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    Volume 9 Issue 16| April 16, 2010|

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Brush with the Paranormal

Frontal View of the Ghorashal Zamindar Home. Photo: Anika Hossain

Anika Hossain

In a village called Ghorashal, not far from Dhaka, a house was built about 400 years ago by a zamindar (landlord) during the reign of the great Mughul ruler Aurangzeb. Thirteen generations of his family lived in this beautiful house, with large grounds complete with gardens and ponds. About a hundred years ago, when this house started to fall apart, Golam Maula's descendant Abu Sayeed Mohammad Hossain built a house on the same compound, using designs from Mughul architecture, with intricate carvings, bright colours, and large balconies overlooking the grounds. The house also happened to overlook a public graveyard, the land for which was donated by the family. The new house remained unoccupied for several years, and it was not until Hossain's sons Sakhawat Hossain and Sadaqat Hossain moved in that they realised they were not the only ones residing there.

Part of one of the gardens and pond. Photo: Anika Hossain

It all started one night when Sakhawat Hossain was sitting on his front veranda, smoking his hookah. He was dozing off when suddenly he was woken by the sounds of anklets coming from the roof of the house. He took his flashlight and went to investigate. However, when he reached the roof, there was no one in sight. The sound of anklets now seemed to be coming from the rooms below. The entire house was searched, but the dancer could not be found. The same incident was repeated many times after, but the dancer remained unseen. Other strange occurrences soon followed. At times, all six doors of the main living room would be thrown open at the same time, even when it was not windy. The family would often hear loud knocking on the doors and find no one on the other side. Since no one was harmed, they ignored these incidents and they slowly died down and occurred only occasionally.

About ten years ago, Sakhawat Hossain's wife, the last member of the family remaining in the house left for Dhaka to live with her children and their families. The house was left to the care of a young housekeeper whose family had served the Hossains for generations. Left unoccupied, the mysterious and inexplicable incidents continued and this time, more frequently. The gardeners would complain that someone was stealing branches from the trees and treading on the grass at night, while the guards swore they hadn't let anyone in. The housekeeper would talk about sounds of breaking glass coming from locked rooms, but finding them empty when she went in. Soon after, the young house keeper passed away from natural causes.

Her death seemed to add to the intensity of the haunting. The night guard, doing his last rounds around the house claims to have seen her sitting on the front steps sifting rice one morning, the new house keeper claims she heard her calling from her rooms which are now locked. Others claim they hear knocking on the kitchen doors and have caught glimpses of her passing by. One by one, the caretakers started to resign from their jobs. Some asked if they could leave the house before nightfall. Confused and unable to believe what he was hearing, the owner of the house decided to look into the matter himself. One night, just before nightfall, after the staff had left, he sat with his dog on the front veranda, enjoying a cup of tea. All of a sudden the dog started barking loudly, looking at an empty spot in the garden. Just when the owner was about to get up to investigate, he heard a voice similar to the deceased house keeper's which he claims clearly said "Don't you recognise me? Why are you barking?" Unable to believe what he had heard, he told no one of his experience and did not return to the house for a while. He and his wife had the house "cleansed" by having the Quran read in every room and inviting people to come and pray with them. They claim that the haunting ceased for a while after that, but the occasional inexplicable incident keeps happening every now and then.

The haunting of the Ghorashal Zamindar Bari (Landlord's house) has been speculated about many times and most people have blamed it on the presence of the graveyard just outside the house and spirits of those who have passed away in the new house and the old over many centuries. Looked at rationally, however, people have come up with alternate, and somewhat less terrifying explanations.

Human beings have evolved in a world that was extremely brutal with constant threats of hunger, thirst, disease and predators. Back in the day, hearing strange sounds of animals or a rival tribe may have meant a painful death. Although in today's world we lead a more comfortable and secure life with little or no threat from the old dangers, our brains have not yet caught on and we are constantly on the alert for and see things that are simply not there. Children complain about monsters under the bed and adults stare at corners of their rooms convinced they have seen something in the corner of their eye.

The staircase leading to the roof of the house. Photo: Anika Hossain

Sometimes, people who have psychological illnesses can experience delusions (strong belief) and hallucinations (seeing things which are not there) visual, auditory and tactile, which convince them that they have had a brush with the paranormal. Delusions can also be shared by more than one person, causing them to see or believe in things which are simply not there. However, there have been instances when people have had strange experiences without any psychological trauma. One cause of this could be "the old hag syndrome" which involves a person being unable to move his/her body when he suddenly wakes up from a deep sleep. The feeling of great weight on ones body often accompanies the experience. This experience may also be laced with strange, smells, sounds and sights. Scientists have said that this is isolated sleep paralysis, when body is awake but the brain is still in the rapid eye movement stage of sleep and has paralysed the body to prevent people from acting out their dreams.

Researchers have said that there are many reasons people believe in the paranormal and how after death, humans exist in a non-physical reality as supernatural beings. They also believe that these realities overlap with each other, resulting in paranormal experiences. Part of the want or need to believe in ghosts comes from the fear of the unknown, ones psychological need for control, emotional or family ties with the deceased and biases on unexplained phenomenon and the physiological response (thrill) people like to get from being scared.

Despite the many theories however, it has not been conclusively proved or disproved that paranormal activity does occur. The house in Ghorashal still remains unoccupied, and nowadays, perhaps less frequently, one can hear a sudden sound or catch a sudden glimpse of what perhaps may very well be a ghostly apparition.


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