Little Big Things: The 42‑Year‑Old Paranormal Investigator and Demonologist
“When you try to counteract people’s belief system, you often don’t get a good response. They don’t like it.”
In Little Big Things, we bring you stories of people who have rejected conformity and achieved success on their own terms.
Pooja Vijay was 4 years old, on a first-time trip to Mahabaleshwar (a hill station in Maharashtra), when she started describing, in intricate detail, a village in a valley nearby. At the time, her parents were stumped as to how their daughter knew so much about an area she had never been to, so they asked around. Locals told them the village Vijay was describing had existed 50 years ago but was now in ruins.
When Vijay was 13, her parents told her this instance, in addition to several others, in which Vijay, as a child, recounted places and experiences she had never experienced.
Now at 42, Vijay believes she was recounting her past lives.
“My parents haven’t let me go to Mahabaleshwar since,” Vijay says, laughing. “When I found out about how I used to talk about my past life — my parents say I did that until the age of 9 — I was very intrigued. I wanted to dig deeper into it.”
During her teenage years, Vijay says, she also started getting premonitions of the future, which she ignored until she got one about her mother’s car accident — 10 days before it actually happened. Vijay says she tried to warn her mother, but nobody took her seriously. “At the time, though, I wasn’t even taking myself seriously. But that freaked me totally; I didn’t want something like this for sure. It was scary. I thought, ‘I don’t want to know things like these,'” Vijay says. But when she realized there was no getting rid of her psychic abilities, Vijay says, she embraced them. “I decided I wanted to study it further. I want to understand my psyche, how it works, and I didn’t want it to affect me in a negative way — I wanted to make good use of it.”
The clincher that led her down the path of paranormal investigation, Vijay says, finally happened in her early 30s, when she was working on enhancing her psychic abilities through meditation, other spiritual methods, and study of metaphysics. “When my psychic abilities were enhancing, I was automatically attracting energies from the other side. It is believed that energies from the other side can sense people who can sense them. It makes a lot of sense that they knock on the door of the person whom they know is going to be able to hear them or see them or feel their presence,” Vijay says, adding she was paid several visits over the course of a month by such entities. “There were activities happening in my house which I overlooked, but then it totally freaked the hell out of me. Knocks in the middle of the night at my bedroom door, the electricals are going haywire. My domestic help was puking black stuff. The kids in my house were screaming in the middle of the night and pointing in a particular direction. Footsteps when I knew there was nobody in the house.”
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Vijay says she didn’t want to fall in the trap of babas — men who proclaim to have a direct line of communication with God and often peddle hack potions and fixes to purify a house. “When something like this happens, your first thought is that ‘it’s my mind playing tricks.’ But when so much happened in the stretch of a month, I thought ‘no this is getting crazier,'” Vijay says, adding she finally enlisted the help of a psychic who communicated with the spirits in her house and cleansed it — an experience that she says finally pushed her into her current line of work, as a paranormal investigator and demonologist, and co-founder of the Parapsychology and Investigations Research Society, or PAIRS.
“If this has happened to me once, it could happen again. And not just to me, it can happen with anyone else,” Vijay says, adding it was in 2014 that she got in touch with her partner, Sarbajeet Mohanty, who had had similar experiences, and the duo eventually established PAIRS in 2016. “We wanted to help ourselves, and we wanted to help others.”
Pooja Vijay (left) and Sarbajeet Mohanty (right) at their office in Navi Mumbai. (Image Credit: Rajvi Desai)
Through PAIRS, Vijay uses her psychic abilities to investigate and solve cases, along with a team of approximately 15 spread out across the country. She and Mohanty respond to complaints from people who think they have a paranormal presence in their house and investigate the claim using gadgets. “We have a process that we follow — first we interview the person to find out what’s happening with them. Then get the reading of the place as psychics, and then [we conduct the] investigation. Most of the time there is no haunting — there are other factors that make people think there is a ghost in the house,” Vijay says, such as a high electromagnetic field (EMF) that can cause hallucinations or a dead animal in the vicinity that emits a foul smell, which people often associate with the paranormal. “There are many such cases where there is no haunting, and a purely scientific reason behind it, which first needs to be figured out. It’s necessary to find out all scientific and logical explanations for the thing, and when everything is ruled out, then we consider the paranormal aspect.”
