they pretty much solve the mystery of the bungalow before their husbands turn up, and after a diet of woman-as-swooning-victim in my recent horror reads, these two made very refreshing companions. I’ve never come across Croker before but I would be happy to meet her again – though hopefully in daylight…

I read this in Late Victorian Gothic Tales, kindly provided for review by Oxford World’s Classics. So far I’ve only dipped into it but will review it fully later. But if you’d like to read this story online, here’s a link…

The porpentine’s Indian cousin is less used to ghosts, so more easily scared…

Fretful Porpentine rating:   😯 😯 😯

Overall story rating:           😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

34 thoughts on “Tuesday Terror! The Dâk Bungalow at Dakor by B.M. Croker

  1. Oh what fun! 😂 I love the idea of these stalwart British ladies ploughing through the jungle to meet their husbands for Christmas 😂 I am struggling to be afeard of this one; it sounds an absolute hoot! But a gentle introduction for Porpy’s Indian relative perhaps 🦔

    • I loved Nellie and Julia – they’re so different from most Victorian horror heroines! I felt that trekking through India on a bullock cart with them would be great fun. 😀 It has it’s spooky moments, but it was the entertaining characterisation that made it for me. The porpy thinks his cousin is a total wuss… 😉

  2. “A bungalow near there — that is unhealthy — or haunted”–that makes me giggle. Gotta watch out for those unhealthy bungalows! Probably not taking care of themselves–doing too much.

    Nice to meet Porpy’s cousin, though I’m glad I’m at a distance. Those quills make him (or her? not sure) look like the iron throne in Game of Thrones.

    • Hahaha! Well, I’d feel a bit unhealthy too if I had bats living inside me! *shudders*

      Interesting! I thought he was doing a peacock impersonation. Porpy just thought he was a wuss… (I think Porpy is secretly a British Imperialist… 😉 )

  3. This does sound like fun, FictionFan! I was thinking as I was reading your post that at least these two young ladies have some courage and brains, which is quite refreshing. The setting appeals, too, especially as you say Croker pokes fun at the colonial attitudes of the ti me. Those Victorians knew how to tell a good ghost story, didn’t they?

    • It was such a delight to spend time with two such capable and practical young heroines after all these fainting females in Braddon! I did like the subtle way she made us laugh at the colonial attitudes even though her treatment of the heroines was very affectionate. Nice to know that some of the Brits in India were aware of their little flaws! Yup! I love these Victorians! 😀

  4. Oh, my, what a bonnet! How did ladies back in the day keep their hair poofy when they wore hats like that?? This sounds like a grand tale — not too terrifying and with strong, interesting characters. I didn’t know the porpy had an Indian cousin, but what a fierce-looking batch of quills he/she has!!

    • I suspect it’s a wig! 😉 Haha – isn’t the hat great though? Yes, I loved this one – spooky rather than scary and the characters were so much fun to spend time with. Ha – I think that Indian porpy was just showing off to make our Porpy jealous! But Porpy just looked down on him with true British Imperialist disdain… 😀

    • I was filled with joy when I saw the hat – it rounded off perfectly my new-found love for Madame Croker! It’s one of my greatest life disappointments that we only ever get to wear ridiculous hats at weddings or Ascot…

  5. When the villagers warn you, you should listen to them! I’m surprised they found any willing to clean up the bungalow for them! 😂 It sounds like a fun story.

    • Haha – I loved the way they simply dismissed the villagers as superstitious natives – they soon learned their mistake! 😂 Great fun – the two heroines were so different from most of the fainting females in Victorian horror…

  6. What a hat! I’m glad to hear the author had some perspective (and humour) in Brits in India. Sometimes these old colonial stories are so painful to read! I’ve never visited India but my understanding is that there are probably still places two women shouldn’t travel alone (though not because of ghosts).

    • Isn’t it astonishing? I want one just like it! 😉 Yes, I loved that she poked a bit of fun at colonial attitiudes – it’s good to know that some of the Brits there at the time could see their own flaws. Ha – I must say I was considerably more worried for them when they were wandering along deserted roads alone than when they were sleeping in the haunted bungalow!

  7. Ooh, so there are ghosts in India as well? I wasn’t aware of that… This one actually does sound fun, I like there is a bit of humour in the story as well. And the porpentine’s Indian cousin is gorgeous!

    • It’s started me wondering if there’s an Indian tradition of ghost stories – must check! This was very much a British story though, just transplanted to the Empire. Gave it a different feeling, and the characterisation added a lot of fun. Shhh! Don’t let Porpy hear you saying that – he’ll be so jealous… 🦔

  8. Croker is a new one on me. It sounds more on the comedic side of horror, so I think I would probably like it, as I can’t say I am into the full blown variety of that genre. Could you please describe the hat to me? Thanks.

    • I love when there’s an aspect of humour mixed in with horror, and this one was very entertaining. Apparently Croker was quite successful as an author, writing novels based in India as well as ghost stories. Must see if I can track any of her stuff down. Haha – it’s wonderful! First, you have to know Ms Croker is one of these imposing, bosomy ladies of a certain age dressed in full Victorian splendour. Her hair is a kind of massive bouffant up-do, white, and then perched on top is the hat – black with a reasonably wide brim, and the crown, which looks as if it’s covered in something like soft fur or feathers, must be ten inches high! Then, in case that’s not enough it has a big sort of rosette on the front topped off with two massive feathery things that look like giant overblown flowers! It’s quite something – I want one just like it… 😂

    • She looks like a no-nonsense sort of woman, doesn’t she? Whatever you think of empires, you have to admire these women who went off to make homes for their husbands all over the world. 😀

  9. Thanks for the link. I did enjoy the bright young women and their naively courageous attitude in foreign places. I thought that Ms Croker’s hat and Porpy’s quill display showed a similar sense of style!

    • They’re fun heroines, aren’t they? And after a diet of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s enjoyable but tragic heroines they were extremely refreshing! Hahaha – yes, there is a similarity there – neither of them looks like the shrinking violet type…

  10. I like the sound of the touch of humour in this one, espeically those ladies! Victorian women going off together for an adventure? You don’t get much of that back then so it sounds like a breath of fresh air 🙂

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