‘Twas the night after Halloween, when all through the house... people were hungover. Happy November! Before we dive straight into Thanksgiving territory, I need to know about your Halloween party experiences, from last night, last weekend, or many moons ago when you were a notorious party animal. Much like New Years’ Eve, Halloween goes one of two ways: it’s fine, or it’s completely terrible because expectations were set too high. In either scenario, you’re susceptible to some kind of party faux pas. Did you accidentally wear the same thing as your BFF? Did no one get your costume, even after you explained it? Or did you dress up as the Babadook when your friend’s house had a distinct “grown ups drinking wine vibe,” like in the best Tweet of all time? Let us know in the comments below.
But before you scroll all the way down to regale us with your tales, let’s take a look at last week’s winners. These are the most haunted places you’ve ever been:
Mortal Dictata, no thanks:
This place was a bit out of the way, one of those places people probably passed on a daily basis but never put that much thought into what had been going on there. Surprisingly really, given how it clearly stood out from another forgotten era compared to the places around it, one that people in this country romantically talk about and had once played a vital role in the local community with every family knowing someone who’d stepped through those doors decades past.
When I was in there it was always cold no matter what time of day, not enough to send a shiver down your spine but more that which you never felt relaxed or comfortable. The wind would sweep through out of nowhere seemingly the moment you almost got used to the ambient climate, once again reminding you of that bitter chill and the decrepit state of the building. As you walked your footsteps would echo loudly through the cavernous halls, reminding you of your loneliness and that this place was once far grander in terms of population.
This place, well you always had the feeling you were being watched by someone, as though they were judging your every action, only to look up and see no one there. It was if a ghostly presence was always keeping you under strict surveillance, clocking exactly where you were and when. Every so often you’d hear an unnatural sound, suggesting something was happening around you only for silence to reign the moment you investigated.
You’d see others there too, here for the same reasons you were, and they always shared the same dull vacant look, as though just being in that place for so little a time before you appeared had already taken away some key part of their very soul. As though on some level they’ll never truly leave that forgotten place.
So anyway, that was my experience of working in British manufacturing.
Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, this is absolutely spooky, and I appreciate your creative take on “haunting,” here:
An abandoned colonial-era coastal resort in Djibouti. On the edge of the sea, at the end of the world, falling to pieces, sparse desert vegetation and blowing sand slowly reclaiming its space. It looked like a Chernobyl village, furniture and luggage and carts and plates all in use one second and abandoned the next, as if the people just blinked out of existence. No evidence of violence, the place just became instantly non-viable for human habitation for some reason a long time ago. The only living thing besides me and my guys were flies. The local goatherds steered well clear of the place. It wasn’t haunted in a ghost sense, more like a window to a very different time that was not welcoming at all, like the bar in the overlook hotel. Properly fucking creepy.
Catya, I will never sleep again:
I spent six years of my career teaching in a 100-year-old school building. Yes, it was haunted af. No, I did not believe in ghosts when I started. Yes, I do now.
There are three incidents that jump to the top of my mind when one of my high school students would ask me, invariably around Halloween, “Miss, do you think this place is haunted?” I would typically laugh dismissively only to deadpan, “Yes” and walk away.
Our beautiful school building celebrated its centennial my first year teaching there, and had served as a recreational building (a YMCA or something of that type) in its past life. I taught drama in a huge 2000-square foot theatre that took up two stories worth of space. We had a full stage with small wings and a narrow backstage hallway. Like all of the building’s infrastructure, it was old, with threadbare curtains and broken lights, but it was perfect for a group of high school kids taking their first drama class. I kept the curtains closed most of the time because backstage was drafty. There was literally a window with nothing covering it. No screen, no shutters. Just an open window backstage that would make the curtains billow in the wind and send my teenagers jumping every so often in class.
