It was around 2:00AM by the time we finished with the last EVP sessions. George wanted everyone to split up for one more round; Kim and I found ourselves back with Jimmy Wenger. I don’t know why, call it a cop-out, but I was adamant on making the gym our last destination. It was the only room where I didn’t feel scared and after our adventures with George, I was kind of looking to end the night on a note that didn’t include phantom faces leering through windows, mischievous laughter and inexplicable piano plunking.
But as we all crowded outside the door of Base, gathering our bearings and adjusting our headlamps, Kim suggested we ride the coattails of Christine and Tiny, who were about to ascend the staircase to the second floor classrooms. Her reasoning was that they had been having shit happen to them all night, so maybe we would reap the rewards of being in their presence. This was exactly why I didn’t want to go with them! Which is pointless, considering I was there that night to have an experience. My inner chicken-shit was not on board with this at all, but Jimmy agreed to join them so there I was, being dragged along like I was on my way to get a root canal.
“Get fucked,” I whispered to the Shadowman Room and his equally-eerie neighbor across the hall. I was relieved when Christine and Tiny kept walking to the other end of the hall. We would be starting out in the Little Girl’s room again.
The vibe was immediately different, being with these two. They both made themselves comfortable, each choosing a desk to sit in while getting acclimated with their surroundings, while I continued on with my now-signature EVP stance – up against a wall with a rigid spine, nervously suckling a strand of hair.
Right away, Christine asked us to kill our headlamps, preferring to work in a pitch black environment. It was so dark that I could no longer even make out the nebulous mist of my breath. Almost immediately, my ears began to pick up the slack for the paycheck my eyes no longer had to earn, and my head was beginning to fill with ringing and static noise.
The EVP session started; Christine and Tiny had a more relaxed, conversational way of communicating with the dead. Their questions piggy-backed each other and didn’t come off sounding disjointed like when I chimed in. They had environmentally-centric queries, such as, “Were you a student here? Who was your favorite teacher? Were you a teacher? Can you write your name on the board for us?” They weren’t shy about asking the spirits to do things for us, such as completing the series of knocks that Tiny made on the desk in which he sat.
He rapped his knuckles on the desk a second time, and both he and Christine asked, “Did you hear that?” Jimmy, Kim and I did not. But those two evidently heard answering knocks coming from the coat rack behind me. I took several giant steps into the center of the room.
“Thank you,” Tiny called out to whomever (whatever) had supposedly completed his parlor trick.
“I didn’t hear anything, did you?” Kim whispered to me. She sounded annoyed, and I didn’t blame her. Not being able to pick up on everything was frustrating.
“We’re going to the next room now,” Christine called out, and at first I thought she was talking to the rest of us and was immediately irritated by her patronizing tone. “You can follow us if you want, we’d like to talk to you some more,” she added, and I realized she was still talking to some dead person. The thought of some evil school kid drifting around the school with us made me feel weary and about 10 degrees colder.
The room across the hall was the computer room. “This is where I heard the piano!” I excitedly reminded Christine and Tiny, neither of whom responded. Being the jejune newbie was really hindering my credibility.
Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the empty floor, Christine once again asked for all lights to be turned off. Jimmy would light up the room with an occasional camera flash, and Kim was talking in loud whispers; Christine’s bristling irritation was nearly palpable. No one had ever set any ground rules but it was clear that Christine had her own firmly planted preferences and Kim wasn’t having it.
“I’m going to the gym,” Kim said, standing in front of me. “Do you want to come?”
I did. But at the same time, I kind of wanted to see what was going to happen with Christine’s game of Duck Duck Goose. So I stayed. Jimmy tried to get Kim to stay too, by reminding her that we weren’t supposed to go off on our own, but she said, “I’m not scared!” and pretty soon she was far enough down the hall that I could no longer hear the swishing of her snow pants.
I peed in my pants a little on her behalf.
Meanwhile, Christine was still trying to lure a ghost into playing Duck Duck Goose with her. I was standing there, knees knocking together, listening to her do that while Tiny tried to tempt a ghost to have its picture taken, and my mind was ready to explode.
I was standing in the dark.
With perfect strangers.
In a haunted school that felt like a freezer.
My nose was so cold, a stream of snot could have been bubbling out of it and I wouldn’t have known.
My fear of the dark had taken on tangible fists and was pummeling away at my psyche.
It only got worse a few minutes later when we heard Kim and her snow pants sloshing back down the hall, and Jimmy poked his head out of the door to talk to her. They exchanged muffled words and the next thing I knew, Jimmy had joined her, closing the door behind him, shutting me in a room with my crippling paranoia and two people who were oblivious to my presence.
“Is everyone gone now?” I heard Christine ask Tiny.
“No,” I stammered. “I’m still here. Me, Erin.” I wondered if they were disappointed that they were still going to have to drag around my dead weight.
