Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick Or Treat

Don't forget that no matter how elegant and sophisticated the wood pile may be there is probably always a snake in it.

Bate - The Vagabond
This is a true story.

I was working as the stage manager for a small theatre in New England. One night a couple of days before we opened a show, it was very late, everyone else had left after a long day's work and I was the last one to lock up and go home. But since I had to be there first thing in the morning and since my home was a good half hour walk away and I was exhausted, I decided to spend the night in the theatre. That was a mistake.

I made sure all the doors were locked, put down a bedroll in the lighting booth which was small but big enough to stretch out in, turned off all the lights and lay down for a well earned night's sleep.

But in a few moments I heard a strange noise. It was a high pitched squealing, scraping noise, as if small pieces of metal were being scraped together. Scrape, scrape. Scrape. It went on at irregular intervals.

I knew I wouldn't get to sleep until I found whatever it was and stopped the noise. So I turned on the work lights, left the booth and went out onto the stage. The audience area almost surrounded the stage and I could see all the seats. They were all empty. I checked between the rows thinking that maybe a lighting instrument had been left and was responsible somehow for the scraping noise. I found nothing.

I went into the lobby and turned on the lights. There were windows along one side. I thought maybe a window was open and blowing in the wind. But they were all closed up tight. The lobby door was closed and locked.

Then I heard it again. Scrape, scrape. Scrape, scrape. It was coming from another part of the building. So I left the lobby and went down the hall behind the audience area, checking through everything as I went.

Then I heard it again. Scrape. It was coming from another corner of the building and sounded as if it was from the costume area. I climbed the flight to that room and went carefully through all the clothes that were hanging there, made sure the sewing machines were turned off and the iron. Everything was as it should be.

Then I heard it again, louder now. Scrape, scrape. Scrape, scrape. Scrape, scrape. It seemed to be coming from below me.

By now I was beginning to get frightened. I went cautiously back down the stairs. To my left was the lighting booth I had originally come from. Off of it was the stage door and a lounge room for the actors. I went in there and flicked on the light. I was startled by how bright the light was. The whole room was flooded with bright light. I stood still for a moment as my eyes became adjusted to it. But at last I looked all around the room. People had left some personal items there but there was nothing that would account for the scraping noise I heard.

Then I heard the sound almost directly behind me. SCRAPE! I quickly shut off the light, turned and stepped to the stage door which was closed and locked. I opened it to see if it was making noise on it's hinges. It wasn't. Near the door was a desk with a swivel chair behind it, There was nothing on the desk but a telephone and a basket. Across from the desk was a coat rack with metal hangers on it. I moved some of them back and forth trying to recreate the sound, but they were not the source.

Perplexed, I went and sat down at the desk. There was no one in the theatre but me, I had made sure of that, but I still could not discover the source of that scraping noise. Exhausted I leaned back in the chair and right under me was the sound. SCRAPE!!. It was the springs on the bottom of the swivel chair scraping together.

That sound could not be made except if someone sat in that chair and leaned back. But I was the only one in the building. I knew that. I quickly stood up, letting one more scrape happen as the chair righted itself, left the theatre, letting the stage door close and lock behind me and walked home.

All theatres have ghosts, they say, if you believe in ghosts, As for me, I never again spent a night or a day alone in that building.

Dana Bate
Happy Halloween
Weekend Puzzle

Here are several groups of things. In each group one of them does not belong. Guess what I want you to do.

1. apple, cumquat, lime, persimmon, tomato

2. Christmas, Halloween, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving

3. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela

4. mackerel, salmon, shark, tuna, whale

5. Ibsen, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Shaw Sheridan

6. cranium, femur, iliac, trapezium, ulna

Good luck


Linda S. Socha said...

Loved the story......You are braver than I! I might have stayed 3 seconds past the first scrape!
Happy Halloween!

Rose~* said...

Happy Halloween! Yes, I have also heard that many theatres are haunted. Vancouver also has some haunted mansions as well. And of course, there is the ghost that lived next door to us (when we purchased our very first home). I never knew two grown men who could turn so pale, and that was a story that I've written about before.

Gerry said...

Great Halloween story. You really hooked me. I hope this was true, as I love hearing real ghost stories, if not, you are a good fiction writer.

Liz said...

Once I walked down a lane overgrown with honeysuckle. The scent was exquisite and wrapped my mind in memories like a spider’s web catches its’ prey with gossamer wings.
Suddenly the shroud parted to show a woman bending down over the well I knew used to be used many years ago. She lifted up the bucket and poured the water into two containers that lay by her side, and then in one fluid movement she raised them both across her shoulders and walked down the lane.
I called to her like a child might call to her mother because that is how I felt in her presence.
She stopped for an instance and turned. Then she took one container and placed it on the ground in front of me.
I cried, ‘What should I do with the water?’
She smiled and walked away, but I swear I heard the honeysuckle sing, ‘Do what you will but the water always finds the way.’

I answer your trick with a treat.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

It is amazing how we get acclimated to the sounds of our surroundings. I would imagine that if someone slept in my house they would hear noises that I take for granted.

Jon said...

Thanks for sharing this hauntingly intriguing story! I am definitely a believer, as I've had a few ghostly experiences myself.

Beth said...

Ooooo, spooky! I don't believe in ghosts, but that would definitely give me the willies!