There were other quirks in the building, too. We had classrooms in the basement, one of which used to be the rec center pool. I guess contractors just threw some plywood over it and called it a floor, because t’s hollow when you walk on it, which is pretty freaky. The walls are still pool deck tile.
But one of the weirdest things (awkward-weird, not paranormal-weird) is that the top two floors of the building were used as dorms by a local college. So we’d have random college freshmen walking through the first floor to get to the elevator up to the 4th and 5th floors where their dorm rooms were. I, personally, would have hated to graduate high school and move onto college only to move into...a high school...but they seemed to take it in stride. We saw them scurry through the atrium on their way to class and that was about it.
The first time I realized something might be off in the building was during state testing my first year. If you’ve been a student in state testing, you know how annoying and stressful all the protocols are: your phone gets collected, you can’t talk at all, you can only use the bathroom on breaks. As a teacher, it’s equally stressful because you’re proctoring, and if you mess anything up, you can invalidate the scores for all the kids in your class. I was not trying to be that teacher my first year at this new school.
I had all the curtains on stage completely closed and had set up desks in the “audience” for students to take their tests. I had a small desk, podium, and white board at the front of the room, next to the stairs that lead up the stage into the left wing. All my students were there and accounted for and it was completely silent except for the scritch of #2 pencils on Scantrons. So when I heard footsteps backstage, I was immediately confused. I figured I must have been hearing something in the hallway and refocused on surveilling this awful test. When I heard them again I was certain someone was backstage. A couple students in the front row looked up briefly but didn’t say anything and I didn’t want to interrupt testing. I knew what I was hearing: distinct footfalls walking across my stage, just 10 feet from me behind the curtain. I absolutely knew someone was back there. I was so certain that I said out loud, in the middle of state testing, “If you are backstage right now you are getting a referral.” The footsteps stopped mid-stage, so I turned around and went up the stairs to the left wing, ready to lay some discipline on a student sneaking out of testing. It was dark, but I could see by the light of the open window that there was nobody there. I couldn’t see anyone in the set balcony either. I checked the curtains and nobody was hiding in them. The back of my neck prickled and I went back down the stairs and shut the stage door, convincing myself and my students it must have been someone on the street I was hearing through the open window. The kids in the front row looked particularly uneasy, but I pointed at their tests and then my watch and they got back to it.
Then I heard them again. Much slower this time, and definitely not on the street. Shoes on wood floor. They were no longer pacing back and forth across the stage, but stepping toward the front, like they were sneaking up behind me as I stood there with my back to the stage facing my students. It freaked me out so much that I went and sat in an open desk while my kids finished the test. At the end of the testing period all of my students were musing about the theatre being haunted or me being crazy, or both.
I didn’t say anything to my colleagues this time. Again, I was new. I didn’t want to be the weird new teacher.
But then there was another incident. We used to have these laptop carts that we’d have to reserve for our class to be able to use computers. My students were writing plays that week, and I needed the laptops. Lying in my bed at 10:00PM on a Tuesday night, my anxiety convinced me I had not plugged in the laptop cart at the end of the day and they’d all be dead when I got to school in the morning. Wide awake and consumed by the fear that I’d have to come up with an alternative lesson plan for our 100-minute block period when my students should be merrily typing up their plays, I did what most teachers would do: I pulled on a sweatshirt and leggings and drove my ass back to school at 10:30 at night to check if my laptop cart was plugged in.
I got to school at about 11:00PM, and was greeted with some consternation by the night security guard, an old man with terrible hearing who spent most of his shift watching YouTube on his phone. I explained myself and he shook his head, waving me on. I climbed the stairs to the second floor alone.
As I reached the second story, I could hear music. Incredible piano music. Powerfully resonant, like you could feel the vibrations in the floor, and it sounded as if it were coming from...my classroom. Where there was definitely not a piano (I would have been thrilled to have one so I could put on a musical with my kids!) I walked down the hallway and turned my key in the door to the theater and the music abruptly stopped. I could still feel the last notes in the floor and it totally weirded me out. As soon as I got the door open, I could see the laptop cart blinking green light through the pitch blackness of the room: it had been plugged in the whole time. I sighed and turned around to lock the door. As I walked back down the hallway to the stairs, the piano music started back up. I stopped cold. It could not have been coming from anywhere but my classroom, but it was late and I was exhausted and ready to get home. I didn’t turn back.
