Halloween Stories

Story 25 - Working the Night Shift

I graduated as a nurse in May, and after taking off a couple of weeks to unwind, I started looking for a job.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any response to my letters of application for the first few months, so I was becoming discouraged and anxious at the same time.  Finally, I got my first interview for a job at a Nursing Home, and when I was offered the position, I took it without hesitation.  It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but the pay was decent, I’d be gaining a little experience in the process, and besides, I was getting desperate.  In addition to supporting myself, I had to start paying back my educational loans, so I didn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and accepted the offer. 

I was assigned to start out on the overnight shift, which didn’t bother me.  I figured the patients would be sleeping most of the time, so with the exception of emergencies, I thought my job should be fairly easy.  Even so, I showed up a couple of hours early for my shift, because I wanted to get a rundown on the patients and their problems from the previous shift before I started work.  I walked up to the nurse’s station and introduced myself. 

“Hi, I’m Royce Hunter and I’ve been hired to work the overnight shift.  I thought I’d come in a little early so I could pick your brain about the patients and whatever else I might need to know.” 

“Hi, I’m Pam Yoder and it’s nice to meet you, Royce.  Let me show you what you’ll need to know about the nurse’s station first.  As you can see, we have a monitor set up for each of the four major areas of the nursing home so we can keep an eye on the hallways.  It’s so we can make sure that no patients are wandering around the halls, and it’s also to help us keep an eye on the visitors.  We’ve caught a few visitors sneaking into other rooms and stealing things from patients who were either using the recreation area or receiving some type of therapy at the time.  It’s also possible the patients might have just been napping when the theft occurred, but no matter how it occurred, we’re trying to stop it completely.”

“I appreciate the information, but I doubt I’ll have a problem with those issues, considering when I’ll be working.”

“Probably not, but I thought you should know, and I also want to warn you about something else.  This particular monitor scans the hallway of the critical care unit and that’s where we house the patients in the worst condition.  I don’t want to spook you, but quite a few of us who work here have seen shadow figures moving around that area on the monitor, and there’s a little girl that shows up occasionally as well.”

“You mean she wanders in here from outside?”

“No, that would be impossible, since all of the doors are locked as soon as visiting hours are over, and the employee door has a guard assigned to it 24/7.  She merely appears.  We were surprised the first time someone saw her, and then eventually she just vanished.”

“Did you do a search of the premises and look for her?”

“Yes, we did, but I didn’t mean she went somewhere else and was hiding.  She completely disappeared right before our eyes.”

“Ohhh, I see.  You mean she’s a ghost.  In that case, have you ever had any children assigned here temporarily as patients and one of them died?”

“No, we’ve never had any patients that were younger than in their fifties.”

“Hmmm, if you’re suggesting that this place is haunted then maybe there’s another explanation for it.  Could it be a patient who was suffering from dementia before she passed away and was merely taking on the younger persona she had reverted back to in her mind?” 

“That’s very possible.  A lot of patients have died while they were here, since we cater to the elderly and many of them come to us in very dire condition.  It’s just a fact of life.”

“But why would anyone choose to stay here after they died?”

“I’m not certain, but it’s possible that those who were suffering from dementia are still confused about who they are and what happened to them, so they don’t even realize their dead.  It’s possible that others feel they have nowhere else to go.”

“So, you think it’s the ghost of one of those patients still hanging around here that appears as a little girl?”

“We’ve debated that question and have come up with two possible answers.  It’s either as you’ve suggested and it’s a deceased patient that reverted back to her younger self, or it might also be a young girl who lived around here before she died and has remained in this area ever since.  Her house might have even been on this very spot prior to the nursing home being built.”

“In that case, is she wearing period clothing?”

“Yes, In fact she is.  Have you ever seen the animated Disney movie Alice in Wonderland from the 1950’s?”

“Yes, I saw it on video when I was a kid.”

“Well, the little girl appears to be dressed similar to what Alice was wearing in that film.”

“Ok, so maybe she did live in this area before the Nursing Home was built.”

