Garnett-Orme’s case was never solved. However, Rudyard Kipling…sent the details of the case to Arthur Conan Doyle for him to develop it into a novel. Doyle did not pursue it, and the case was passed on instead to Agatha Christie, who used its circumstances to draft her first novel

 

In the summer of 1911, a 49-year old British spiritualist, Madam Frances Garnett-Orme, came to stay at the Savoy Hotel in Mussoorie, after the death of her fiance. Her companion, Miss Eva Mountstephen, who came from Lucknow, was also a spiritualist interested in crystal-gazing and seances. On the day Mountstephen left for Lucknow for some unknown business, Garnett-Orme was found dead in her room, with the door locked from inside. The autopsy revealed traces of prussic acid, and it was suspected that Mountstephen had tampered with the deceased’s bottle of sodium bicarbonate. The suspicions grew stronger when after a few months the doctor who had performed the autopsy was also found dead by strychnine poisoning. Although Mountstephen was arrested and tried, she could not be pronounced guilty due to lack of evidence. It is said that Garnett-Orme’s spirit, along with other ghosts of the Raj, still haunts the Savoy. To her and her revenant companions have been attributed numerous instances of supernatural manifestations in the hotel, as well as the Doon Valley.

Garnett-Orme’s case was never solved. However, Rudyard Kipling, who had otherwise a strong bias for Shimla over Mussoorie, sent the details of the case to Arthur Conan Doyle for him to develop it into a novel. Doyle did not pursue it, and the case was passed on instead to Agatha Christie, who used its circumstances to draft her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). The same case also became the inspiration for Ruskin Bond’s novella In A Crystal Ball — A Mussoorie Mystery (2003).

The Savoy, is a heritage luxury hotel which is owned today by Hotel Controls Pvt Ltd ITC Welcome Group Hotels. It was set up in 1902, built after New Gothic style of architecture, with Swiss Alpine elements that were common in the colonial hill stations of the time. Much of the construction material used was timber, gathered from the neighboring districts, such as Chamoli and Chamba. The Savoy’s success rode on the back of the Dehradun Railway which entered the Doon Valley in 1900. It’s famous Writer’s Bar has hosted many writers from around the world.

 

A longer version of this article was published in Scroll.in, click to read.

 

Coldnoon Bureau

Coldnoon Bureau

Coldnoon (International Journal of Travel Writing & Travelling Cultures) is a refereed, international and interdisciplinary online and print journal that publishes poetry, research papers and nonfiction on the subjects of travel, literary and human geography, psychogeography, and new perspectives on spatiality and travel.

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