Tiny heard something from the back of the room, a voice? I don’t know, no one ever really told me. So what did Christine do? SHE FUCKING SCOOTED CLOSER TO THE BACK OF THE ROOM. I’m standing there, ripping my nails nearly all the way off their beds, hand reaching for the doorknob, ready to bolt, and this broad is moving closer to the source of the noise.
“Come on, come play with me!” she kept taunting in a sing-song voice. Are you fucking kidding me? I tried to imagine being a ghost and watching this play out. I imagine it would be hard not to say, “Yeah, I’ll play with you. Duck, duck, duck, duck GOOSE, bitch!” as I slam her on the head with a sledgehammer. But that’s just me. I have a feeling I might make an angry ghost.
You might be shocked to find out, but no one took her up on her Duck Duck Goose offer. Maybe because that game is fucking lame? Just a thought.
During the EVP prepping back at Base, George told us to make sure we verbalize for the tape recorder if we accidentally make a noise, such as coughing, bumping something, stepping on something. Even if our stomachs growled, we were told to state for the recording that it was indeed our stomach growling.
I had to do this at least 12 times. It was a little embarrassing.
“That was just my stomach again. Sorry guys,” I said sheepishly for the eight time, prompting Christine to assure me that she used to have that same problem but had since learned to fill up before embarking on a ghost hunt. I ate a sandwich before I left home, and it was pretty amazing that I was even able to get that down my gullet, what with the waves of emotion my nerves had crashing against my stomach lining. Jimmy Wenger’s glazed donut and a few handful of barbeque chips were the only vegetarian options down in Base, and I had ravished some of those in the beginning of the night, but as the groups got smaller and the rooms grew blacker, food was pretty much the last thing on my mind.
Apparently my stomach thought otherwise.
“OK, we’re going to be leaving this room now. Do you want to come with us? Show us around some more?” she suggested.
(Oh god, please don’t.)
With my arms wrapping myself into a big, walking hug, I followed them reluctantly to a classroom in the middle of the hall.
The door wouldn’t open.
“It feels like it’s being pulled back from the inside,” Christine said to Tiny, who took the knob and tried for himself.
“It’s not catching on anything,” he pointed out, and meanwhile, I’m inching back. I don’t know about you guys, but that seemed like a pretty good GET THE FUCK OUT warning to me.
The door was eventually wrenched open and the two ghost soldiers marched right over the threshold while I opted for a more timid, dainty tiptoe.
There was a toy truck on the floor; small and wooden. Christine sat down in front of it and launched her pleas for play while Tiny chose to squeeze his decidedly non-tiny body behind a desk.
Me? Oh I just stood near the door as usual.
I was colder than ever in this room. Maybe because it was nearly 3AM by now? Maybe that room had some broken windows? Maybe my own cowardice was causing my blood to coalesce into icicles? I really didn’t want to consider that it was because I had spirits swirling around my torso, blowing on my hair, looking for an opening to enter me and fuck my world up.
And the next thing I know, I’m hearing Christine say, “Erin has a kid. I bet she would like to play with this truck with you.”
There was an awkward silence, which I chose to fill with the even more awkward addition of, “Yeah, I have a four-year-old. We play trucks all the time.” (THIS IS A LIE. We do not play trucks. We do, however, play Zombies out in the front yard, but hello, I’m not suggesting THAT game to a fucking ghost kid.)
I stood there, squinting through the darkness at this stupid toy truck which just sat there, immobile. An overwhelming sense of pity (for myself) washed over me. I wanted very badly to open that door and leave. I was cold, the coldest I had been all night, and it was painfully uncomfortable. My toes burned in those goddamned uninsulated galoshes, my lower back ached from standing erect with trepidation for the last five hours. I couldn’t stop thinking about the comfort and safety of my home, my home that had heat and electricity and (hopefully) no spirits waiting inside cubbies to jack my world up. I don’t know if it was exhaustion, my sense of sight being stolen from me, or if there was honestly something inhuman in that room, but I felt awful. Just completely horrible, uncomfortable, completely oppressed, like the atmosphere of this particular room was heavy enough to crush my chest. I sensed things all around me; whether there was really something haunting that classroom or not, I’m not the one to verify that. I was honestly seeing shit though–wispy shadows? I’m not sure what it was. It could have been my eyes struggling to adjust to their new unlit surroundings, maybe overcompensating by creating images that weren’t really there? I don’t know, but I was fucking frightened. I felt unsafe and I wished Henry was there with me, so you know something inside my brain was awry.
You know in The Blair Witch Project, they start out all happy-go-lucky? Full of jokes and excitement? And then as their time in the woods lengthens, and shit starts happening, they sort of just break? Get all whimpery and paranoid? Oh, could I relate. Turning off the lights and hearing these phantom noises had me on the Autobahn to a psychological snap. My eyes started to well and I panicked because I didn’t want my tears to cause my contacts to freeze. I already couldn’t see!