The next day at lunch I mentioned my late-night ordeal to several colleagues. Our 11th grade history teacher’s eyes went wide.
“You said you heard a PIANO??” I was ready to be known as the crazy teacher, so I nodded.
She didn’t think I was crazy. She snatched up her phone and pulled up a blog written by a former college student who had lived in our building back in the ‘90s as a freshman. It was an entry about all the creepy paranormal stuff that happened in the building while he was living there. Apparently, there used to be a grand piano in the theater. But it started PLAYING BY ITSELF and freaking out all the residents so the building management got rid of it. I won’t lie, I got chills up and down my body reading about it.
But the blog got worse. There was a rumor on the blog that a young boy had drowned in the basement pool back when the building was still the rec center, which had apparently been verified in microfiche files in the local library. The history teacher was close with our school custodian, and said he refused to clean in the basement by himself after hours because he heard crying and wailing from inside the walls and was convinced the devil was trying to get to him. Our math teacher walked in as the history teacher was telling me this. He had taught in the pool room for years and was the perfect cynic for this situation. I figured if anyone could talk us down from our paranormal paranoia it was him. But he just said, “Are you talking about the ghost? The little boy?” I waited for the punch line, but it didn’t come. He believed. Apparently I wasn’t the only crazy one.
That leads us to the third incident, and the one in which I became thoroughly convinced our building is fucking haunted.
I was finally putting on a school play and I was so excited. The Saturday of our run I let kids know to get to school an hour before the show. Being teenagers, I knew a lot of them would be late and it would be mostly up to me to ready props and make sure the sets were ready to go. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to school and a freshman boy and sophomore girl were already there. I unlocked the doors and led them up to the theater. They had grabbed Popeyes on the way, so I let them sit in the back corner of the classroom to eat dinner while I went backstage to set up. Though I’d made multiple requests to have the backstage window fixed, it never got done, so I had managed find some dark fabric to staple into the wall to cover the open window for the show. I double checked that the staples were still holding up and then went to the props table to organize and make sure no props were broken or missing. Backstage was basically one long dark hallway. As I’m working on organizing props, I see a figure step into the other end of the hallway out of the corner of my eye. Without looking up, I say, “Hey, Martin, you want to help me set up?” thinking the freshman boy had finished his dinner and wandered backstage. The figure didn’t move or say anything. I felt this wave of dread wash over me and I was suddenly very cold and keenly aware of my breathing. I carefully put the last prop down on the table before I looked up to see a little boy standing at the end of the backstage hallway, just standing, watching me. He was blurry, like his limbs were bloated and shapeless. I couldn’t make out an expression on his face; it was just dark enough backstage with the window covered and he was just far away enough. Trying to shake the feeling and convince myself it was my student I said again, “Come on, come help me, Martin.” No movement. No sound. Just staring.
I stepped out onto the stage and walked through the curtains and there was Martin right where I left him, sitting in the back of the classroom eating chicken tenders. He looked up when I walked out and said, “Did you say something to me, miss?”
I was so shaken up I didn’t respond. I think I just walked off stage and made myself busy with costumes. I didn’t let anyone get on stage until the rest of the cast was there, and then I said we’d do a stage sweep together to make sure everything was ready. As soon as we got backstage, we saw that the fabric covering the window was on the floor and the window was wide open again. The kids thought nothing of it and my stage manager went to find the staple gun, but I think I figured out why they don’t cover the window. I don’t think he likes it.
Now that you’re sufficiently spooked, let’s hear about that Halloween party faux pas in the comments below.