When there is what Vijay calls an intelligent haunting — the existence of a spirit that can communicate — Vijay delineates the process, as carried out in a recent investigation of hers: “I first psychically tried to get connected with the place. It was weird; I could feel multiple spirits. They were shy. I had to invite them down — they were all up in the attic. I had to call them down, say that ‘we wish to communicate with you.’ ‘We aren’t going to harm you in any way.’ We started getting readings on our gadgets at the same time.”
Vijay says her team uses EMF sensors, which she says pick up on the presence of a spirit, as long as there are no other interruptions in the area, such as electrical wiring; she uses EVP recorders that can detect ultrasonic and infrasonic sounds inaudible to human ears; motion sensors and a laser grid capture the movement of a spirit. The gadgets, she says, are only to prove to the client that there is, indeed, a spirit present. “I’m a psychic, therefore I know. But why would a client believe me otherwise? We can’t prove it to them. That’s where the gadgets help.”
Once the presence of a spirit is realized and proven, Vijay and Mohanty help clear the place. The best, most common way they do this is to make the spirit realize they’re dead. “90% of the time they don’t know they’re dead; the key is to make the spirit realize this isn’t the space for them anymore. We just speak to the entity as if we’re speaking to the person — they were living at some point. They’re stuck in this realm. We give them all the respect they deserve.”
Vijay, who calls herself a clairsentient (a person with an advanced sense of empathy and the ability to feel energy in an intuitive way), says she can often feel what the spirit is feeling — “they feel a lot of pain; so I feel a lot of pain. It gets to be an overwhelming feeling sometimes.” But it’s not all bad. “There are good instances, also, where they bless me, when we help them realize and cross over. It’s a very mixed feeling. Sometimes, the spirits are just happy someone can communicate with them. They are probably stuck for years. And suddenly someone is able to sense them; they feel happy about it.”
Vijay says it wasn’t easy developing empathy for the spirits. “The first time there was no compassion for them. I was scared to death and I wanted them to be removed at any cost, in the fastest way possible. Communicating wasn’t even in my mind.” But when she realized her connection to them wasn’t going away, she started to read about them; she found, she says, “they are not there to harm you, they’re just there to grab your attention.”
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Dealing with the energies, however, can take a toll, Vijay says. “A person has to be emotionally and spiritually strong when you’re dealing with the other side — you’re dealing with a world of the unknown.” She adds that she advises her team members not to go into an investigation if they’re dealing with any trauma of their own. With PAIRS, Vijay also offers counseling services to other psychics, many of whom have been shunned from their families or been admitted into a mental asylum because their families thought they were crazy, she says. “We counsel such people because it is important to know what these abilities are, to understand themselves better. People have no clue that there are such abilities. Clairvoyance allows someone to see spirits — when they see them, some psychics don’t know how to handle it,” Vijay says, adding “I used to feel that I’m insane, I’m crazy that there’s something wrong with me. When I realized there was nothing wrong with me, it helped me maintain the balance.”
Now, with PAIRS, and the annual horror convention they started in Mumbai, called ScareCon, Vijay and Mohanty are opening up the world of the paranormal to the common folk — but Vijay says there is hardly any acceptance. “My mom, who is a believer herself, couldn’t understand why I was going running after ghosts. Every time I came back from an investigation, she would try to evaluate if I’ve come back possessed. Now, because I talk to her about my work, and I tell her the facts, she is more encouraging.” With others, Vijay says, she has lost a lot of friends during her journey. “Not a lot of people accept what I do.”
Pooja Vijay, 42, at a haunted site in Khandala. (Image Credit: Sarbajeet Mohanty)
Vijay says her partner, Mohanty, has gotten threatening calls. During the first-ever ScareCon last year, the duo says a man, who said he was a scientist, stood up during one of the panels and yelled at them for 10 minutes. A vendor who refused Vijay an order once asked her if she would let a ghost loose on his tail. “When you try to counteract people’s belief system, you often don’t get a good response. They don’t like it.”
Vijay says she and her team are trying to “bust the myths and remove the superstitions,” which she says is the source of a lot of fear. “Fear of ghosts is a kind of fear that a person will do anything to get rid of. Only when people have the right knowledge of what the paranormal world is that they can get the capacity to open their minds,” Vijay says. “We are not trying to bring something dark; we are trying to remove the darkness. People still want to believe ghosts’ feet are backward, that their head can rotate 360 degrees, that a female ghost likes to don white sarees. They haven’t yet accepted the energy form. All I ask is for people to keep their minds open. Just hear me out, and then they can believe whatever they want.”
Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle's Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she's interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team's podcast, Respectfully Disagree.