“I agree, but I think I should get back to explaining a few more things to you about your new job.  Now that I’ve told you about the monitors, I want to point out the wall behind us.  This light,” she said as she pointed to it, “will go on if someone hits the call button in their room or if someone who’s being monitored has an emergency.  You’ll be able to tell which room and in which bed the problem is happening by looking at this panel,” she stated as she pointed toward the panel, “and you’ll need to go there as quickly as you can.  Other than that, I believe you’re ready to get started.”

“Thank you for pointing these things out to me.  Will anyone else be working with me during my shift?”

“Yes, you won’t be working alone.”

“Ok, that’s good to know.”

“It’s now time for me to make my rounds and check that every patient is in bed, so why don’t you walk with me and I’ll be able to give you some other information that will be good to know as we go along.”

“That sounds good to me.”

As we walked, Pam told me about the patients in each room before we entered, and if the patients were awake she would introduce us.  When we came to one particular wing, she stopped and turned to offer a word of caution before we entered. 

“This is the critical care wing I was telling you about when we were looking at it on the monitor.” 

“You mean the one with the ghost of the little girl and other shadow figures. 

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Has anyone ever seen any of those things in person when they’ve been in this wing?”

“Occasionally, so try not to panic if that happens.”

“I’ll do my best.”

We’d stopped at a few of the rooms in this wing already, and if the patients were awake Pam would introduced us.  We were just about to leave another of the rooms when a male patient grabbed ahold of the top of my scrubs.  When I stopped and turned toward him, he gave me the ‘come here’ signal with the index finger of his other hand.  As he requested, I moved closer and bent forward so I could hear what he wanted to tell me and he said something strange. 

“Beware of the man dressed in black and wearing an old fashion long suit jacket and top hat.  He’s collecting souls.”

I was about to ask what he meant by this when Pam turned around and spoke.  “Royce, we must keep moving if you want me to tell you about everything else before I leave.”

I merely nodded, and hurried to catch up with her.  When I did, I thought I should apologize.  “I’m sorry, but that patient grabbed ahold of the top of my scrubs and wouldn’t let go.  I thought he might have a problem.”

“Sometimes they do it because they’re just lonely and want to have a little company, but you can’t let it interfere with your job unless you’ve done everything else already.”

I was going to ask Pam if she understood what the man meant by his comment, but then I decided to merely return to his room later and ask him after she’d gone home.  His comment was pretty bizarre, though, and I hoped he would explain what he meant by it. 

We didn’t happen to see anything unusual while we were in the critical care unit, such as shadow figures or the little girl, which relieved me slightly.  At least now I knew it wasn’t something that would happen every time I was in this wing. 

After Pam finished her rounds, we went back to the nurse’s station and saw another woman waiting there when we reached that area, so Pam introduced us. 

“Royce, this is the other person who will be working with you.  Royce, this is Crystal Simek, and Crystal, this is Royce Hunter.  He’s starting the overnight shift with you and I’ve given him a brief rundown about things, since he came in early.”

“Thank you, that will help a lot, but I’m not sure if I’d want to start work on the overnight shift on Halloween.”

“It’s not Halloween yet,” Pam challenged. 

“It will be in an hour,” Crystal stated, “so we’ll be working the last seven hours of our shift on Halloween.”

“Ahhh, you’re right and that never dawned on me.  Well, good luck to both of you and I hope things remain fairly calm and quiet.”

After Pam left, I chatted with Crystal for a while and told her about myself, but I also got to learn a little about her as well.  She’d only been working here for nine months, so it was a good thing I arrived early so Pam could fill me in. 

“Did Pam show you the monitors and the wall?”

“Yes, she did.”

“And did she tell you about the critical care wing?”

“Yes, she did that as well.”

“Did she also tell you about the strange things that have been seen there?”

“Yes, she told me about those as well, and it brings me to a question I’d like to ask you.  Have you ever seen a man wearing an old fashion long black suit jacket and a top hat in that area?”

“No, I haven’t, and I don’t recall anyone else mentioning anything like that either, so why are you asking about it?”

“When Pam and I were coming out of one of the critical care rooms, a male patient grabbed the top of my scrubs and told me to beware of the man dressed entirely in black and wearing an old fashion long black suit jacket and a top hat.”

“That’s really odd and I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

“I think I’ll walk back there and see if he’s still awake, and if he is I’ll ask him if he can explain what he meant by that comment.”

