What lurks down these darkened halls?
They say that in space no one can hear you scream. They might as well have been talking about the facility where I work. We are located on roughly 50 square miles of prairie and the nearest town is 5 miles away. After normal working hours, there is a single security guard that makes the rounds, so the chances of him being nearby if something funky should happen is unlikely. With my luck he'd be checking gates 8 miles away.
Each fall my laboratory at the research center analyzes about 1,500 blood samples from newly weaned calves. This is split up over several weeks and in the big scheme of things isn't that big of a deal. The bottleneck in the process is our blood analyzer that takes about 3 minutes per sample - so on days we are running 180 samples, we end up having to work past "normal working hours".
This year my first long day ended up being a Friday night. It was after 6pm and I was pretty sure I was in the building alone - after all, who else would be so pathetic to work late on a Friday night? When I'm alone I make sure all of the doors to the lab are closed and the lights are on in the hallway so I can see through the small window in the door into the hall - nothing worse than looking out the door into darkness. Things were proceeding nicely, but every 20 samples the machine needs to go through a cleaning cycle and I get 10 minutes for a potty break. As I was walking down the hallway back to the lab, I heard a door slam on the far hallway. Okay...Denise's lab is in that corner, and she's pretty dedicated, so maybe she was here late too. Deep down, I knew that there was a snowball's chance in hell of her being at work late that night, but it was the only solution that wouldn't freak me out with another hour or more of work to do. I got the samples done by 8pm, turned out the lights, locked up the lab, went to my office to collect my belongings, and on the way out heard the door close down the far hallway AGAIN.
When I got out to the parking lot, mine was the only car there.
Monday morning found me working a regular day - thank goodness! But I had a chance to talk to my friend in the lab across the hall about my experiences on Friday night. She herself had experienced the closing door syndrome in the wee hours, but in another building. She also told me that other people who worked in that back lab where I'd heard the closing door had felt things were "not quite right" in that area. They'd had items go missing or be moved around and heard noises. Well all righty then!!!
Tuesday night I once again pulled the late night, only it was my good fortune that the security guy (who happens to be my friend) Gary, was on duty and stopped by the lab. I told him about the doors and his response was chilling. "I have the hair stand up on my neck everytime I check that back corner of this building." Great! So now it's not just my imagination...Gary went on to tell me about his experiences the day after mine.
Making his rounds through my building on Saturday night, Gary heard a huge crash at the end of the hallway where the offices (including mine) are located. The office at the far end of the hall had been reorganized for a new post-doc, and the white boards had been taken down and propped against the wall. A metal chalk tray rested on the floor at their bases. When Gary got to the hall with the white boards, although they were still standing, the chalk tray had been "kicked" out into the main hallway about 5 feet. No one else was in the building.
Shortly thereafter, Gary went back into the boiler room, located behind where I heard the door closing, to check on the system. There is a main boiler and a backup boiler, and both were very reliable. When he walked in, both boilers' pressure relief valves were blowing off steam - for no reason. Pressure readings were fine for both boilers, so there was no reason for the backup boiler to come on in the first place - let alone be blowing off steam. He tried to shut down the system and nothing happened. He cut off the power - nothing. He finally had to switch off some bigtime override switches (I don't pretend to understand how any of this works) before the system would shut down. The whole time he felt "it" was just toying with him, and he wasn't going to let "it" win.
As if that wasn't enough, Gary went on to tell me that he also felt someone watching him from the projection room when he checked the auditorium in our building each night. He made sure he never looked into the booth because he wasn't sure he'd really want to see what was in there. Of course in order for me to walk from my office out of the building, I need to walk past the door to the projection room - note to self - don't look at the window in that door either!
I related these stories to my pals over lunch - they all suggested that Gary was pulling my leg. I agreed that the thought had crossed my mind until I saw the goosebumps on Gary's arms when he told me what he'd experienced. He wasn't making this stuff up. Once this conversation got going, another lady at the table who used to work in another unit at the center told us how she had walked around the corner in her old building one day only to see Dr. S. This would be understandable if Dr. S. hadn't previously been killed in a car accident . This spirit just seemed to stay on her old schedule and didn't seem threatening in any way.
So who or what is it down the back hallway in my building? Hard to say. Some employees have joked since the construction of our building that it sits on an Indian burial ground. Perhaps it is the ghost of some long-forgotten pioneer or settler. More recently, families were forced to give up their land so the government could use it as a WWII naval ammunitions production facility - there were fatalities during that period, however, not at the location of the research buildings. As far as I'm concerned, it can remain a mystery. I'm spooked enough at this point that I don't work late alone. My family brings me supper and stays until I finish up my work. Yes, I'm a big weenie, but if I do start screaming, it will make me feel much better knowing that they're there to hear me doing it.
Late this summer the facilities crew began work installing a new chilling system on the back the the building. They say that disturbing a building may irritated the spirits. I'm not sure if that's what's happening, but I've started getting in early so I can leave when there are still some other "humans" in the building...