Ghost stories often surround places with a high death toll. Haunted houses and hiking trails are some of the most popular destinations, with hauntings being traced back to someone dying in the years past. It’s strange, then, that there isn’t more discussion about one of the deadliest places in the world—the Himalayan mountain range.
The Himalayas are home to the tallest and deadliest mountains in the world—Mount Everest and K2. Mount Everest success stories can be glorious, but those of failure are devastating. Well, over 200 people have died while attempting to climb Mount Everest alone, with even more dying while trying to climb K2. Since the first successful attempt at climbing K2 in 1954, over 25% of attempts have ended in deaths.
Ten of the fourteen tallest mountains are located in the Himalayas, which means that they serve as one of the largest burial grounds in the world. We use the term “burial” loosely, as the bodies of the dead are never retrieved. They sit frozen and forgotten, only to be seen by climbers who are forced to step over their corpses.
There are quite a few stories of spiritual encounters while people are traversing the Himalayas and even more of people dying in a tragic fashion. If there was ever a haunted place on earth, why wouldn’t it be the tallest and deadliest mountain range?
15. Frank Smythe’s Story
A common story from those who have climbed these tall mountains is that they get an overwhelming feeling that they are not alone. Frank Smythe climbed Everest multiple times in the 1930’s and may have been the first person to experience this phenomenon.
Smythe was making his way down the mountain from his highest point when he started to feel like someone else was with him. It wasn’t just a sense but an overwhelming truth, leading Smythe to break up some of his mint cake for the invisible traveler by his side.
Further on, Smythe looked up to see dark objects hovering in the air. One appeared to have stout, growing wings and the other had a small beak. He tried to orient himself by naming the peaks around him, but when he looked back at the beings, they were still there.
14. The Stranger
One of the most terrifying stories of ghosts in the Himalayas comes from a military outpost in the Baralacha La pass in the Zanskar range. Three soldiers were stranded at the outpost during a harsh winter. Help arrived when the weather cleared, but the rescue team was shocked at what they found.
As the story goes, a fourth man, one who had not been initially with the soldiers, was in the middle of devouring one of the corpses when the rescue team barged in. The man was surrounded by dismembered bodies and puddles of blood. He moved to attack the rescue team, prompting them to shoot the man to death.
Since then, people have reported seeing a man holding a bloody knife in this range, as well as soldiers covered in blood. Some even claim to have been chased by this man, along with the accompanying screams, whispers, and shadows.
13. Pemba Dorje
The Sherpas are the ones who are tasked with helping regular people ascend the Himalayas, namely Mount Everest. In 2004, Pemba Dorje (allegedly—it’s impossible to confirm other than his word) recorded the fastest ascent in the history of the mountain. When he came back down, though, he had a supernatural experience to share.
According to Pemba Dorje, he encountered “black shadows” near the top of the mountain. He claims that the shadows reached out to him, and he could hear that they wanted food.
Pemba believes that these are the spirits of people who have died on the mountain—a claim that isn’t isolated and isn’t hard to believe. He says that these spirits will continue to haunt the mountain range until their bodies are laid to rest.
12. Mohan Singh’s Encounter
Mohan Singh, a resident of a Himalayan village called Bemni, says that he encountered one of the mountain’s ghosts while chopping wood in the forest.
According to Singh, a spirit approached him and asked why he was cutting down trees. Before Singh could provide an answer, Singh claims that the sky went black and the spirit grabbed him. The two wrestled while the spirit grew and shrank. Singh claims that the spirit shrunk to about a foot tall and back up to almost ten feet.
Singh ran back to the village after escaping the spirit and told the community his tale. He said that he felt as though the spirit possessed him, and an exorcism was performed to rid Singh of the invading spirit from his body.
11. The Third Climber
Many of the ghost stories that take place near the top of these dangerous mountains are not malicious. There is enough to contend with up there without ghosts trying to spook you. The stories are often focused on a comforting presence rather than an angry one.
Dougal Haston and Doug Scott felt the “phantom climber” phenomenon when they were in dire condition below the summit of Everest in 1975. They were low on food and facing a storm—something that has spelled death for many of the climbers who reach this point.
The two dug a hole to protect themselves from the elements. They were freezing and expecting to die in their hole when they felt a third presence with them. The invisible climber calmed them down and gave them advice on what to do next, effectively saving their lives.
10. Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air, retells his story of what has become known as the worst disaster in mountaineering history. Krakauer and his team were hit by a storm when traversing Mount Everest, which killed eight climbers and stranded everyone else on the mountain.
Krakauer’s real-life story is terrifying, but he also includes a supernatural encounter he had while descending to safety. On his way down, Krakauer came across his fellow climber and friend, Andy Harris. Krakauer pointed Harris toward their camp, but he never returned to his tent. It wasn’t until later that Krakauer found out that Harris had fallen off the mountain to his death.
9. Ghost Soldier
One supernatural explanation for the phantom climber phenomenon could stem from a story out of the 1960’s. Sepoy Harbhajan Singh was an officer with the Punjab Regiment. He was assigned to patrol the Nathula pass near the Sino-Indian border. In 1968, it was believed that he fell into a river and died.
The search team couldn’t find Singh’s body until he appeared to two of his fellow soldiers in a dream. In that dream, Singh said that he would continue to patrol the area in spirit form and included the location of his body. The search team located the body in the exact spot the two soldiers dreamed of.
Multiple accounts of a “ghost rider” were made after that, with some saying he traveled at super-human speeds and vanished into thin air. Apparently, he continued to appear in dreams as well to give his men tips on undefended areas of their camp.
