The unseen world of the paranormal generates terror in most of us, particularly when the ‘unseen’ crosses the dividing line and becomes visible. It is said that in the Indian military cantonment of Meerut where, on a particular night in May, one sees what appears to be flames erupting from spots, where in 1857, bungalows of British officers were set on fire and their families massacred. The old residence of the Nawab of Jhajjar (in India) was a chilling place, where unsuspecting residents were pushed aside by unseen hands and a strange chill pervaded certain rooms. Eerie sounds of manacled feet were heard from inside an old water tank in the large compound, where the Nawab’s family was, reportedly, executed by the British during the events of 1857 and 1858. While I cannot vouch for the phenomenon in Meerut, I give credence to the occurrences at Jhajjar because the premises were once temporarily occupied by my maternal grandfather and his family on being posted there and my mother personally experienced the events inside the house.Lahore also has its share of mysterious structures, unexplained events and tales of things that ‘go bump in the night’. Our own residence on Queen’s Road was built in the 1920s on the site of an old graveyard and was home to things ethereal. In this case however, ‘all concerned’ had learned to coexist in a most accommodative manner. We romped and played amongst the trees and shrubbery by day and by night and although we experienced, what by ordinary standards, were paranormal episodes, we never felt threatened. In fact, a burglar, who once tried to break into one of our outhouses, was found lying unconscious under the window and on revival begged forgiveness. Once sense was made out of his panic-stricken babbling, we discovered that the unfortunate man had been lifted off his feet by a towering entity and warned that he was breaking into a place that was protected.Then there was the majestic old colonnaded residence on Jail Road, which was rumoured to be haunted. Strength was lent to this notion because the palace like structure appeared to be uninhabited and unlit. As children, we craned our necks out of car windows in a bid to catch sight of some spectral figure floating out of its shuttered windows. I was happy to learn much later that fears and rumours linked to the house were unfounded.A similar story was attached to a bungalow located in a posh housing society of Lahore. It was said that a malevolent presence inhabited the place making it unfit for human use. The story was reinforced by the fact that in spite of its location and design, the house was always ominously dark and unoccupied. Many years later, we heard that the premises had been bought by some people, who had, after some ritualistic activity, sealed the basement and were now residing happily in the remaining floors. A house in one of the ‘good sectors’ of Islamabad lies uninhabited since long because pieces of furniture in the rooms move around of their own accord. Courageous or even sceptic tenants have tried to hold their own against the forces responsible, but without much success.One often hears stories about construction machinery becoming consistently in operative at certain spots, which are sites for old graves. It is said that this phenomenon was experienced during the widening of the Islamabad Highway. The old grave was finally relocated to a spot across the road and work resumed without any glitches.It is very difficult to separate fact from fiction in cases of paranormal activity, since many such stories are embellished by rumour to assume epic shapes, but then there are happenings that defy all explanation and it is these that fall in the category of ‘haunts and hauntings’.

The writer belongs to a very old and established family of the Walled City. His forte is the study of History.