“That’s fine with me, but you’d better take one of these radios in case I need you.  As far as I’m concerned, you can have that wing all to yourself.”

“Does it mean you’ve seen something in that wing before?”

“Yes!  At first it was just dark shapes moving about, but then I saw the little girl.”

“Pam told me about her and said she’s dressed like Alice in the Disney cartoon, Alice in Wonderland.”

“I guess that’s a good way to describe her, because she was wearing a full-length ruffled apron over a dress, but she had dark hair with a ribbon in it, not light hair like Alice.  She was also younger than Alice and I’d say she might have been either six or seven-years-old.  She also looked very confused.”

“That might be important to know as well.  I’m going to walk back to the critical care wing and see if that patient is still awake.”

“Better you than me,” she scoffed as I walked away.

When I arrived at the man’s room, I saw his eyes were open so I walked over to his bed to ask a question.  “What did you mean by what you said to me earlier?”

“The man dressed in black and wearing an old fashion long suit jacket and top hat is collecting souls.”

“Yes, I know that’s what you said, but what does it mean?”

“I’ve had two other roommates in the short time I’ve been here and they weren’t in this room for very long before they died, and both times he came into the room and collected their souls.  For all I know, he might have even killed them, so I won’t sleep at night, because I’m afraid he’ll think I’m dead and try to take my soul too, or he might even try to kill me, so I stay awake so I can fight him off.  I sleep during the day when there are more people around instead.”

“How do you know he collected their souls?”

“I saw him walk out of here and he was taking their souls with him.”

“What is he doing with their souls and where is he keeping them?”

“I’m not sure about that, but I saw him lead their souls out of the room and into the hallway.”

“Well, don’t worry about it, because I won’t let him steal your soul.”

“I’m not sure you’d be able to stop him.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s merely a spirit, and unless you know of a way to stop a ghost, then there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“I promise that I’ll do my best.”

When I left his room, I headed down the hallway and was planning on returning to the nurse’s station, but as I walked along I scanned the area around me.  I wanted to see if I could figure out where the man in black might be keeping those souls, but nothing stood out to me, at least not until I spotted something that I hadn’t noticed before.  Near the end of the hallway was a solid wooden door, and although I assumed it was probably just a storage closet or janitor’s room, I decided to check it out just the same. 

As I pushed the door forward, I spotted a couple of push brooms, two dust mops, and two regular mops hanging from metallic wall mounts.  Next to them was a small utility sink with a black hose attached to the spigot, and beside the sink was a mop bucket and a wringer.  Across from those items I saw a set of stairs that led from this room and went down to a lower level.  I became curious about what might be down there, so I found the switch that turned on the light over the stairway, as well as the lights on the lower level, and cautiously I made my way down the stairs.

When I reached the bottom, I noticed a large furnace that presumably heated the entire building, and not very far from it was a high-volume water heater.  As I continued looking around, I noticed there were multiple water and sewage pipes running along the ceiling and going in every direction as they made their way to and from the various rooms.  I also saw there were other items stored along the walls, although I didn’t bother to investigate them at the moment, but I decided to say something out loud, just for the hell of it. 

“If there are any souls down here that would like to be released so you can cross over, please come forward and let me know that you’re here.”

I had barely finished speaking when a number of human forms, all elderly men and women, began to materialize right in front of my eyes and they started moving in my direction.  At the same time, I spotted another shape out of the corner of my eye as it rushed toward me. 

“No,” the voice commanded, and it sounded as if it was as cold as the grave it came out of.  “Your soul… is mine,” it continued. 

It appeared as if it was taking a great deal of effort for it to speak, and that might be due to the fact that it hadn’t spoken very often during the years since it had died.  As I studied the figure more closely, I discovered it was the man dressed completely in black and wearing the old fashion long suit jacket and top hat. 

He came right up to me, and without warning he thrust a hand into my chest.  Although I didn’t feel his hand enter my body, there was a coldness that took my breath away.  He didn’t seem to be reaching for my heart, lungs, or any of my other internal organs, but it felt as if he was trying to rip something from my body.  After thinking about this briefly, I concluded he was attempting to rip out my soul. 

