WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 4.5/5
Ruskin Bond is a household name in India. He is a living legend and he continues to inspire millions of Indians with his stories. “The Laughing Skull” by him is a book which I recently got a chance to read and enjoyed thoroughly. The book is a collection of short stories most of which are based on ghosts and paranormal elements. Most of the stories are based in the hills of Shimla, Mussoorie, and Dehradun while a few are based in places like Agra and Orissa.
Though there were many stories which piqued my interest, there were a few which left an everlasting impact. Among them, Susanna’s Seven Husbands, Bhoot-Aunty, A Face in the Dark, He Said it with Arsenic and Pret in the House were my favourites.
“Susanna’s Seven Husbands” as many Bollywood enthusiasts would be aware of is the story on which Priyanka Chopra’s famous horror movie “Saat Khoon Maaf” is based. It is a story of a woman who married seven times and all of whose husbands ended up dead under mysterious circumstances. Nobody ever knew how they died but most guessed that Susanna had really creative ways of disposing of them once she grew weary of them. It is said that the ghost of Susanna still roams in and around her haunted house, looking for potential husbands.
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“Bhoot-Aunty” is also a story of a woman ghost who tricks unsuspecting passengers on their way to Sanjauli into giving her lift. Once she has been with them, terrible accidents happen to those who gave her lifts, while she disappears just as mysteriously as she appears before them.
“A Face in the Dark” is yet another of those bone-chilling stories that won’t let you sleep peacefully in the night. It talks about the encounter with a teacher with a horrible and scary apparition in the dark – a student with no face, no eyes, ears, mouth or nose. On seeing the apparition, the teacher runs for his life only to know that this was just the beginning of his nightmare.
“He Said it with Arsenic” is not as such a ghost story but still is a quite interesting one and definitely has an aura of mystery around it. It is the story of a young man who would use poison to get rid of all his relatives over a period of multiple years, in order to lay claim to their estates.
“Pret in the House” is a ghost story with a funny twist. This ghost, though scary to the people whom he torches, is actually quite funny and entertaining to its readers. Thus, it is quite a fun to read about the misadventures and treacheries of this mischievous ghost.
“The Laughing Skull”, overall, is an entertaining read and all the stories evoke different emotions. While some invoke chill, others invoke laughter; while some let you brood, others let you wander over the eccentricities of the after-world. In the end, I rate this book four and a half out of five stars and thereby recommend it to all my readers. This is a classic Ruskin Bond indeed!