Sound is believed to have pre-dated Creation and it is said that Creation was rooted in the vibration generated by OM which became the first ‘sound’. Sounds have a huge range in distance, in types, in surs, octaves, etc., and are extremely powerful. They sustain life at many levels — even breathing has a sound, the wind has a sound, water has a sound, etc.  In movies, etc., sound effects are often more powerful and mesmerising than an unfolding scene. And of course, the world over there is the evocative sound of music. 

In the supernatural too, it is usually a sound — a rustle, a squeak, something falling, wind rushing past one and so on that first alerts living beings of something paranormal. Of course, there are some apparitions that simply glide past and sometimes one can just feel a presence, but some small sound usually activates one’s senses to paranormal happenings. Also, when a haunting or a supernatural phenomenon occurs, the entire sequence from the past is replayed, complete with sounds.

There can be a gap of many centuries, many years, many months between an event and its supernatural replay and resolution. Time is not relevant. What is relevant and lives on supernaturally till it is ‘settled’ or released is the intense driving force, like an unfulfilled wish or a desire to avenge a wrong. That’s why its said, ‘don’t enter old, unoccupied buildings or ruins or wander in lonely places’ because you may unknowingly activate supernatural forces.

 Along with sounds, and sometimes independent of sounds, an object from the past often forms a link between the past and the present in supernatural happenings. At Purkazi, a kasbah near Muzzafarnagar, we were taken to a ruin by Aas Mohammed, our caretaker. With the help of an old diagram he provided, we were able to locate a secret chamber which he said had not been opened for many generations. We followed his instructions for appeasing the spirits guarding the chamber before approaching it, but we must have missed out on something because before our very eyes, Aas Mohammed was attacked by unseen forms, and screamed for mercy.

We didn’t see anything, but harsh voices were directed at us and though we didn’t understand the language, we were obviously being asked to leave. Aas Mohammed told us he was going to be punished for revealing the secret chamber, and before we could collect what we needed to protect him, he died. And for a long time, we too kept hearing those harsh voices and had to perform special rituals to gain freedom from the haunting voices.

At exactly ten minutes past midnight, the drum beats recurred. This time, along with the sound of footsteps, he also heard the chant, Ram Nam Sat Hai and realised that it was a ghostly funeral procession.

And in Delhi one night, Madan Lal (not his real name), a Delhi Development Authority chowkidar was doing night duty on DDA land close to the world famous Qutab Minar. On his first night at the new post, he was startled to hear drum beats and what sounded like a procession passing through the grounds that were under his jurisdiction. He rushed towards the spot, shone his torch in all directions, but could see nothing even though the drum beats and sound of feet were loud and clear. The next night, he was extra alert.

At exactly ten minutes past midnight, the drum beats recurred. This time, along with the sound of footsteps, he also heard the chant, Ram Nam Sat Hai and realised that it was a ghostly funeral procession. He followed the  drum beats and footsteps until he figured out that the ghostly funeral procession was heading towards the Lado Sarai cremation grounds. After that, the drum beats and the funeral procession became  as ‘routine’ for Madan Lal as the vehicles that whizzed past his home. “Mind you, I wasn’t ever able to see anything. But the sounds were so unmistakable, distinct and expressive, they said it all”.

In the silence of the night, the hours pass slowly and there were times when Madan Lal would be inclined to nod off. At such moments, his formula was to take a brisk walk, light a bidi, enjoy his smoke, and then he would be wide awake and as fresh as ever. The brisk ‘wake up’ walk could be in any direction and that night, just as Madan Lal had paused on his walk  and lit a ‘bidi’, he was surprised to hear his colleague Gur Prasad, posted at least a kilometre away, calling out to him “Come here quickly” from just a few yards away. Madan Lal glanced at his luminous dial watch and noticed that it was just past midnight as he rushed towards Gur Prasad, crying out “What’s the matter?”

But when he shone his torch around there was no sign of anyone. “Where are you, Gur Prasad…..?” “Here, come here…” came Gur Prasad’s voice from a few yards further away and when Madan Lal advanced, Gur Prasad told him sternly, “You have done that once, don’t ever do that again or I will kill you. You stood at my grave — mazar — and lit your bidi, causing me great pain. Remember my warning”. Madan Lal’s head was in a spin. It was without any doubt Gur Prasad’s voice, but ……….  “Who are you ? You cannot be Gur Prasad”. “I have used his voice but I am not Gur Prasad. Had I used my own voice you would have fainted. Make sure you don’t come near my mazar again”.

Quickly sizing up matters and realising how lucky he was to have escaped the wrath of a spirit, Madan Lal sought forgiveness and lost no time in leaving the spot. Spirits can change not just their appearance, they can change their voice too. In the dark of the night particularly, one should be wary of sounds as often the dead tend to live again after midnight. Curiously, sounds are also the best protection against the supernatural. It is because sounds have tremendous power that the chanting of OM or other rhythmic incantations, even clapping or the beating of a drum, etc. are recommended  for protection from supernatural entities.

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