“That wasn’t so bad,” I thought, giving myself a psychic pat on the back, after we all returned to Base from the walk-through. A little creepy in the boiler room when Chris heard that erotic sigh in his ear, but overall, nothing I couldn’t handle. This ghost-hunting thing ain’t shit, and I flexed my muscles a little.
While we all stood around, warming up under the kerosene lamp, fidgeting with our cameras and parching palates on plates of steaming sauerkraut, the last two members of the night’s expedition arrived: Joel and his wife Chris, who always goes by Chris and always went by Chris as a child until some kid moved next door to her in grade school and had the nerve to be named Christopher, at which point the nickname ‘Chris’ shifted from her to him and she has clearly been harboring a metric ton of bitterness and resentment ever since and at the risk of her finding this blog and snarling at the sight of all the “Christine”s, I am going to hereby be referring to her solely as just that to differentiate between her and the male Chris.
Around this time, George had to make a run to a nearby gas station to get more gasoline for the generator. I took that opportunity to poke around outside the school with Nick and Tiny, later joined by Joel, who found deer tracks that stopped at a drain in the ground. We all stared down at the drain, wondering what happened to the deer, as there were no retreating tracks. It was like the deer just vanished. Later, Chris joined us and was quick to point out that they were rabbit tracks, and that the rabbit probably did quite literally fall down the hole. No one really said anything after that, but I think that silence was really the rest of us NON-SKEPTICS making a secret pact to always believe in vanishing deer.
I caught Tiny shining some sort of laser pointer up at the windows and after assuming my role as Hyper-Inquisitive Newbie, he explained that it was giving him a read of the surface temperature, and that sometimes there would be an inexplicable drop which could mean there was a paranormal presence of some sort skulking around.
“Like this window, here,” Tiny illustrated, marking a second-floor classroom window with a bright infrared blemish. “In one spot, it’s in the 30s, but when I move it down here slightly—” He dragged the dot a few centimeters down. “–it drops to 16.”
I involuntarily shivered. It was a cold January night and I was standing up to my galoshed shins in snow, but this shiver was not born from any natural elements.
Twenty minutes later, George had fed the generator and we were all gathered back in Base. I was nervously shoving barbeque chips in my mouth by the handful, unable to eat the meat-laden hot foods set out on the table. Several times I considered lifting the lid on the crock pot and letting the steam bite through the icicles my fingers had become. Everyone was socializing, warming up, checking pictures on the view finders of their cameras when suddenly, all the lights went out.
I froze, feeling a rising scream strangulating up through my voice box.
The lights came back.
“Sorry guys!” George called from the hallway. “That was my fault!”
Everyone laughed. I did too, but it was robotic and the corners of my mouth stayed in a neutral line. In the notepad draped from my neck, I scrawled: “9:ish, generator turned off (George’s fault) but I thought it was ghosts & went numb.”
I ate one of Jimmy Wenger’s donuts after that. I rarely eat donuts, that’s how you know I was stressed.
George wrangled everyone’s attention from their personal conversations so that we could finally get the EVP sessions started. I only knew a little about EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) so I was glad when George (and Chris, who jumped in to give the group a little more structure and leadership) took a few minutes to go over the procedure, and were given examples of what to ask the spirits during the EVP recordings.
“Remember, ghosts are people, too,” Chris joked. I went to laugh, but my teeth were chattering too hard.
George wanted us in groups of three. I wondered if anyone heard me gulp. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t considered we wouldn’t be all together as a team for the whole night.
Jimmy quickly claimed me and Kim, after I made the adamant statement declaring that I wasn’t going anywhere without her, and it was determined we would be focusing our EVP experiment in the Special Education annex. Christine, Joel and Tiny took the gym; Nick, Brittany and Lynette chose the upstairs classrooms; while Chris and George stayed back to monitor the DVRs.
“I came here with two pretty girls and end up sitting in Base Camp with George,” Chris whined, and while I couldn’t see his face at that moment, I was sure Jimmy Wenger was gloating. He’s very girl crazy! But I felt infinitely safe and assured that he was in our group. Not much seemed to faze him and I hoped that somewhere under his coat was safely tucked a Proton Pack. I had Henry’s flashlight in my hand, but then I thought better of it, desiring to free up some hand-space in case I needed to push over a book shelf onto the Devil. So I set Henry’s beloved flashlight on the desk by the door, opting to rely on my headlamp and the light Jimmy and Kim were bringing with them.
George handed me a camcorder, but as soon as I got out in the hallway, the battery died. I went back inside to alert him of this small snafu; he snapped a newly charged battery onto it, saying, “You should be good now, this has a full-charge.” But as soon as we descended the steps to the first floor, the battery life drained and the camcorder promptly shut off.
THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GHOSTS, I heard my quaking voice of reason yell at myself. I knew that other people were experiencing spontaneously draining batteries during the course of the night, but that was not something I wanted to entertain right then, as we walked up the small flight of steps to our designated spot in the school. It’s pretty amazing how much safer one feels in a group of nine as opposed to a group of three. I kept trying to stay sandwiched in between Kim and Jimmy, but they were bravely swinging open doors and exploring through the darkness, like it was nothing more than an estate sale.
On the chalkboard behind Jimmy, it says “Leave the kids ALONE!” I like to believe that some teenager hoodlum (i.e. one of Blake’s friends) wrote that to be a dick. And you know, not whoever is haunting the school.
Fucking creepy tea party in the teachers’ lounge.
No matter what camera I used, my pictures just weren’t focusing. (True Story: as I just typed that, a truck went by my house and blew its air horn, causing me to scream GHOST! and splash myself with scalding coffee. I’m a little jumpy. And home alone.) I kept telling myself that it was because it was so cold. Maybe the lenses were rebelling against the temperatures. Henry accused me of having the camera on manual focus, but I can promise you I’m not that dumb, and I even checked to make sure it didn’t get bumped from automatic focus. I eventually just gave up taking pictures, figuring there would be enough from everyone else.
