It is a massive structure, battered and dilapidated and really looks like a haunted place. Though some people still live here, most part of this huge building is abandoned, unsafe, creepy and locked. Popularly known as ‘Putul Bari’, it is also known as the ‘House of Dolls’. Located very near to the Shobhabazar Jetty, this age old colossal edifice is situated at 22 Hara Chandra Mullick Lane, by the side of the Circular Railway track.
Long ago, at the turn of the 20th century, when Hooghly River was navigable, Calcutta was regarded as a definite port to call for export and import. Loaded with various items, oceanic vessels from various overseas countries, as well as the Country boats from other parts of India used to make a halt at the Ghats of Ahiritola and Sobhabazar to unload. As those huge unloaded items, consisting mainly of perishable goods like Jute, Rice, Spices, Silks and others, could not be kept in open space for a long time, gigantic warehouses were consequently constructed along the Strand Road for their storage. Putul Bari was one of those warehouses. However, why a magnificent building like Putul Bari was constructed solely to serve the purpose of an ordinary warehouse, like the other warehouses constructed along Strand Road, is really an enigma. The actual reason as to why such a delicately decorated structure was built merely for providing temporary shelter to the imported items is really lost in the mists of time.
Putul Bari was once served as a shooting location for Roland Joffe’s movie ‘City of Joy’. In all probability, the building earned the name due to the beautiful classical statues standing at the top of the building. Even today, when the long ignored structure stands in a battered and ruinous condition, it is difficult to ignore the huge building with its intricate detailing in stucco and plaster.
Though basically it was a warehouse, the marble-lined top floor of the building was once used by the owner for fun and pleasure. It is said that the ‘Babu’, the wealthy person, who owned the place in those misty days of ‘Babu Culture’, used this place to enjoy performances by the Baijis with his friends and also used to exploit young women to satisfy his illicit sexual urge. It is believed that once a young woman was murdered here, after she was sexually assaulted and since then the spirits of that helpless murdered woman is still hovering and haunting the place for justice and revenge.
Built in Roman style and ornamented with beautifully crafted dolls of antique designs standing along the desolate terrace, is sure to send a chilling sensation through the spine of a person visiting the almost deserted huge building in a shady afternoon. The sound of the century old staircase creaking under the weight of the ascending feet, would plead the visitor not to move an inch further.
It may sound strange, but Putul Bari is the home of Natta Family, the family who are the owners of the famous Natta Jatra Company. The office of the Natta Company was on the third floor. However, Sri Makhan Lal Natta, who acquired the property in 1978, passed away in 2015. The other tenants of the building do not have any means or interest about the maintenance of the neglected building.
Today, there is a huge board in front the building, indicating prohibition of trespassing inside the building. It also states that there is no ghost in the building and nobody should disturb the residents for verification of the rumours about the presence of ghosts in the place or spread any such rumour. According to the locals, the media is fully responsible for spreading the baseless rumours around the old building and branding it as a haunted house. Probably, it was pre-planned and purposely created by people of vested interest, so that the residents vacate the place in a panic and the property can be promoted for a high rise building. The locals also confirmed that the poor residents of the building are regularly questioned and harassed by the so called ghost-hunters, however they have never witnessed any supernatural phenomenon in the house.
The magnificent, but dilapidated Putul Bari, still standing by the side of the Circular Railway track in a sad and pathetic condition, calls for immediate attention and unless proper action is taken within a short time, we may lose it forever.