8. Bodies Still Remain
Climbing any mountain in the Himalayas is extremely dangerous. Everest gets the most attention for its death toll, but the Himalayas are home to ten of the 14 tallest peaks in the world. People die while attempting to scale these mountains on a regular basis.
Death is commonplace in these mountains; so common that it’s often ignored. When someone dies while scaling one of these mountains, there is virtually no way to retrieve that person’s body. There isn’t exactly a coroner’s office at the peak of Mount Everest, which means that when someone dies on the mountain, their body stays where it lands.
No one knows how many bodies lie on Mount Everest, but it’s said to be over 200. Because it’s so cold on the top of the mountain, the bodies remain largely intact long after they’re dead.
7. Hermann Buhl’s Ghost Climber
As previously stated, one of the most common ghostly encounters on these mountains involves a helpful spirit that offers assistance to climbers in trouble. Hermann Buhl was the first person to ascend Nanga Parbat, a mountain in the Himalayas, in 1953. He’s also one of (if not the) first person to encounter the phenomenon of a ghost climbing partner.
31 people had already died attempting to climb Nanga Parbat before Buhl, so he knew that the odds were against him. Buhl’s team had turned back due to the conditions, but Buhl forged on. During his solo ascent, Buhl recounts the feeling of having a second climber there with him. Buhl was never under the impression that the other climber was real–he knew that he was on his own–but he felt the presence all the same.
6. Wanda Rutkiewicz
The story of Wanda Rutkiewicz is one of the strangest on this list and the hardest to explain away. It’s easy to conclude that some of these stories of supernatural encounters in the Himalayas have been induced by the harsh conditions. Sleep deprivation and extreme cold can lead someone to hallucinate, but it’s less likely for someone home in their bed.
Rutkiewicz was the first woman to climb K2 in 1986. She later attempted to climb Kanchenjunga, but died during her ascent. After her death, Rutkiewicz’ friend got a call in the middle of the night. She heard what seemed to be Rutkiewicz on the other end. At this point, Rutkiewicz had been missing but wasn’t confirmed dead, so her friend was happy to hear from her.
Rutkiewicz reportedly told her friend that she was very cold, but that everything would be alright in the end. Her friend asked her to come home, but Rutkiewicz said she couldn’t. The phone went dead before she could say anything else.
5. Julie Tullis
Another climber who is said to have reached out beyond the grave is Julie Tullis. Tullis died while attempting to climb K2 in 1986. She was fatally injured from a fall and was presumed to have died near Camp IV. Her body was never recovered, but that is common for many who die in the same fashion.
It wasn’t until years later, in 1992, that she was heard from again. Thor Kieser and Scott Fisher were at Base Camp when they heard a voice come through the radio. It was a British woman, and the voice said, “Camp IV to Base Camp, do you read? Over.”
The two mountaineers tried to radio back but never got a response. They knew for a fact that no one was at Camp IV at the time, leading many to speculate that it was the ghost of Julie Tullis, warning others not to follow in her footsteps.
4. Unfinished Business
If ghost stories have taught us anything, it’s that ghosts often have unfinished business in this world. If people die with an incomplete goal or guilty conscious, it’s said that they will stick around until they get what they felt they were missing.
Those who failed to climb Mount Everest and other mountains in the Himalayas died in the process. There is no quitting once you get up there; you either make it to the top and back down or you die trying.
The climbers who died on their way to the top certainly have a fair amount of unfinished business. It’s a strange impulse for a person to want to climb the highest mountains in the world, and death is certainly not enough of a deterrent for these people.
3. Local Beliefs
It isn’t just the Sherpas who believe in the spirits that haunt the Himalayas. Most of the villages in and around the Himalayas have some sort of belief in the supernatural power of the mountains.
Many of the villagers, even the educated worldly ones, believe that ghosts roam the mountains and the surrounding country. In fact, one of their biggest fears is to be possessed by one of these restless spirits.
There has been a lot of deaths in these mountains. So, if a person believes in ghosts, it’s silly to think that they wouldn’t be lurking in a place like this. Villagers take serious precautions to avoid encountering these ghosts. Whenever the Sherpas find the dead on the mountain, they make sure to perform a burial ritual to release the spirit, but that is only a small percentage of the people who have died up there. Who better to assess the area for ghosts than the people who spend their lives there?
2. Extreme Conditions
Skeptics are always going to point to outside influences when they hear ghost stories. Tales from the Himalayas are no different. In fact, they are even more scrutinized due to the harsh conditions under which these witnesses encounter spirits.
There are multiple environmental impacts that could lead people to believe that they’re seeing a ghost. The elevation and temperature make it hard to sleep, and there is a laundry list of ways in which a person’s vision can be obstructed.
That being said, some believe that these harsh conditions can actually make a person more vulnerable to an encounter with a real spirit. Our perception of reality is altered in these extreme states, which some say can open the mind to supernatural encounters. In other words, the spirits may have an easier time contacting the living when we’re experiencing extreme stress.
1. The Realm Of Gods
The Sherpas are the ones who are tasked with guiding expeditions to the top of the Himalayan Mountains. As anyone in their position would, the Sherpas are extremely respectful of the mountain. Especially now, they believe that many people who ascend these mountains don’t have the proper respect, which has lead to bad karma.
The Sherpas rely on mountain climbers for a source of income, but that doesn’t mean they always agree with the recreational climbing. They are extremely superstitious, and they believe that the spirits who have died on the mountain are trapped where their bodies lie.
Because of this, the Sherpas are always nervous when someone in their village is gone too long, as their first thought is an encounter with an angry spirit. On top of that, the Sherpas are constantly worrying about dying in the wilderness themselves. If they don’t get a proper burial, according to their beliefs, they will be trapped on the mountain with the rest of the restless souls.
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