But I stayed in that room. Mostly because I didn’t want these hardcore ghost chasers to think I was some spineless weakling (even though that’s exactly what I am).
Tiny launched into his knocking experiment again, and this time I fucking heard it. The answering knocks, more like taps, came directly from my left, where a metal cabinet sat in the corner.
“Thank you,” Tiny called out. I was glad that he brought his manners to the ghost conference.
“Is there something you want out of that cabinet?” Christine probed. “Do you want Erin to open it for you?”
DO NOT BRING ERIN INTO THIS. I backed away with such zest that I nearly lost my balance.
Meanwhile, Tiny had picked up some sort of scent, so Christine and I joined him in the middle of the room.
They both decided it smelled like burning wood, but all I could glean from the air was the stench of industrial cleansers.
It seemed like hours had passed since Jimmy and Kim had left, hours since we all left Base in one group. I wasn’t sure how much I could handle. Actually, I was sure, and it was this: not even one more second in another darkened room. So as we left the room, shutting the door behind us, I cleared my throat and asked, “Is it OK if I go back down to Base?” Once they made sure I knew how to get back (it literally involved walking down one flight of steps; even someone as directionally incompetent as myself would have a hard time getting lost), I left them behind as I did a ridiculous shuffle-run down the hall, past the Shadowman Room (I refused to look at the door), down the short flight of steps and then ripped open the door to Base.
Brittany and Lynnette, who had opted to stay back for that round, looked up in alarm.
“I COULDN’T DO IT ANYMORE I WAS TOO SCARED OMG AREN’T YOU GUYS SCARED?” I squealed, planting myself in a chair under the kerosene lamp. They didn’t seem very scared, and said that they hadn’t seen anything on the monitor either.
I wasn’t back for more than a few minutes before the other groups returned. Christine and Tiny were the last to come back, staying upstairs for a good fifteen minutes longer.
Lynnette and Brittany mentioned to the group that they would be leaving soon. I looked at my phone and saw that it was nearly 3AM. I grabbed onto their coattails and said that I would be bowing out as well. George said all that was left was a walk around the premises and the playground, and one last free-for-all around the inside of the school. I already made it way longer than Henry’s guesstimation and if we’re being honest, I wasn’t sure that on a purely emotional level, I could handle much more.
So I was firm in my decision to leave.
But first, I was entertained by Chris and Kim bickering over who is the biggest skeptic (they are constantly making me laugh!) and then, at George’s insistence, we all posed for a group photo.
l. to r.: Joel, Nick, Lynette, Tiny, Chris, Christine, me, Brittany, Jimmy, George
Kim is worse than me when it comes to pictures (and unrightfully so!) and purposely used Christine’s head to shield her face. I still don’t know who was giving me bunny ears–Kim or Jimmy. Jerks, both of them!
It was a good group of people and I was happy to meet them all. I hope that they didn’t think I was an idiot or too wussy to be a part of their group, though. I did take it seriously, even if it might have been difficult to see that through my veil of fear.
By 3AM, I was on my way home with the heat blasting, after having Kim and Chris walk me up the snowy lane to my car. (I half-expected it to not be there.) I called Henry and woke him up, making him talk to me while I drove the mostly desolate streets, too afraid to be alone in the car. He didn’t seem very interested in any of my experiences, only that I had left his flashlight at the site.
“Don’t worry!” I begged. “Kim and Chris are still there! They’ll get it for you!”
Then he laid in bed and smirked while I spastically told him more of the night’s details. He of course had an explanation for everything.
The next afternoon, we were on our way to the roller rink and I had to endure Henry’s endless castigation on the subject of Flashlight.
“That goddamn flashlight could be in the same place for YEARS, and the moment the lights go out, it’s gone,” he fumed. “Everything was fine until my kids and YOU entered the picture,” he added, casting an accusatory glance upon my soul.
It’s just a flashlight.
“And of course you’d leave it there!” he continued, flashlight maniac that he is. “I never should have expected anything else from you!”
But Kim and Chris met us at the rink, and Henry was reunited with his precious fucking flashlight. Never mind the fact that his girlfriend had spent the entire night risking her life inside of a HAUNTED SCHOOL. Let’s ignore that and have a fucking Welcome Home party for a goddamn battery-operated torch.
After rehashing the events over and over again since that night, I believe that I was offered enough proof at Broughton Elementary to believe that there is definitely some shit out there. Just writing these recaps, in an empty house in broad daylight, has been enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck and fill me with that dreaded sensation of being watched. I’ve screamed outright on several occasions while lost in typing-mode, always because of something stupid – a beeping car, my phone ringing, one of the cats slowly pushing open the basement door. I’m worried of the impact this might have on my cemetery walks, if I’ll be too sufficiently freaked out to go there on my own now. I hope not.
Would I do it again? I think I would. Only, with my own flashlight.