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There is no dearth of supposedly ‘haunted’ places in Chennai: from Adyar’s Theosophical Society Campus and Broken Bridge to Tambaram’s Madras Christian College, tales of the tormented dead are dime a dozen here. But while most Chennai-ites are quick to dismiss these horror tales, there is one location that no local will take lightly: De Monte Colony.
This secluded and near-abandoned colony has really captured the imagination of Chennai-ites. Over the years, the legends about this place have grown, thanks to word-of-mouth horror tales and even a full-blown feature-length horror movie! So what is it that makes De Monte Colony Chennai’s most haunted locality?
The story of De Monte Colony goes like this. A wealthy Portuguese businessman-prince first founded a settlement here. A devout Christian, De Monte lived here with his wife and owned several acres of prime real estate in what are some of the poshest areas of the city today. Among his estates were locations such as Moubray’s Garden, and several areas that are now posh areas like Greenways Road and Madras Club. De Monte was an extremely wealthy man during most of his lifetime. He was also credited with having constructed the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Covelong (Kovalam), where he owned a weekend home. But as with every good horror story, there are no happy endings here!
According to corroborated accounts, at some point during his stay here, De Monte’s wife became mentally ill. His son, who was brought up in Europe, apparently met with an untimely death at the age of 22, on the eve of leaving for India to join his father. Combined, these misfortunes left De Monte a grieving old man longing for home, irrespective of how massive his wealth grew.
At the end of his life, De Monte entrusted all of his properties to the care of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. Over the years, the lands were leased to a number of holders. But stories around the place and how it was cursed by De Monte’s misfortune started spreading about the neighborhood, and were bolstered by haunting incidents and experiences.
A little more than a decade ago, the rumors of ghosts in the neighborhood led to a mass exodus of residents, which has left it abandoned and in ruins.
The legends led residents to leave the colony, but the abandoned area is in the center of the city, leading to its popularity as a haunted locale. However, the fact that it is abandoned means that hooligans and anti-social elements have been attracted, who perhaps pose more of a threat to night-time trespassers than ghosts.
The 2015 horror film, named Demonte Colony, added to the legend and invited more curious visitors. And fortunately (or unfortunately for ghost chasers), the church that owns the property is finally talking of developing the area.
Whatever De Monte Colony’s future, its sad and haunted past has resulted in one of the city’s most enduring legends.