ENCOUNTER WITH A GHOST

Ceylon Today 29 March 2016

Every Sunday morning Koralawella – Modara Road turned into a 'fashion parade' as Catholics put on their best attire and walked all the way to St. Michael's church. Coorey was a devout Catholic and never missed Sunday Mass or any festivals of St. Michael's Church. He committed a sin though after returning home from Church Mass on certain Sundays.

 Coorey always looked forward to his sumptuous lunch on Sundays after working hard throughout the week as a stenographer. Stenographer was an American terms used in 'Ceylon' at the time for 'short-hand typists'. The majority of such workers were men before the emergence of female Secretaries and Personal Assistants. Some men worked in offices as copy typists too and the ' superior' lot was known as Stenographers.

 Coorey always donned the European suit to work. He walked to the Koralawella Railway Station to travel to Colombo by CGR locomotives. Being particular about getting his suit soiled, he always carried a men's handkerchief to place on the wooden seat of the train, however, at the end of each journey hundreds of globules of burnt coal had flown in the air and deposited on his lap.

 Sunday Special

 Coorey on his return from the Church on Sundays got into a comfortable sarong and walked towards the chicken pen at the backyard and grabbed a young male chick (naamba). Then proceeded to a corner and placed the poor creature on the ground and trampled both its legs with one foot, gripped the bird's neck from the head with one hand and severed the neck from the body with the other using a sharp knife. In a jiffy the separated body of the chicken kept on bouncing for some time. Afterwards he went to his armchair while his wife prepared chicken curry out of it! In the meanwhile his neighbour Silva came for a chat, drink and to have lunch with him.

 Silva and Coorey were best of friends more than being neighbours. They always spent their spare time over a drink in the evenings and especially during Sunday lunchtime. There were no TVs then, so the bottle of 'Pol Arrack' served as their only entertainment. It was during such 'drinking sessions' that various experiences and stories emerged.

 Face to Face with Devil

Although it was years after Coorey had come face to face with a 'real devil', one could see his countenance change while goose pimples on his body rising as he related the gruesome experience years later.

 Coorey apparently had visited his long-term friend Mendis one night to compliment and greet the new addition to his friend's family- a newborn baby at home with the help of a midwife. For Coorey it was a duty on his part more than an obligation to pay such a visit according the customs and traditions that prevailed at the time.

 His friend Mendis lived within the reach of Moratuwa Town Centre, on a side road called Francisco Lane. As one turned into Francisco Lane, the Anglican Church occupied the vast area of the adjoining plot of land which ran parallel to Francisco Lane, passing the church building and its cemetery. Although there were one or two street lamps along Francisco Lane one had to walk a fair distance from the main tarred road, passing the cemetery area, to reach the residential patch.

 Coorey could never refuse Mendis's request to have a 'couple of shots' before dinner. Seemingly a couple of drinks turned into a full session even after dinner till late hours of the night. When both realized it was close upon mid-night Coorey panicked and bid good night to Mendis and wife and stepped out, on to Francisco Lane. Walking briskly along Francisco Lane, parallel to the cemetery, he hoped to reach the tarred road quickly. Taxis or cabs were never heard of those days, which meant he had to walk nearly one and a half miles to his home at dead of night alone.

 Dutch Courage

While Coorey was in a jolly good mood being fully intoxicated with liquor, he was half way through, after passing the cemetery area, when he heard the footsteps of another person following him.

With Dutch courage he proceeded without looking back as he had heard people say never to look back in such situations! So, he continued his walk briskly while footsteps followed him. To cultivate courage and self-confidence he had to come out with the cream of Sinhala to rid of any possible devils, as he had also heard swearing in Sinhala has an exorcising effect on such Boothayas. When he came under a street lamppost on Francisco Lane he slightly turned his head to an angle when he could not believe his own eyes!

 According to his description it was a pitch-black figure, similar to that of a human being, that followed him but keeping its distance. He described it as very much akin to the masks people hang on their walls with jutting out elongated curved teeth, popping out eyes with long hair. (Ri Ri Yaka). Needless to say he became sober instantly and started to perspire. Pulling out his Rosary to his hand and praying to his Lord he displayed his Dutch courage to the devil without showing any signs of fear or excitement until he safely landed on the main road.

 It was an exceptional experience of a human being coming face to face with a devil. Many might not believe his story, but anyone who had seen his change of countenance and the goose pimples that stood on his body while he revealed the experience would only be convinced to what extent Coorey had been petrified having seen a ghost with naked eyes despite all the 'spirit' he had out of a bottle.

 It is common knowledge that such Boothays are present near bathing wells, cattle farms and especially at houses immediately after childbirth – which is known as getting caught to 'killa'

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