In my footloose ramblings around the Federal Capital and beyond, I have stumbled across some interesting and ‘hair raising’ tales of ‘things that go bump in the night’. Nestling amongst the Murree foothills is a beautiful piece of God’s earth with a wonderful view of snow clad mountains in winter. A close friend infected with the ‘roving itch’, once remarked that he would never have undertaken a visit to the hills of Italy, had he known that a ‘Tuscany’ existed next door to, where he lived. My interest was aroused on hearing stories that the place was given a wide berth by locals as it was considered to be the abode of ‘female demons’ known to us as ‘churails’. Efforts to obtain a guide proved fruitless, when it became known that I intended to pass a night there. Advice that I should abandon the adventure, was given with the warning that anyone wandering into the hills disappeared, never to return and that eerie laughter was thereafter heard echoing through the gullies and ravines on moonlit nights. It was thus that a full moon found me snuggling into a sleeping bag inside a tent half obscured by a growth of wild olives in the center of this ‘Bermuda Triangle’. On the verge of sleep, I was startled by a sound as if someone or something was moving stealthily around my sleeping quarters. Seconds later, a chilling demonic laughter erupted very close to where I lay, joined immediately by a similar chorus some distance away. Slowly unzipping the entrance flap, I stepped out with a powerful flashlight and stood in mute disbelief – for there in plain sight, transfixed into immobility by the light, stood the most beautiful long eared, bushy tailed fox I had ever seen in the last stages of paying homage to the full moon. The myth of the ghostly laughter effectively busted along with the ‘demons’ story, the place is now inhabited by families, who claim that they cannot even consider living anywhere else.

Accredited with a passion for growing things, enhanced by a reputation of possessing a green thumb, I can frequently be found searching for flora, as far away from my home, as Quetta. It was during one such quest on the outskirts of the Federal Capital that I walked into, what appeared to be a grossly neglected and overgrown nursery with a derelict house at one end and the caretaker’s quarters at the other. Insistent blowing of the horn finally produced an old man, whose body language indicated that he was in no mood sell anything of interest. The individual fitted so perfectly into a ‘jumanji’ like setting that I began to pester him with questions as to why the place was so neglected. It turned out that the house was haunted by a (déjà vu) female demon, who often appeared sitting on the boundary wall, dressed in the finery of a bride, in order to seduce and then ‘do away with’ individuals. My request that he should show me around, produced a panic ridden response that I was mad. I nonetheless explored the tumbledown grey structure and found nothing amiss, while the old man watched the activity with visible apprehension. My next visit to the spot with my family, must have given heart to the caretaker, for he hesitantly accompanied us. I am happy to report another busted myth and the fact that the premises is now occupied by a thriving business and I get a sheepish smile, whenever I happen to come across the old story teller, who now works for another establishment next door.

A befitting end to this week’s piece would be the long forgotten tale from Karachi, wherein midnight motorists on a certain part of the route linking Saddar with the Airport, reportedly found their progress blocked by a blood spattered female standing in the middle of the road and dematerializing into thin air on being approached. It was said that whosoever got down to help, what appeared to be an accident victim, met a sticky end sooner or later. As it turned out, the asphalt strip in this story is none other than the traffic infested Drigh Road with a 24/7 stream of vehicles and exasperating grid locks, but no trace of the apparition, proving comprehensively that ‘time’ is one of the greatest myth busters.

 

The writer is a historian.