Have you ever heard your name being called in moments of peaceful solitude, only to discover that there was no one around or did you see a flash of movement in your peripheral vision, discovering upon investigation that there was no one there? Many years ago, the ‘chowkidar’ detailed to take care of my under construction home rang me up well past midnight and in a voice quaking with fear told me that he was quitting effective that very moment. When questioned, he said that the construction site was in all probability haunted, since he had repeatedly heard a male voice calling out his name, but a detailed search of the premises had revealed no one. He added that he had initially considered the possibility that some member of the labor working there, had pulled a prank, but the entire work force had proceeded to their native villages for Eid. I somehow managed to convince the man to stay on and went back to bed with memories of similar occurrences in our old house at Lahore. My parents once told me that when they initially encountered this activity, they had attributed it to a figment of their imagination, until a visitor from a university abroad, who was perhaps a pioneer in parapsychological research, had asked them specifically if they had ever experienced such phenomenon, which was a sign of Extra Sensory Perception or ESP.

It is now an established fact that some animals and birds have the ability to sense natural disasters such as earthquakes. My grandmother often said that howling dogs indicated an imminent tragedy. The motion picture industry latched onto this notion, adding sound effects of baying canines to enhance the effects of horror movies. I have however, seen felines behaving in an agitating manner seconds before earth tremors, while elsewhere, bird lovers claim that ‘super sensitive birds’ like canaries, also display a change in behavior before calamities or pre cognition of natural calamities.

I was once privy to an unexplained encounter, while carrying out my professional duties in Peshawar. One summer evening, we were surprised to see our neighbor and his rather distraught wife, almost running up the gravel path to our front door. Two glasses of water later, we learnt the cause of their panic. The houses allotted to us were more than a century old with thick walls, very high roofs and deep verandahs. The couple had finished their lunch and were preparing to take an afternoon nap. The lady took off her dupatta and rolling it into a ball threw it towards her husband with instructions to put it in the chest of drawers. To their intense fright the ‘ball’ disappeared in midair and in full view of both individuals. The couple later told us that items of daily use in their house, disappeared and were found days later, at spots where they had no memory of placing them.

It was after the ‘chowkidar’ incident that one night, two laborers working on the house were found incoherent with terror and running a high fever. Enquiry revealed that on the night of the occurrence they had decided to sleep in what was later to become one of our store rooms. Around midnight, they were awakened by a suffocating feeling, and saw a looming nebulous figure, who accused them of trespassing into their children’s play area. The terror stricken duo ran out of the room, heading straight to where their other colleagues were sleeping. We are living in the completed house since the last eleven years without ever seeing anything amiss.

There are however places with history that do carry an aura, which sets off alarms in built within the human brain. So dear readers, next time whenever you encounter a sudden clammy chill or the hairs on the nape of your neck stand up along with a tingling sensation, beware – you may be heading into something that can only be catalogued as an unexplained encounter.