Vinod Nair is now a believer in the paranormal
Clichéd as it is, I am going to start my narration by saying, I never believed in ghosts, the other side, the paranormal, spirits (the non-consumable ones) until this incident.
I do concede that I have begun my journey of acceptance that there is something beyond normal human comprehension that exists and influences us in ways unknown.
December 17th 2007
My flight from Dubai to Amsterdam touched down at Schiphol International terminus. The moment I stepped out of the plane, I began to feel a cold shiver run down my spine. Nope, not the ghost yet, it was winter and close to 5 degrees. During check-in at Bengaluru, I had to put the winter jacket into my check-in baggage as the carry-on was deemed too heavy. I had to wait to get through immigration and customs to finally get a hold of my warm clothing.
The apartment was a few steps from the famous Princengracht, in CBD Amsterdam. I noticed how narrow the houses were to the street front and realized the pictures did not do justice to the narrowness. These were seriously narrow, some just 10 feet wide! I later learnt, they did this was to save on taxes, since the government taxed a property based on its frontage. So they made their homes and godowns, narrow to the street, but almost a block long.
I was greeted by the real estate manager at the entrance, who gave me the keys, his card and bid adieu. I opened the door to a steep staircase and no elevator, the price of living in a piece of history. I dragged 30 Kgs of baggage and a 100 Kgs of myself up 2 flight to finally arrive, breathless, on the 2nd floor.
Falling glasses and soaking socks
The apartment was sophisticated and beautiful. I left the keys on the table and grabbed a glass to drink water. My reflexes prevented a second glass from almost falling off the rack. As I drank water, I had to stop that glass from falling again!
I glanced back at the shelf and the glass was again at the edge. I watched the glass intently for a few seconds, as if to challenge it to fall. It did. Luckily, the floors were wooden, so the impact was dull and did not break the glass. A supernatural cause was yet to dawn on me. I removed all four glasses from the rack and placed it on the kitchen counter, confident a slanted shelf was the cause.
I walked down a passage from the hall, to my left was a long window that opened into the corridor and on the right were four doors. The first was the bathroom, second the laundry and third the toilet. I walked into the fourth door at the end. The moment I walked in, I realized the room was far colder than the rest of the house and less noisy.
I unpacked, made tea, showered and changed. I turned around to get the pair of socks I had left on the bed. I looked under the sheets, under the pillow, in the suitcase, the wardrobe and then finally went to the hall. I found my socks in the tea pot in the sink, soaking wet! I attributed this to a sleep-deprived mind and moved on.
When I got home that night, the socks were clean and dry. They were in the exact position where I left them initially, before the tea incident. The tea pot was still in the sink. I dismissed the whole thing, gulped some single malt and hit the bed. I needed sleep and the next day was meant to be very hectic.
A few hours into my sleep in the noiseless cold room, I heard people partying. It was as if they were partying on my head. People were drinking and chatting, and classical music played in the background. I could hear the noise of tea cups against saucers, spoons stirring, liquids being poured into glasses, people talking in what I believe was Dutch, sound of shoes on wood and a lone Cello playing Bach in the background.
I sat up, still groggy, and checked the time. It was almost two a.m. Annoyed, I took the ear plugs from the airline’s vanity kit, plugged it in my ears and went back to sleep…or let’s say I tried to sleep, for the noise was relentless.
I experienced snow for the first time the following day. Little did I know I was experiencing something else for the first time too.
Just as I was about to open the apartment door after work, I heard a knock. I ignored it and continued to open the door. Again, a clear, distinct knock. I opened the door fully to see a mouse at the corner of the kitchen, eating a piece of bread. As soon as I walked towards the kitchen, it scurried away into a small gap in the corner. I opened the fridge. No one had touched the pack of bread in it. I opened it. There was one slice with half a bread and the rest intact. The idea of a stranger touching my food put me off.
I went into the room to change and the towel that I used earlier that day was now neatly placed on the bed alongside my underwear.
Assuming housekeeping was in the house, I called the property manager. I told him that I appreciated the services but would prefer if they left the food and my personal garments alone. To my surprise, he laughed and explained that they have been around for many years and were harmless. It had still not dawned on me. ”Sorry, who has been around?” I asked. “The spirits,” he said.
I kept looking around to see if I could see any of the ‘transparent’ beings. After that day, every time I was in the apartment, I had the television on to give me the false belief of company. I started counting my days, and nights especially, before I headed home.
It had been seventy two hours since I slept enough. Another peg of single malt and back to the cold, quiet room. I was sure there was no party today but woke up again to the same noise and at the same time, two a.m.
I got out of bed, pushed the window along the corridor and put my head out to see where the noise was coming from. It was five degrees below zero. I looked all around the corridor but could not see any house with lights on. Just then, I realized that the noise had stopped. I pulled my head back into the room and the damn noise was back. Absolutely flabbergasted, I put my head out again – no noise – head in, noise again!
I went back to the hall, switched on the television and tried sleeping on the couch. I was occasionally interrupted by a moving vessel, the television volume increasing on its own, someone tugging on my blanket and such mischief. An agreeable compromise in comparison to sleeping in a party.
I slept on the couch for the next few days. Moving was not an option since these services were paid in full and there was no way my office would accept a ghost explanation. One evening, a colleague suggested I get some weed from a coffee shop. I went to the nearest Bulldog Café and got myself a joint called California sunrise.
Being a non-smoker, I struggled and coughed, but somehow managed to smoke a few ‘drags’ before hitting the cold and quiet room. That night, I woke up feeling cold…really cold. It was 2 a.m. but…there was no noise.
The lady laughs
The room had some visibility since I had started leaving the passage light on at night. I looked towards my feet with groggy eyes and sat up in shock. I noticed that the blanket was suspended in air, about a feet over me. I could hear my heart thudding against my chest and my throat was parched.
A few seconds later, the blanket just plopped back onto the bed. I went back to the couch. After the first couple of noisy nights, I started going to bed by 8 p.m. The very last night in Amsterdam, I stayed out till late and returned to the apartment to collect my bags. As I stepped out on to the snowy pavement, I could distinctly hear someone saying “Doei”. It meant ‘bye’ in Dutch. It was around 2 a.m.
I was relieved to get home safe the following evening. My wife jeered the panda looks I had, thanks to the dark circles around my eyes. We went to bed early, and late into the night, I heard a lady laugh out loud. I woke up about to burst into tears. I looked to my side and realized it was my wife, a habitual sleep talker, laughing in her sleep.
Photo by Michael Chen