Many years ago, one of my weekly pieces focused on ghostly tales from in and around Lahore. The piece generated such a response that I was forced to follow it up with a sequel titled ‘More Ghost Stories.’ The contents of these columns were based on personal experiences, paranormal activity witnessed by acquaintances and what can be cautiously classified as figments of a fertile mind. I am continuing the spine chilling theme in this week’s column with some more spectral narratives from what can best be termed as the ‘twilight zone.’

Almost all my readers must have driven along lonely city or rural roads by night, but little do these carefree individuals know that the next bend they negotiate might be their ticket to a chilling and inexplicable experience. Take for example, the popular legend of the blood splattered female figure that is supposed to appear before unsuspecting motorists somewhere on Drigh Road in Karachi. This apparition beseeches passing vehicles to stop, but disappears when someone does so. The story goes on to say that such individuals or their families invariably suffer tragedy after the incident. The spectre is described as a young woman, who was supposedly raped and killed in the distant past, and her tortured soul has found no rest. She therefore seeks revenge by appearing on certain nights at the very spot where she was subjected to the horrible crime. Some of my adventurous friends have repeatedly driven past the alleged spot at night, but failed to see anything that they could remotely classify as supernatural.

Our house on Queen’s Road in Lahore was part of the pre-Independence Civil Lines Community. However, before the area was so designated, it had for centuries been a large graveyard. This, plus its proximity to what was then the bandit ridden Mozang Village, was enough deterrence for caravans and travellers to avoid it after dusk. I can distinctly remember occurrences in and around the house that were out of the ordinary, but since no family member was ever harmed or even intimidated, we became so accustomed to these incidents so as to lose all fear. This was not the case however, with some of our visitors, one of whom was a senior judicial officer who came to call on the family with his wife. As we bid goodbye to the guests, we saw their car disappearing round the curve in our long drive, only to reappear in reverse in what can only be described as sheer panic. It took considerable effort to calm them down before their story became coherent. It appeared that their progress towards the gate was blocked by a spectral figure of a bedraggled old hag with canine teeth and luminous red eyes. We assured them that what they had seen could only be a figment of their imagination as we had on numerous occasions passed the spot at night, while taking our daily post-supper stroll. Needless to say, this couple never came to our house again.

The senior members of my family were passionate ‘shikaries’, who relished wading into waist deep ice cold water to take a shot at migrating water fowl. It was during one such trip that we encountered someone or something that remains a mystery to this day. While ‘shikar expeditions’ were led by my father and uncle (may their souls rest in peace), we children also tagged along simply for the thrill of it. The day’s shooting having ended miserably, we were driving along the service track of the canal near Chuharkana on the Sheikhupura – Faisalabad Road, when a young man materialized from the bushes bordering the track and suddenly appeared before the car. Unable to brake, the vehicle hit the individual before it came to a halt some distance away. We tumbled out of our seats expecting to see a dead or gravely injured body, but found nothing – no blood, no footprints, nothing whatsoever. It was our local guide’s urgent voice telling us to drive away from the spot as quickly as possible that brought us back to reality. We were later told that motorists driving along this dirt road had been through exactly the same experience for the last many years. No one knew what the apparition was and frankly the locals were too scared to even investigate.

So next time dear readers, if you are driving along a lonely road, keep both hands on the steering wheel and a good head on your shoulders, for you never know what could be lurking just around the next corner.

n    The writer is a historian.