“No,” another hollow sounding disembodied voice countered.  “You can’t have him.”

When I looked up, the other figures that had been moving toward me earlier were slowly changing into younger versions of themselves, and then they rushed my attacker.  They began to pummel him with their fists and grabbed ahold of his arms and pulled on them so the hand that was in my chest was forced to come out.  The man in black attempted to struggle with them, but there were just too many for him to deal with and they soon had complete control of the situation. 

This led me to wonder why they’d never done this before, and as I considered this I watched them lead the man in black away.  After a few seconds, I thought of a potential answer.  Just as when we’re engaged in a fight or struggle, our adrenaline level surges and gives us more strength.  Since they’re all dead, possibly the equivalent of an adrenaline surge caused them to become younger instead, so they were suddenly capable of dealing with the problem.

Anyway, as I watched them, one of the spirits beckoned me with his arm to follow them, but I froze momentarily.  Seeing so many spirits I was scared as hell, but they seemed to be doing this to help me, so I let go of my fear and followed behind.  The man dressed in black was the only one who had tried to harm me, but he was now under the control of the others, so I gathered up enough courage and tagged along. 

I followed them until they reached a rectangular metal container with a domed lid that was setting in a dark corner of the basement, but not right up against the wall.  When we arrived there, one of the spirits used his hand to summon me forward, and then he pantomimed that he wanted me to lift the lid.  I wasn’t sure what this was all about, but they didn’t seem to be a threat, so I did as he requested. 

The lid was heavier than hell, and after struggling with it for a bit, I finally got it open.  When I glanced inside I saw skeletal remains that appeared to be dressed the same fashion as the man in black, but I didn’t have long to study it further.  That’s because the group of other spirits shoved the man in the long dark suit jacket into the container, and as soon as they did this they surrounded the container and made sure the man didn’t escape.  At that moment, the same spirit that had pantomimed for me to open the lid now indicated that I should close it.  Since the wall had prevented it from opening all the way, it was much easier to close and it slammed shut with a loud thud. 

At this point, the spirit that had wanted me to open the container and then shut the man in black inside, now motioned for me to follow him over to a workbench.  I did as he requested, and when we got there he pointed to an open padlock that was setting on top and indicated that he wanted me to pick it up.  When I did, he motioned me to follow him again, and then he led me back to the container in which they’d just trapped the man in the old fashion dark suit jacket. 

Seeing I didn’t immediately do anything, he pointed toward a hasp on the container and then to the padlock in my hand, which indicated he wanted me to lock the container shut.  As soon as I did, he and the other spirits suddenly began to disappear, so I assumed they were finally able to move on.  At least I hoped it was the case, but I didn’t know for sure, because this type of situation had never been covered in any of the nursing courses I’d taken. 

As I made my way up the stairs, I turned off the light switch and exited the small room, and I was once again standing in the hallway of the critical care unit.  As I thought back upon everything that had just happened, two thoughts suddenly crossed my mind.  I wanted to know who the man in the old fashion long suit jacket was, and why I hadn’t seen the girl with the other spirits.  I’d probably have to do some research in order to discover who the man in black had been, but that wouldn’t help me learn why I hadn’t seen the little girl.  The only thing I could think of was that hers wasn’t one of the souls the man in black had collected. 

This conclusion was reinforced when I realized the girl was the only spirit the workers had seen that wasn’t merely a blur or a shadow.  They had seen her in detail, so she was obviously stuck here for a different reason, but what was it?  The shadow figures that had been seen previously were probably the man in black collecting the various souls of those who had just died, so presumably the staff wouldn’t be seeing the shadow figures any longer. 

The next time I was near the room of the old man who’d first warned me about this situation, I told him that he no longer had to worry about the man in black and he had nothing to fear.  Since he didn’t seem to be reassured by my words, I explained what had happened in the basement.  After hearing what I had to say, he appeared to be relieved that the problem had been resolved. 

I, however, wasn’t about to let it go so easily.  I had a lot more questions that I wanted to find the answers to, such as who was the guy wearing the old fashion long suit jacket and top hat in life and how had he been able to collect souls. 

