I was curious about people who live beside cemeteries and wanted to know about their experiences when I found Ibrahim*.

In this story, Ibrahim talks about his family’s cemetery residence with its supposedly good-luck charm, the ghost rumours and the friendship heartbreaks that came with it.

As told to Adeyinka

Until I turned 12, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to my environment. I knew we lived on Lagos mainland and had lots of trees in the area. Occasionally, an influx of people showed up on random days, and they always seemed so sad. Some of them even cried. One day, I asked my mum about these strangers and why they always gathered in the compound next to us.

My mum told me, “That’s where they bury people who have gone to heaven.” I’m not sure if I understood this, but I didn’t press further. 

Then, I got into secondary school and got a true picture of how weird our accommodation was. My friends would hesitate when I invited them to visit, then come up with all sorts of excuses. I was sad when this happened because I visited them without fail. 

When I was in JSS 3, another major event put things into perspective for me. It was a few weeks before the Junior WAEC exams and two of my friends and I had a lesson teacher who taught us at our homes. But the workload was too much for him, so he asked our parents if they could agree to have him teach all of us at once at one person’s house.

Our parents agreed until the question of the lesson location came up and the teacher suggested my house. To be fair, we were the only ones with a spacious backyard that could be used as a makeshift classroom. 

The other parents didn’t like the idea. They didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of their kids being that close to a cemetery. The lesson was also from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., so that timing freaked them out. 

That was the first time I felt ashamed of where I lived. But this shame didn’t translate into us moving out, and I get why. The building was a family house and our rent was subsidised. It was also a pretty comfortable house. Also, my dad strongly believed the house brought us good luck and aligned with our stars. I don’t remember us having any major difficulties or setbacks in the house.

Here’s the thing: In the 20+ years we lived there, I never had any encounters with ghosts or any of these bogus rumours about cemeteries you see in Nollywood movies. Yes, there were times we woke up in the morning and found calabashes with sacrifices at the junction, but I think this was common with places that had T-junctions. Maybe the cemetery in the area contributed to this, I honestly don’t know.

Some neighbours and older folks claimed they heard or saw things — from strange footsteps to shadows in the midnight. But neither I nor my family members did, so we treated them as what they were… rumours. 

The last one I heard about before relocating was someone who said he was washing his car late at night and whistling. He heard a voice asking him to stop the noise. He didn’t answer and continued, then a ghost slapped him. 

I’ll say the only thing that scared me, even till my adult years, was walking past the cemetery late at night or early in the morning. There’s an eerie calm and coldness that hangs in the air during these times. I can’t explain it, but it’s always there.

In 2022, I moved to Osogbo for NYSC and decided to stay back after my service year ended. My parents also moved out in late 2022  into a house they built.

It’s still our family house, but we’re considering renting it out. Let me say it’s not easy getting people to rent a house beside a cemetery.

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