The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: Rumoured ghost at Baimho I.B.; fire-making; head-hunting and fines for this
medium: diaries
person: Hutton/ J.H.Mills/ J.P.Luzukhu/ of BaimhoZukishe/ of Phesami
ethnicgroup: SemasSangtam
location: Baimho Kohima Tizu R. (Tuzu R.) Cheshorr (Chesorr)
date: 25.10.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Wednesday, Oct. 25th.
text: We stayed at Baimho all day. Hutton & I occupied the two-roomed bungalow & Mills slept in his tent. When I joined the other two at breakfast, they both appeared concerned as to how I had slept last night. So anxious did they appear to be as to whether I had had a good night, that I began to suspect the reason. I remembered their having told me, a long while ago, that if I came to the Naga Hills, I would spend one night in a room which was very unpleasantly haunted. They would not tell me the name of the village, but leave me to find out by my own experience. It appeared that Mills seen [sic] a particularly unpleasant 'ghost', crawl on all fours across the floor of his room & pass right through the wall of plaited cane-work. It had given him a very unpleasant sensation & remained fixed in his memory. When, several months later, he met Hutton at Kohima, Mills asked him if there was anything queer about that particular bungalow, and Hutton agreed that there certainly was. When they compared experiences & made independant rough sketches of what they had independantly seen, it transpired that the apparition was identical in both cases. A gross, distorted figure somewhat resembling a Naga child with a greatly enlarged head & distorted features, which crawled on all fours across the room. Both had awakened with feelings of horrible oppression to see this sight as it passed by. The similarity of their experiences in this room at intervals of many months was distinctly curious & they were anxious to put the room to a further test - to 'try it on the dog' (i.e. myself) when occasion offered. Well, I was able to assure them that I had passed quite a good night, though I had to admit that I had had unusually heavy & vivid dreams, such as I had not experienced elsewhere, though the dreams had not been at all markedly unpleasant, as far as I could remember, & I must have broken the heart of the 'ghost' as it did not put in a visible appearance & I was cheated of an interesting phenomenon, whose interpretation is still a mystery. I'm not sure whether I was disappointed or not, at having missed the apparition. Probably not!
text: After breakfast I went with Mills to the lower village for a house count. Later Hutton, Mills & I went to the upper village & sat in the house of Luzukhu's father. Luzukhu gave me a hair-fringed panji-basket & gave me an exhibition of fire-making in the Naga fashion, with a cane thong sawn round a forked stick which was held down on the ground. He got fire in 20 seconds twice running, & I photo'd him doing it. After some trials of cases at the bungalow, I photo'd a group of 5 Semas, who had been condemned to pay a fine for having raided a Sangtam village & taken 27 heads this year. They were Zukishe, the prime culprit, his brother and 3 members of his clan. From Baimho bungalow can be seen some of the villages implicated in that raid, a few miles off on the other side of the Tuzu R. valley. A report was received of a head having been taken eight days ago by Chesorr village.
text: I went for a stroll round the upper village &, hearing sounds indicating a commotion of considerable violence, I went to see what was happening. Zukishe was evidently in a towering rage & was literally foaming at the mouth & was looking around for a weapon with which to settle what the trouble was, but as it seemed likely to end in 'wigs on the green' with heads attached, I sent down for Hutton, who, when he turned up, found out that the row had arisen over dispute as to the apportionment of the fine. Zukishe was trying to foist part of his fine upon some of his other colleagues. He was wheeled into line & things quieted down after a while.
text: I had a walk in the afternoon & incidentally collected some bark which is used as soap by these Nagas. We had land-crabs for dinner - very good!