India's own ghostbuster dies mysteriously. Who was Gaurav Tiwari?
Gaurav Tiwari, India's most popular paranormal researcher and the founder of the Indian Paranormal Society, was found dead at his home on 7 July.
The police believe that the 31-year old committed suicide. However, his family has rejected this theory, claiming that Tiwari had no reason to kill himself.
His postmortem report suggests he died of asphyxia.
Police have said that Tiwari was found dead "under mysterious circumstances". His family has told the media that "a negative spirit was pulling him towards itself".
Here is a video of Tiwari's probe into Rajasthan's Bhangarh fort. He proved that the fort was not haunted, an investigation that helped gain global recognition in 2011.
News of Tiwari's death comes just days after he made it to the cover of Youth Incorporated magazine. Tiwari was featured in the July edition of the magazine, along with Shipra Khanna - the winner of Master Chef - Arunima Sinha - the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest - and a number of other young achievers.
'Knowledge kills fear'
The 31-year-old leaves behind him a legacy of rationality in the study of the paranormal.
However, not many know that Tiwari only made a foray into the world of paranormal research in 2003. Tiwari had his first brush with the paranormal when he was training to be a commercial pilot in Texas in 2003. He had then reported seeing an apparition of a young girl in the room that he was sharing with a few friends - leading him to believe that the room was haunted.
Tiwari soon became fascinated with the world of the paranormal. He went on to complete a Certified Paranormal Investigator course. Before he returned to India, he had already participated in 80 investigations involving the paranormal. In 2009, he set up the Indian Paranormal Society.
In his 13-year-long career as a paranormal researcher, Tiwari has visited over 6,000 spots across the world that are believed to be 'haunted'.
The researcher became a household name in India after he appeared on television - starting with MTV show Girls Night Out, where women visited places that were believed to be haunted. The show, touted to be India's first ever paranormal reality show, went on to win the Best Reality Show in the Asian Television Awards, Singapore, in 2011.
Tiwari's last television outing was Zee's Fear Files, where he was credited as a paranormal expert.
While his shows raked in the TRPs, Tiwari had a deeper purpose behind his TV appearances. He was vocal about his aim to educate people about the "scientific reasons" behind the unknown. "Knowledge kills fear" was his motto.
"The first step on research on spirits is to truly recognise the spirit that exists within us," Tiwari had once said.
'Don't disrespect the dead'
Unlike other popular paranormal investigators, Tiwari's idea of research on the paranormal was imbued with a deep sense of empathy.
He had a deep aversion for terms like "pret, chudail" etc - which are often used in India to describe evil spirits. He was of the opinion that the dead must not be disrespected by using such words.
He once told dna in an interview:
"For us, spirits are the consciousness of a human being that survives physical death. They carry the same emotions, feelings, perception as they had while living. However, we have encountered some mean spirits whose nature matches with those entities defined by religion, such as prets, chudails, pishach, jinns etc."
Tiwari had a philosophical explanation for why some people face paranormal activities more than others.
In a post on his Facebook page, he said:
"Have you ever thought what you have acquired in your life was manifestation of your intensions and thoughts? We get what we intend for! Majority of the paranormal cases are mere manifestation of the worries and intention to feel, see, or to blame something or someone. I often tell my clients to take their responsibility rather than blaming spirits for their loss."
In one of his blogs, titled Spirit Possession - A reality? he writes about how a young girl was "possessed" by a man named Ajeet.
Tiwari writes that the girl's family had asked him to intervene. After a few initial hiccups, he managed to strike up a conversation with the "possessed" girl, who allegedly refused to speak unless she was given a glass of blood.
Upon asking the girl's father if he knew an Ajeet, Tiwari found that the girl had rebuffed the advances of a man named Ajeet a few years ago. The man had committed suicide soon after. Tiwari said that the girl was living with a sense of guilt and that it had manifested into an act of possession that was fuelled further by her emotional fragility.
No ghosts, no black magic, no cinema-worthy heroic exorcism. Plain psychology.
A few exceptions
But not all paranormal phenomenon can be explained, Tiwari says.
In the TV show, Haunting Australia, Tiwari shared screen space with renowned ghostbusters like Allen Tiller. The show took him to the Aradale Lunatic Asylum in South Australia, a place that Tiwari would later call one of the most haunted places he has visited. He told dna:
"But the most haunted place that I've ever investigated is the Aradale Lunatic Asylum in Ararat, South Australia. This is the place where 10,000 lunatic patients died. This place is so haunted that even the Australian government has allotted it for ghost tourism. I have collected numerous significant evidences of spiritual existence at this place including a picture of a full body apparition of the famous ghost Nurse Carrey, who has been reported by many visitors. This was the place where I can really say I had a hair-raising experience."
The legacy of a 'ghostbuster'
Tiwari, who was always armed with a rational outlook, chose to perceive the "fear of unknown," as a mental challenge instead.
That is perhaps why he was also interested in studying UFO sightings. "A Spiritual/Life/Relationship Counselor/Hypnotist, Paranormal / UFO Researcher," is how he described himself.
Tiwari often criticised the media for dismissing UFO sightings as hoaxes.
It might be difficult for many of us to believe in all that Tiwari said. But in a country that has lived on tales of "chudail, pret and aatma", while often standing knee-deep in the throes of superstition and witch-hunting, Tiwari has managed to infuse a culture of rationality in our understanding of the unknown.
From unexplained apparitions to hoaxes, here are a few snapshots of Tiwari's findings: