Published in Malay Mail Online
I am not a particularly heavy sleeper, especially not since the baby.
My ears would usually be tuned to even the slightest squeak from the baby monitor. So, on that Sunday night, when the ceiling fan suddenly whirled at a nutty speed — so fast that I could hear the creaks as it clung for its dear life on its hook — I was stirred from my sleep.
Beneath the racket from the wildly spinning blades, there was a dizzying frantic hum. Buzzing, like the room had come alive all around me.
I slowly opened my eyes, and I wished I had not. In the dark of the night, I saw my ceiling LED lights slowly glowing a nasty yellow, one by one by one. And then flickering in unison, before dimming back to black.
Then things went back to normal. The fan wound down to its usual speed. The lights stayed off. For a while, it was like any other quiet night.
And then my air-conditioner beeped, switching itself off on its own. After a moment, it beeped again, back on. And again it beeped, now off. I checked, the remote was right beside me, there was nobody else toying with it.
Just as I was beginning to question my sanity, it happened all over again. The fan whirled like crazy. The lights glowed and flickered. The air-cond beeped every so often as it switched on and off.
I felt a chill gnawing at my spine.
I took a glance at the wall clock, and I cursed. It was nearly 3 o’clock in the wee morning. The Witching Hour.
Also called the Devil’s Hour, the time between 3am-4am is believed to be when demons and ghosts frequently appear, and when they are at their strongest. Supposedly, it is an inversion of the time Jesus Christ died on the cross.
I first heard about it in the horror blockbuster The Conjuring. It is silly to think that Christian folklore could have such a hold on me, but when you frequently wake up at 3am — say, to feed the baby — then you start thinking about the hour a lot.
Now, I am particularly convinced that there are no fairies and demons in this world. And I do not think that the dead stay back, roaming among the living, if they still have unfinished business here.
But then again, I had just finished bingeing on Stranger Things a couple weeks ago.
In the Netflix series, flickering and glowing lights, electrical disturbances, are just some of the signs that something from a different dimension is trying to break into our world.
At that particular moment in time, in between sleep and wakefulness, and with my brain having a hard time ascertaining what was real or just a dream, I felt dread.
I started thinking the flickering lights may be some sort of signal from beyond, conveyed in Morse code, before realising that all I knew about the code was to spell S-O-S: dit-dit-dit / dah-dah-dah / dit-dit-dit.
So many things went through my half-asleep mind as it tried to make sense of the eerie situation. “How could lights that are switched off even glow, when there is no electrical current passing through?” my brain asked.
I hastily tried to wake my wife, if only for a witness that my brain was not making things up.
I blurted out, “The lights are switching on and off for no damn good reason.” I felt like a right idiot and thought I must have sounded stupid when she casually shrugged it off before returning to sleep.
But above all, I wanted something to acknowledge that I was just being ridiculously anxious and was mighty close to a panic attack in the middle of the night as I was having trouble processing the unreal situation.
I forced myself to sleep, pulling the blanket over my chilly body, before my wife understood how spooked I was. We tried to return to sleep, and I did, although my overwhelmed brain never really switched off.
It was only in the cold light of day that I realised how silly my fear was. But the following week, the electrical hauntings returned on a nightly basis.
By then I was thoroughly convinced that an electrical problem was to blame for the erratic events; the alternating power surge and drop had destroyed two water heaters, the doorbell, and AC-DC adaptors for the baby monitor.
But still, nobody could diagnose the cause of the electrical hauntings — not the management, not my electrician, not the developer. Most ridiculed my suggestion that there was a problem with the power supply, claiming that if that were so, it would have affected many other apartments and not just mine.
Finally, already at my wit’s end, I called TNB. They found a loose connection near the electrical meter which affected the whole floor. But since ours was the one with the most electrical load, we had become the first victim.
It was only then that a retired neighbour revealed to me — while we were observing the repairs — that he too had experienced the crazy fans, the mysterious lights. If only he had complained about the problem days prior, this would probably have been resolved way earlier.
A less sceptical mind would probably have been broken by the electrical hauntings. After all, even I had fallen prey despite rejecting the existence of the supernatural. The paranormal might not exist, but the fear was real indeed.
A representative of the developer revealed that some of the first occupants had even brought companions to stay the night while others resorted to exorcisms. He conceded that they too might have been victims of the same problem, and it was only then that he understood how frightening the electrical hauntings could be.
So, what is the lesson here… if indeed there is one.
Perhaps, that it is unfair to judge people for their “irrational” fears, even when there is a perfectly rational explanation behind it all. And how fear can still cripple an inquiring mind. When my daughter grows up, I will try to teach her that monsters are not real, but even if they are, she would know how to defeat them.
For now, I am just happy that my nights have returned to normal. No more electrical hauntings.