Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ghostly encounters #2

I used to work for the county District Court Archives, which had offices on the first floor and basement of the former county jail, downtown. At some point in the past, the jail was renovated into office space for the district courts, county attorneys, and other county agencies.

It was nicely renovated, but the construction was still old brick and limestone blocks. Catty-corner to the Hall of Justice, the building held thousands and thousands of records relating to various court cases going back to the 19th Century, and saw all kinds of traffic during the day. Lawyers, cops, private investigators, criminals of all stripe, and the mentally ill all paraded through, providing me with interesting anecdotes.

The records I worked with were a mix of district and circuit cases. The circuit cases were generally more interesting, and often more grisly. Those were the cases the dealt with more serious crimes, like murder, rape, and arson. A couple of the rooms had been used for storage of evidence, although not much evidence was around at the time I worked there. Just a few odds-and-ends. Just knowing the room I was in had recently held murder weapons was enough to add to the atmosphere.

I recall my boss and others saying that a prisoner had hanged himself in the area our offices were, and that one of our storage rooms had been solitary confinement. Where the parking garage is now, there had been a courtyard, where there had been hangings.

All this made the building sort of a creepy place to be at night, when the doors were locked and hardly anyone was around. I worked there in the evening for a while, and there nights when the time was up and I was out of there with a pretty solid case of the creeps.

By eight o’clock at night, there were few people in the building. Often it may have been just me and the security guard, who had a booth by the front door, far out of earshot. I listened to the radio and tried to keep from my head thoughts of the frustrated, irate, disappointed, or just downright strange people I’d met earlier in the day, perhaps skulking around outside the building, looking for unlocked doors. Or hiding in the restrooms or under the stairs.

A friend and co-worker related this story, similar in a way to my Mountain Dew story: He was in the farthest corner of the archives room at the end of the hall in the basement, filing circuit court cases (those are the ones that dealt with, for instance, murder. Photos included.) The case files were kept in heavy cardboard bankers boxes, stacked on metal shelves four or five high. The boxes lined the walls of the room and also filled a free-standing set of shelves in the middle of the room.

After filing a load of cases, he walked around the room making sure all the drawers were closed. He shut a few drawers, walked around to the other side of the room, and shut a few more. Then he turned to leave, looked back, and saw that a couple of the boxes he shut were open again.

Weirded out, he almost flipped the lights off and slammed the door with the intention of just getting the heck out of there. Instead, though, he stopped himself and forced himself the think calmly about it. There had to be a good reason the heavy cardboard drawers had dragged themselves back open, right?

After thinking about it a bit, and then messing with the drawers, he realized that when he had slammed shut the box drawers on one side of the island of shelves, the backs of the drawers had bumped against the backs of the drawers on the other side, bouncing them back open.

Rational explanations aside, it was still a damn creepy place to work.


  1. Beth & I were having a conversation about paranormal and supernatural last night. She can tell you her story, but I will tell you a story my friend Jeff told me a few years ago. He was house sitting for his parents while they were on vacation. His brothers and sister went too, so he was the only one there. He slept in his parents bedroom the first night. When he woke up the next morning, the dresser in front of the window had been pushed up against the bed and all the pillows were lined up on the edge of the bed around him like a fort. He was the only one who had keys to the house and all the windows and doors were still locked when he checked.

  2. A long time ago, a friend of mine said he'd decided that any ghostly anecdote that began with "I woke up..." would be automatically viewed with extreme suspicion. I understand that sentiment and agree with it. With what I've read about sleep paralysis and related phenomena, and with the weirdness I know that takes place with dreams and sleepwalking, and with the distorted perceptions that various states of sleep (and sleep-like states) can induce, all I can say is, "Man, sleep f***s you up big time."

  3. ...Oh, but I should also add that Jeff's story is great, and that kind of tale is awesome. Even a mundane explanation for it would be interesting, whatever it is. And the simplest tales of the weird/supernatural are the best and the creepiest.

    I recall a Halloween-week AM radio call-in show many years ago in which a caller told of how he heard someone banging on his front door one night. He opened it, and no one was there. He shut the door, and a few minutes later, "Bang, bang, band!" again. He opened the door, no one there. So this time he waited by the door. A minute later: "Bang, bang, bang!" He could see the door shaking under the blows. He was totally pissed, and opened the door quickly. No one there.

    Again, I don't believe in ghosts, but stories like that are creeeeepeeeee fuuuunnnnnn!


I'm eager to hear your thoughts!