On my next day off, I went to the local library to do some research and I used the address of the nursing home as the starting point.  To my delight, I discovered the library still had the older copies of the local newspaper that they kept in large binders and were stored in a separate room.  They also agreed to let me look through them to see if I could discover what else had once been located on the site of the nursing home

I started by looking through multiple years’ worth of the newspapers, starting with those that had been printed right after the end of the Civil War.  I figured it was the time frame that would cover the period attire of both the man in black and the girl, so it would be the logical place to start.  I had to wear white cotton gloves in order to handle these old and yellowing items, and I also had to promise to be very careful not to damage them. 

After hours of searching through multiple editions of the newspaper, I spotted a sketch of the man in black on the front page of one of the copies.  I eagerly read the article that went with it and soon had the answers to most of my questions.  It seems the man’s name was Amos Dauberman and he was the local undertaker during the 1870s, and many of the services he offered were unusual for that time. 

In addition to making both coffins and cabinets in his workshop, the same as most other undertakers of the time, he also offered some additional services.  He volunteered to clean the body of the dearly departed and to discard the clothing the deceased had been wearing at the time of death, since most people would defecate and urinate when they died.  He would also wash the body and shave the men to make them more presentable, and then he’d dress the body in clean clothing that was provided by the family.  After placing the body in the coffin, he’d also comb or brush their hair and he would add a little makeup to the women, so the bodies appeared as if they were merely sleeping.  And he did the same thing with the bodies of infants and children that had died.

The viewing of the body and funeral service would then take place at the deceased’s home, but he would also offer to transport the body from the house to the cemetery shortly after the funeral service.  He was able to do this because he also owned an elegant horse-drawn hearse that was painted black, and he would wear black trousers, the long black suit jacket, and top hat while driving the hearse.  However, it was these additional services that eventually led to his downfall. 

The article stated that since he usually performed these services at the home of the deceased, and on several occasions Amos was caught doing unnatural things to the bodies.  The article didn’t go into detail about what those unnatural things were or on which bodies he performed them.  It merely stated he was always able to explain the unusual situations away, so no charges were ever filed against him.  However, rumors spread throughout the community and suspicions arose, so people either stopped hiring him to do those additional services, or those that did hire him would keep a closer eye on him from then on. 

Since he was no longer able to do anything to the dead bodies he was working on, it seemed that he turned to murdering vagrants and desecrating their bodies.  He was caught, however, and under very intensive questioning by authorities, he eventually admitted what he’d been up to.  He said he was fascinated by the idea of the human soul and wanted to find out if he could actually see or capture the souls of the men he had killed.  It was apparently what he’d been doing with the bodies he’d been dealing with as an undertaker, but since those bodies had been dead longer he stood less of a chance to find the answers to his questions. 

After being found guilty of several counts of murder, he was hanged and his body was immediately placed in the lead coffin that was purchased specifically to bury him in.  Since the inhabitants of the community didn’t want him buried in the local cemetery, he was buried where his carpentry shop had once stood, since someone had torched it after he was arrested. 

I later discovered that his gravesite was located on a strip of land where the nursing home was later built, and during construction his coffin was inadvertently disturbed.  Since no one in the local area had ever seen a lead coffin before, especially one that was padlocked, they wanted to find out who or what was so dangerous that others went to such trouble after he died.  Seeing there were no warning inscriptions on the exterior of the coffin, most people felt this was probably the result of superstition, such as a belief in zombies or vampires, so they agreed to cut off the padlock. 

I determined later that the lead coffin must have trapped Amos’ soul inside and it was released when the coffin was opened.  Since he was already at the future location of a nursing home that would have patients near death, he found it easy to collect their souls, since they were too old and infirmed to resist.   

This answered many of my questions, but I didn’t share what I’d learned with anyone else.  As far as I know, no one at the nursing home has ever seen anything unusual or unexplainable again, except for the young girl who still shows up there from time-to-time. 

Seeing my research about the man in black had taken so long, I didn’t have the time to do an investigation concerning her.  It’s possible, however, that one day I’ll find the time to see if I can discover the girl’s story as well.  For now, my guess is that due to her age and possible low IQ, she is unaware of her fate or where she is.  For that reason, she has chosen to remain near to the last place she called home, even if the area has changed considerably since she was alive. 

 

THE END