After dinner, on what would have been a normal day, Saurab’s mom took out the family dog on a walk around the field right behind their house. Saurab, 16 then, was looking at mom from his window. But, not long after, she rushed back to the house with the dog, all flustered. He came out to ask his mom what happened and she pointed and said, “There… there… do you see anything?”.
Confused, Saurab tried to look at what his mother was pointing towards. Then, he saw something faint white thing, almost blinking. At first, he thought it was the headlight from a motorcycle on the road, which was near his house. But then, the white thing faintly took a shape of a human and started walking. Saurab and his mom stood still and could only watch.
“The incident still sends chills down my spine,” recalls Saurab as he prepares for his next episode of Trikon Tales, his YouTube channel with over 100 episodes on the retelling of ghost or supernatural encounters from people all over Nepal.
“That was my first encounter with something supernatural and I have talked about it in my 27th episode too. But there were many more after that. I also grew up listening to my grandfather’s supernatural encounters and I would always search YouTube for videos that spotted such entities and they closely resembled the one I saw back when I was 11 so I do believe they exist,” says Saurab, the sole man behind the popular YouTube channel.
But, he is not alone in the industry of ‘horror’ content on Nepali YouTube. For many like him, there is some indescribable charm in getting together to listen and share such stories. Though unsettling and scary, it has brought many people together. And, that population is quite active online too, more so after the Covid-19 lockdown. YouTube, Reddit and other social media platforms are also full of people sharing and listening to such stories, fictional or non-fictional.
The chilling charm
Besides Saurab’s Trikon Tales, other active Nepali YouTube channels are PK Tales, Bhoot Bahadur, Creepy Tales Nepal, and Nepali Horror Animated Story. Outside Nepal, the number of such channels is ample, popular with huge fan followings.
“In the context of Nepal, diversity in our cultures means there are many folklores. So if search properly, there will be a lot of unheard supernatural stories and incidents. People are interested not just to listen to these incidents but very keen to share too,” Saurab views. “While my grandpa was my biggest inspiration, Mr Nightmare, a US-based horror story channel, was my inspiration as well,” he adds.
He started Trikon Tales in October 2019 as a dedicated horror storytelling channel that narrates stories in Nepali. “I already had plans for a horror story channel, but I still needed a name. While I was doing some light exercise on the morning of October 17 that year, I got that name. First, it was Trikon Stories, but something did not feel straight until I landed on Trikon Tales.“
Today, the channel has about 61,000 subscribers and an average of 30,000 views per video.
One such recent feat was by Silhouette International, a production company, with its Para Tale series, a four-part fictional series. “It was my passion project. I have always enjoyed watching horror and psychological films since childhood; ghost and paranormal stories make me imaginative. And one fine day, I just started writing it and I enjoyed a great deal in the process,” says the writer and director of the series, Navin Awal. ‘Para tales’ stands for paranormal tales, he adds.
On why there is an inclination to the supernatural stories, Awal opines, “People want to experience what they have not in real life. Some others want to relive the stories they have heard in their childhood from their grandparents and parents on screen. Such stories are an escape from reality. I see a huge demand for such stories; it is a strange experience.”
The storytellers themselves believe in the content, but do they believe in the supernatural? Saurab says yes. “I believe in ghosts and the supernatural, but I have more faith in the higher power and I pray to Bajarangabali [Hanuman].” On the other hand, though Awal has not encountered anything paranormal in his life, he says he is also a believer and that he believes in the ever-expanding universe, meaning anything is possible.
Ishwar Pradhan, a regular listener of the national and international horror storytelling channels, also feels the presence of such content in one’s life is ever-increasing. He says, “People have been telling each other horror stories for a long time. Across cultures, people have tried to scare little children or to show one’s bravery and arouse small laughs along the way. But, the digital age has been able to incorporate such aspects and give them a twist by adding on real-life encounters and also the problems we get to see on a day-to-day basis.”
Responses and respite
It is not just that people are listening to these stories passively online. For the creators, their audience has been the best supports for their progress.
“They have always been really supportive with every episode. If I am not wrong, there were even some listeners, with good influence and followers, who shared few episodes [and boosted my channel]. I feel blessed,” says Saurab, the first time creator.
He adds, on his process, “Those who want their incidents to be narrated send their stories to the Facebook page. I collect those stories, then prepare the stories in a presentable manner. Then, I record as per the script, edit, and publish.”
Likewise, Awal says, “I enjoy dealing with tough plots because they help me learn a lot and build my confidence to try even tough narratives and stories in the future. This series has helped me improve my writing, editing and directing skills way better than before.”
“One thing I have realised is that writing a feature film and a series is an entirely different process as they deal with a completely different story structure. The former is rather free-flowing whereas the series has to be written in a clever way to hook the audience so that they would want to watch more of the episodes, binge-watch in order words,” explains Awal, who is also the maker of Bijuli Machine, his first feature film.
Pradhan, as a consumer, agrees, “Horror storytellers on social media platforms have developed their content that does revolve around things like a cemetery, places of accident and untimely deaths, giving something that is relatable and that keeps the imagination of the listener ticking. The concepts of spirits, ghosts, witches, bad luck and a vengeful spirit are widespread among the storytellers and such matters are at the back and centre of their stories.”
But, Saurab is more suspicious of fake stories. “I try to check their authenticity, meaning if they are real or fake. Two people sent me the stories, copied from the internet. I also follow my intuition. Real incidents and fabricated ones differ vastly. Plus, some stories have time and historical references, so I try to look them up and crosscheck.”
These creators are also the greatest listeners of their series and others. “I have a few favourite stories like Lalitpurko Kaacho Pichas or Nijgadhko Kambal. These are real-life incidents and to imagine me in such situations is scary and creepy.”
They are also a good sport when it comes to competition. “When I first started Trikon Tales, I remember spending many days searching for horror story channels in Nepali, but I found none. Therefore, I am happy to say that, Trikon Tales created a stream of opportunities for new content creators like myself, by letting them know that the horror entertaining genre is still alive,” Saurab says, “But, there is no competition, per se. We are fellow entertainers, and it is a win-win if listeners are entertained.”