With George’s recorder activated, we began our first EVP session in the lounge, asking standard first date questions, like “Why are you here? Who are you? What happened to you?” It was kind of awkward, speaking these questions into what one could only assume was empty air. It was this moment of dire seriousness for me, and suddenly Jimmy Wenger was on his cell phone, attempting to place an order with someone from the Pizza Company, after getting the number from a magnet he found slapped to the chalkboard.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have an address to supply, so no pizza for us. I didn’t even know I wanted pizza until that happened, and then it was all I could think of, a momentary distraction from the complete and utter unease I felt in that room. The whole EVP thing has me torn. There’s that large part of me that has always wanted some sort of contact with the other side. But then there’s the other part of me that remembers movies like The Gate and what a tremendous suckfest it would be to open the door to your soul to some motherfucker who wants to take up residence inside your carapace, fucking you gratuitously from the inside.
I was sort of in a hurry to get out of the Special Ed area.
While Jimmy roamed around the hallway, conducting his own EVPs, Kim and I entered Room 112. The first thing we noticed was a copy of a story three girls had written about Snow White, casually strewn across one of the desks. Kim immediately flipped back the cover page and began skimming it.
That’s when I had my first experience that night.
It came from my left, back where a row of recessed closets lined the wall, fluorescent stickers stuck above each individual coat hook, each bearing the name of a student.
Muffled laughter. High-pitched, definitely a giggle from a child. I forced my ear drums to play it back on a loop. I was certain it’s what I thought it was.
“Did you hear that?” I whispered to Kim.
“No, what?” she answered at a regular volume.
“I swear I heard something from back there. Like a whispered laugh.”
We went back there to check it out, like we’d see the laughter in some tangible Ectoplasm’d form, chilling out next to a coat rack. What actually happened was that Kim marched back there with self-assured purpose and bravery, while I shuffled stupidly and meekly behind her.
Not finding any substantial evidence back there (but again, not really knowing what I was looking for), Kim and I went back to the desk to further examine the Snow White story. It was almost starting to edge out Kim’s obsession with asbestos. (Seriously, she didn’t give a shit about the fact that we were poking our noses around a supposedly haunted school; her main issue was asbestos, inhaling asbestos, falling into a churning vat of asbestos, accidentally clumping asbestos on her hot dog instead of sauerkraut, dying of asbestos. No matter how many times Chris told her that even if there was any asbestos in that school, we weren’t going to be there long enough to have anything happen to us. Even still, the theme of the night was Asbestos, which is a really fun word to say quickly, many times in a row.)
I pretended to really give a shit about the story. I even said things like, “I really give a shit about this story.” But inside my head, all I could do was freak out about that goddamn laughter. Now, it wasn’t menacing, it wasn’t even mocking. It was just…it was quiet laughter from a kid. I tried to pretend I was in a park, the zoo, a city landfill–anywhere it would be natural to hear the laughter of a child. Not an abandoned school at 11:59PM on a Saturday night.
Finally able to extract Kim from Room 112 and the Snow White story it held, we noticed a door that we missed during the walk-through. On the other side of it was a small space located underneath the steps leading from the second floor to the gym. Kim walked in with authority but then quickly asked Jimmy if he thought there might be asbestos in there. With trepidation, I followed Kim inside, but kept thinking of The People Under the Stairs and also the “little girl” at the top of the steps that George had us say hello to during the walk through. Jimmy attempted to enter the small space after me, but I shouted “No!” And have no one guarding the other side of the door? Not going to happen on this girl’s watch. That’s all I needed, was to have the “little girl” wait for us to all step inside that fucking cob-webbed space only to slam the door and lock it.
So I squeezed past Jimmy and resumed my stance in the hallway, while he went inside to have a look around. I was standing at the base of a short flight of steps which led up the landing at the bottom of the steps from the second floor. At the top of the landing was the gym door, which had two mysterious lights shining through the glass at me. Just I was beginning to panic, the doors opened and Tiny and Joel walked out, laughing and with headlamps blazing.
“God, you guys scared me!” I hissed. Kim, Jimmy and myself walked up the steps and joined them in the gym, where Christine was sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring at a tennis ball dangling from a string at the edge of a long table.
“Trying to see if they’ll play with me,” she said with a shrug. “We got it moving a little bit awhile ago.”
I took a nervous perch on the edge of the stage. This was something I hadn’t considered we’d be doing that night – actively seeking to interact with the spirits.
“Come on, I know you wanna play duck duck goose with me,” Christine called out, in a playfully taunting tone. I wondered if she was talking to Joel, if this was some sort of childish foreplay they like to indulge in from time to time. Then I realized she was speaking to the ghosts and I felt even more uncomfortable.
“Would it be bad to take something we found in another room?” Kim asked Christine. “I mean, as long as we put it back later.”
I knew where this was going.
“What do you mean?” Christine asked. “What do you want to take?”
“We found a story on one of the desks.”
“Oh! And you want to read it to the spirits? Yeah, that would be fine. Just remember to put it back.”
I knew the only person Kim was going to be reading that story to was herself, but I went back with her to grab it anyway. I didn’t feel too sure about it, though.
Back in Base, I told Tiny I had heard laughter in one of the rooms.
He didn’t even flinch, nor did he seem very impressed.
“Yeah, you’ll hear things! You’ll definitely hear things. I been here since 3:00 this afternoon and been hearing things all day,” he told me, like it was no big deal at all.
Meanwhile, as Kim read her story, Lynnette had pulled up the school’s address so Jimmy Wenger could finally order his pizza, but The Pizza Company was already closed.