Two floating lights, one shrouded figure
I cannot vouch for the veracity of this story, simply because I personally have not witnessed any of its details. However, that does not necessarily mean that the story itself is a pure fabrication of some devilishly fertile mind, since several people of mature age and firm conviction corroborated, and elaborated on, the original story first related to me by a mid-ranking Bangladesh government official. The reader can form his/her own opinion and interpretation on it. I will just stick to telling the story although, towards its end, I would not be surprised if I added my own two-bit perspective on an intriguing story.
During the course of a recent conversation, the official, in his mid-fifties, revealed that his deceased mother, a deeply religious, canny, and intrepid woman, had witnessed a number of unnatural occurrences during her lifetime, which ended around her eightieth year. They used to live in a Bogra suburb in a spacious one-storey building adjacent to one in which his brother-in-law and his wife (the official's eldest sister) lived with their children. Beyond his brother-in-law's house was a densely wooded area, housing a variety of wild animals, including poisonous snakes. Only the adventurous, curious or foolhardy would venture inside its wide expanse, and, that too, usually during daylight hours.
As the official narrated, the sightings began in the nineteen sixties. Or, at least, as far back as he could remember his mother having been witness to them on multiple occasions, always around or after midnight. As already mentioned, she was a deeply religious woman, spending much of her waking hours, which were of short duration each day, in taking care of her family and praying. After finishing her nightly household chores, she would pray and recite the Holy Quran deep into the night, often venturing out to the courtyard all by herself, while darkness engulfed the parameters of her house. As also narrated, she was fearless. Add to that a serene temperament and a fiercely independent spirit, and a portrait of a strong woman emerges.
It was during one of her late night strolls on the courtyard that she first witnessed the phenomenon. Turning her head to follow a low whirring sound, she first saw a glowing disc of light floating from the west to the east. A moment later a similar disc floated towards it from the opposite direction. She watched in amazement as the two discs, glowing like fire, met in mid-air, just a few yards in front of, and above, her, and then went into what can only be described as an intimate aerial gyration, at one with each other, appearing as a single ball of flame, although nothing was set on fire, and the night continued to be pitch-black around and beyond the two-in-one spectacle. Then the dance, if that is what it was, ended, just a few moments after it had begun. The two-in-one entity separated, and, emitting the low whirring sound, floated back the way they had arrived to meet and unite. The darkness that had been interrupted came back with a vengeance.
The official paused, and then went philosophical.
"I'm a man of science, and personally did not witness anything like it. But I usually did not stay up late either. I'm agnostic about the supernatural, and would more likely view these phenomena as psychological, or natural, or as illusion, the mind playing tricks on the eyes of the beholder. The only thing is that my mother was a level-headed, healthy, and intrepid woman, whose piety overrode everything else for her. I know she was relating what she had actually witnessed, especially as she saw the same phenomenon on other occasions down the years, till, inevitably with population growth, the wooded area was gradually cleared and human settlement there in the nineteen seventies seems to have made it disappear."
He then casually remarked that his mother also saw, also on more than one occasion, and also well into the night, a figure in a white shroud manifesting itself in front of her, then walking, or more accurately, floating away and vanishing into the night air. When I remarked that I would have loved to have talked at length with his mother, he said, "My eldest sister also witnessed the two fireballs on several occasions. My mother was never affected, but every time they came in proximity to my sister, she used to become ill, at times even losing consciousness." So, there were multiple witnesses to the phenomenon! He was talking about his married eldest sister, who lived with her husband and children in the house bordering the densely wooded area. She was still in the land of the living, although getting on in years. All her children had grown up, gotten married and dispersed to Dhaka, except the youngest, who lived with his own family with her in the house that his father had built. I made up my mind to call on her as the official took me along on one of his visits to his own parental property, a part of which he had inherited and had built a smallish house on it.
His sister was remarkably forthcoming as she related very matter-of-factly those strange events of so many years ago. She was touching seventy or had just gone a couple of years over it, but she was still sturdy and spoke slowly, but firmly. A hint of a smile crossed her face as she related her own traumatic experience with the two fireballs.
"They were each about the size of a very large dinner plate. And one was deep orange, while the other was yellowish."
She inherited her mother's habit of staying up late, was obviously devout, as she broke off during my long visit to say her afternoon and evening prayers, and very level-headed. Although the house has undergone extensive renovation courtesy of her sons, it still retains an impressive courtyard where she used to sit and chat with her relatives and neighbours late into the night all those years ago.
"I never witnessed them coming together from the east and the west. In fact, I saw them floating in parallel over this courtyard from the south towards the north. When we were sitting here and chatting, we would be made aware of their approach by a faint whirring sound. As they reached over our heads, invariably I would be affected. I would feel uneasy, giddy, and, sometimes, I would simply fall flat on the ground almost senseless. After this happened a few times, the others would immediately hurry me inside the house. None of the others were so affected. I saw the phenomenon several times over the years until the surrounding wood was cut down and people started settling in the clearing."
She could not say with any certitude what those things were, although she ventured that a good number of people were killed and thrown down a well in a nearby ashram in 1971. I could get her drift, but reminded myself that the phenomenon had been first witnessed in the nineteen sixties. While we were having this talk, a number of relatives and neighbours had gathered. And, then, provided another piece of information reinforcing the official's mother's other sighting. They said that several people living in, or visiting, that locality with half a dozen or so houses, including the official's nephews, would see a figure in a white shroud lightly walking or seemingly floating across a small expanse of field and then vanishing into the night air. The last such sighting had occurred only a couple of months before my visit.
I have just related a narrative started by the mid-level government official and ended with his sister's own experience with whatever the phenomenon. Add to it her own sons' sightings of the shrouded figure and an assortment of peoples' endorsement of all the goings-on and one is left to one's imagination's mercy. Stories of the paranormal are as old as recorded inscription, having their supporters and debunkers alike. I have also heard other sketchy accounts of a similar nature within a few kilometers around the house I had visited, and I fully plan on gathering the details in the near future. A couple of narratives are truly fascinating. I am agnostic about the two phenomena that I heard about from one of the persons who actually encountered one, and heard about the other from her mother and sons. Actually, I am inclined to believe that the two glowing discs were UFOs who were visiting and observing the human race and that the energy they emitted adversely affected the health of the official's eldest sister. But others would be more inclined towards a paranormal explanation, and still others would dismiss them as figments of imagination. Nonetheless, how do I explain the figure in the white shroud that manifests and vanishes?
P.S. The night before I left for Dhaka, I was staying at the official's house, with one of his male relatives occupying the room next to mine. Our rooms had a closed corridor in front of them, and a hefty mahogany door opened and closed the way to the corridor. The entire house was walled in on all four sides. At around 1:30 a.m., I was woken up by an insistent loud banging on the outer mahogany door. I went out of my room and shouted "Who's there?" several times. My neighbour was also woken up at around the same time and was yelling the same words. Hearing no response, I opened the mahogany door and saw --- no one or nothing. We looked around the premises very carefully. No one. Maybe someone ran away, jumped over the high wall, and vanished. We were not disturbed the rest of the night.
Shahid Alam writes fiction, is an actor and currently heads the media and communication department at Independent University Bangladesh (IUB).