Nale Ba of Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

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If you're like most people, you grew up hearing stories about famous ghosts, cryptids, and local legends. Some of the more famous ones, at least for the English speaking world, might be Bloody Mary, Bigfoot, the vanishing hitchhiker, the hook hand man at lover's lane, or perhaps even the urban legend of someone flashing their brights at you only to later run you down and kill you.

These stories are all over the place. They blend into one another in various regions, taking on their own life. I grew up in East Tennessee, where there were legends of big cats, and most people had strange encounters deep in the woods. I may tell those stories at another time if they come up in my giant list of weird and horrific things to write about. The point is that every part of the world has its own legends, and you're unlikely to hear about them unless you go visit, do a ton of research on your own, or follow my non-fiction writing, where I do all the leg work for you.

Take a look at the map below.

Distress black and white map of the Earth.
You may or may not recognize this.

The areas that range all the way from black to white are the places I'm interested in researching and writing about. And that's just this planet.

Language & Accessibility

Part of my research is just digging up topics to learn more about. I often come across tiny little local legends with very little information available in English. There are at least 7,100 languages spoken on our planet right now, and unfortunately for me, I only know two (or three, depending on if you count one I'm super rusty at.) That leaves thousands upon thousands of languages and probably billions of resources out there on awesome things that aren't available in any language I speak (or you)—good thing I DGAF and never let a little something like not speaking a language stop me.

Depending on who you believe and how you count languages vs. dialects, India has between 1,700 and 19,500 languages and a hell of a lot of ridiculously awesome local legends. It's a big country, with a long and rich history. One of those legends originates from the state of Karnataka, specifically the capital city of Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore.)

Map of the subcontinent of India showing a red border around the Karnataku region.
Geography Achievement Unlocked: Karnataka!
Did You Know?

On November 1, 2014, twelve cities, including Bengaluru, were officially renamed. Bangalore became Bengaluru because, well, it was always Bengaluru. British colonists couldn't be bothered to pronounce it correctly, so they bastardized it to be something their lazy slack tongues could manage with the least effort possible. Thus, it became Bangalore for many years until the citizens of Karnataka had enough and demanded the world stop calling various locations by the wrong names.

#facts

Learn More on YouTube

- What The British Really Did To India | The Bastani Factor
- "How The British Took Over India" - TREVOR NOAH (from "Afraid Of The Dark" on Netflix)
- Conquest of India - A Historical Paradox - Extra History - #1 of 4

Civilization in Karnataka dates back to at least 2,000 years ago, with hypotheses that it goes as far back as around 5,000 years. The collective lore of regions that old is unimaginable compared to some other parts of the world where the cultures are still in their infancy.

Woman in American flag pajamas leaning over and smiling into the camera.
Not naming names, though.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

So, let's go back. Way back. Farther than time itself, let's go back to...

The 1990s

Okay, so not all legends necessarily have to be ancient. Back in the 1990s, a terror gripped the 5 million residents of the city. Few people dared to go out at night, as they were all afraid of becoming prey to the witch roaming the streets after dark. The witch would knock on a door and call out to a resident inside—using their actual name and sometimes using the voice of someone familiar to them. If the person opened the door, they would die within 24 hours. There are several versions of this story that I found, with slight variations such as the man simply disappeared, never to be seen again, or that if a person were walking down the street at night, the witch would call out to them and if they turned around she would kill them.

Nale Ba or Naale Ba?

The legend's name comes from what residents wrote on their doors to get rid of the witch. Which version is the correct spelling? I've seen both, but ultimately both versions of the name are romanizations of the Kannada language for a phrase that means "Come Tomorrow." How do you actually spell it? Like this: ನಾಳೆ ಬಾ

Regardless, at some point, residents of Bangaluru discovered that the malevolent spirit would obey this command written on the outside of their homes. Thus, the name for this dangerous spirit, Nale Ba, was born.

Further Back Into History

As all urban legends go, tracking the history is complicated. I dug up some stories of people who live in Bengaluru that mention the practice of writing commands outside of their home originated back when the 1918 influenza pandemic struck India. Evidently, the belief was that rats carried the plague and wrote instructions such as "Come Tomorrow" outside your home to prevent getting infected. I have no way of verifying the authenticity of these claims, but I found enough references to it that made me believe including it here made sense.

Apparently, in the town of Rameshwaram, India, April 1st is celebrated as "Nale Ba" day. This is particularly fascinating because the stories of Nale Ba mostly come from Bengaluru, which is 600 kilometers (372 miles) away from Rameshwaram. This could mean the Nale Ba travels to hunt, or that there is more than one, or the legend spread so far and wide that other areas adopted the story. If you're reading this and from Rameshwaram, please let me know if this is true or not and what the celebrations entail. I'd love to know.

Ghost Stories From India

While researching a topic I'm writing about, I sometimes find resources similar to the subject but not entirely on topic. This time, I stumbled across a wealth of compelling firsthand accounts of ghost stories from people in India. These are written in English and easy reads. Fair warning, though, if you click the following link, you're going to go down a rabbit hole of ghost stories that may keep you up all night long: Has anyone experienced seeing a ghost in India?

How To Survive an Encounter With Nale Ba

Knock, knock.

If you answered with "Who's there?" then I'm sorry to tell you that you better start making end-of-life plans right now because you will soon become the victim of a malevolent figure from folklore. Will it be the Nale Ba? Maybe. But there are plenty of other ones, like the Vrykolakas of Greek Folklore that I wrote about recently.

Let's try again. First, make sure you've written "Come Tomorrow" on the outside of your house next to your front door. I'm not sure if Nale Ba travels outside of Bangaluru or can read English, but I'm not taking any chances.

Knock, knock.

If you happened to order takeout or are expecting an Amazon delivery, the safest bet is to proceed as if the Nale Ba is outside your door and pull up your door cam to make sure your "Come Tomorrow" is still scrawled across the outside of your house. The proper response here is to freeze, make absolutely no sound whatsoever, and simultaneously pray to every deity or cosmic force imaginable that you survive the next 24 hours.

Pro tip: position cameras to see facing out from your door and see back toward your own door. Prepay for everything and leave instructions to ring your door cam and then go away. Let's hope the malevolent door-knocking spirits don't start wearing blue vests or carrying pizza boxes because if they do, we're all doomed.

You do not, under any circumstances, want to answer the call of Nale Ba. If you think Nale Ba is at your door, don't open it. If Nale Ba is behind you and you want to see what she looks like, then you better decide she's the last thing you want to see before you turn around.

Bonus: Stree

I promise I didn't miss a "T" at the end there. Stree is the name of a film from 2018. The title of the film (Hindi: स्त्री) means woman, wife, or lady. Some of the research I do for these write-ups is watching movies, and I'm officially recommending the film Stree.

Theatrical film poster for Stree
The film was inspired by folklore like the Nale Ba.
"We adapted the 'nale ba' story, but we also took some phenomena from the north, because every part of India has its own phenomenon, every state has some superstition or the other. So it's not just one place's incident - we've adapted such legends from all parts of India to make Stree."

— Amar Kaushik, director

Check out Stree with subtitles in your chosen language if you have Netflix. It's a Hindi-language horror comedy film. I'm not sure what other platforms it might be on with subtitles, so take a look around. It's a great movie.