"Then there is the theory that the mysterious beasts have paranormal origins."
Nick Redfern, Mysterious Universe, 2014
Tulpa is a concept in Tibetan mysticism of a being or object that is created through the power of the mind. Indian Buddhist texts speak of it as an illusory being or mind-created apparition. According to Alexandra David-Neel, an explorer who witnessed the tulpa in Tibet, these creations are "magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought". Once created, this thought can, if imbued with sufficient vitality, take on a physical reality and a life of its own. Having escaped from its creator's mind, it is no longer bound by the strictures imposed on it during its creation.
Uttarakhand, Northern India, 1967
One never expects to see a demon, and cannot rightly prepare for the sight. There is little that mortal man can do to defend oneself from these beings, so one can only hope to survive the encounter.
The walking trails in the forest-clothed hills around Nainital in the Kumaon foothills of the Himalayas abound with wildlife. Two young men walking in those hills and known affectionately to each other as 'Boy' and 'Pop', though only three years separated their ages, came across something one day in 1967 that would continue to haunt their lives half a century later.
They were armed only with binoculars and notebooks, relaxing after a few weeks spent hunting down a man-eating tiger, and were now engaged in their favourite hobby, that of birding. Boy and Pop were fit young men and thought nothing of treks of many kilometres in their pursuit of birds and had moved up through stands of rhododendron, deodar, oak, spruce and fir, where they had seen the rufous-bellied woodpecker, khaliji pheasant, spotted forktail and, through breaks in the forest canopy, caught glimpses of which might have been a lammergeyer circling far above. Notes were made in their notebooks of these sightings and many others as they made their way slowly along the trails. The two men stopped for a sandwich and a drink of water mid-morning, sitting on a fallen log and looking out over blue-misted swathes of forest where a break in the woodland showed them the valleys that lay beneath. After a few minutes, Pop started along the track once more, but Boy called him back, pointing up the slope.
"It'll be faster if we cut through the bamboo forest."
"Are we in a hurry then?" Pop asked.
"No, but I'd like to visit the Shiva temple at Pangot and that's a bit of a hike."
Pop shrugged and scrambled up the slope with Boy, the forest giving way to stands of bamboo. Walking through bamboo forest is quite different, the thick woody stems rising like leaning pillars all around, the myriad of feathery leaves blocking the sunlight to create a dim green ambience similar to walking through an underwater cathedral. The ground was covered in fallen leaves, dry and curled and the sound of their footsteps was muffled, a whisper making their passage.
"Bloody quiet, isn't it?" Pop remarked.
"Not so many birds," Boy agreed. "But there'll be plenty when we get out the other side."
Pop stopped to tie his shoelace, and Boy continued on his way, moving slowly and enjoying the strangeness of the forest of clustered stems. A slight breeze moved the tops and the stems swayed, clacking together in a random staccato rhythm that drowned out his soft footfalls. He heard a slight sucking sound through the clacking and he turned to look to his right.
Boy stared and the blood drained from his face. He felt a prickle at the back of his neck and on his forearms where his hairs were standing on end. Not fifty metres away, at the base of a clump of bamboo, something black crouched. For a moment, the only thought that went through his mind was that it was a chimpanzee--human-like but not human.
There are no damn chimps in India, he thought. What the hell is it?
As if it had heard his thought, the thing looked up and stared back at him, red eyes glowing in a coal-black face. Holding Boy's gaze, the thing unfolded itself from its crouching position and stood. Its face split open, revealing long yellowed teeth. It lifted something that it held in its hands--looks like a small deer--and bit into the carcass, ripping off a chunk and swallowing it. Blood smeared its face as it tore the body in half, spilling entrails onto the leaves carpeting the ground.
"P...P...Pop!" he called in a voice hoarse with fright. Behind him, Boy could hear footsteps approaching and hoped like hell it was his friend and not another of these creatures.
"What's up?" Pop asked cheerfully, and then, "Bugger me!"
"Y...you see it?"
"What the hell is it?"
The creature spoke, a single phrase, but not in any language Pop and Boy knew. It dropped the eviscerated corpse of the deer and turned away, moving soundlessly across the litter of the bamboo forest. It walked into a tiny sun-dappled glade and as it reached the shadow on the far side, winked out of existence.
Boy and Pop continued to stare, not daring to move, for several minutes.
"Has it gone?"
"I...I don't see it."
"Where did it go?"
"Back to hell," Boy muttered.
The forest seemed somehow brighter after the disappearance of the creature, and after a few more minutes the two young men continued on their way to the Shiva temple at Pangot, though they gave the sun-dappled glade and the shadows on its far side a wide berth.
The priest at the small temple listened with interest to their tale and nodded solemnly. "It was a Raksha," he said, and when they looked blank, added, "a demon".
"What should we do?" Boy asked.
"Nothing," said the priest. "Leave it to the gods...or other Rakshas."
"Go home and try to forget you ever saw it."
The priest told them a few other things, but nothing that gave them any peace of mind. For nearly half a century, Boy and Pop succeeded in pushing the memory of the demon in the bamboo forest to the back of their minds, but evil things have a habit of returning.