When I got the assignment to spend a night in a cemetery alone, my eyebrows shot up to the heavens.
I don't drive and the first thing I did was to arrange for a friend to pick me up as soon as I beeped.
I reckoned that if I needed an exit before dawn breaks, it would be an immediate need. I was not going to saunter out.
At 10pm on Wednesday, a colleague drove me in to the cemetery located in the north.
It was dark and more than a little creepy. It did not help that my helpful colleagues had peppered me with suggestions on how to keep safe from evil spirits.
Others had just offered their sympathies.
As we drove in and I saw the graves on either side, it hit me that my colleagues were about to drop me off at my "home" for the night, among the thousands buried there.
I might watch horror movies, but when it is for real, creepiness is really not much fun at all.
We spotted a hut amid the graves where I could lay my mat for the night.
My colleagues helped to take some photos for this report. But the moment they drove away, I felt the intensity of the still air.
A flash of light caught the corner of my eye. I immediately looked up.
There was nothing.
Nobody. No movements.
Suddenly I felt something brush against my lower back.
Then I heard a loud "meow".
It was a cat. A black one.
It seemed friendly and plonked itself on my mat, right in front of me.
At this point, I remembered how a friend had told me once about a belief that cats can protect you from hostile influences of the supernatural.
What in the world - or not of this world - was the cat protecting me from? I whimpered softly as my imagination ran wild.
Barely 10 minutes had passed. I tried to ignore my surroundings by keeping my eyes glued to my mobile phone.
The silence in the graveyard was deafening.
Twenty minutes in, I decided to find a new position on my mat - trying to look at some lights in the distance.
My furry protector promptly moved along with me, plopping down in front of me, again, looking out.
I decided to take a walk to see if I could find people seeking refuge in the cemetery. Someone to talk to would have been better than trying to while away the minutes with an overactive imagination.
I spotted a pathway between the gravestones.
The utter stillness was broken only by my footsteps. I could even hear my slightly panicked breathing.
The Blair Witch Project had nothing on this experiment.
It could have been my imagination, but was there an extra footstep every few metres?
I decided that my mind was going into panic mode and went back to my mat in the hut, breathing a little unsteadily.
The moment I sat on the mat and crossed my legs, the black cat sat right on my lap. I freaked out.
The next thing I knew, I was on the phone to my colleagues demanding they pick me up right away.
When I entered the car with live human company, my relief was more than I could put into words.
I had spent a total of about 40 minutes alone and that was all I could do.
I left feeling scared and sad.
Why would a family expose their children to the elements in a cemetery?
I spent only 40 minutes there. The family was in a cemetery a lot longer.
I had a way out. But the children who were forced to call a tent in a cemetery home had no choice.
That was the most frightening discovery for me.
This article was first published on May 3, 2015.
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