The school year was almost over; we’d be in fifth grade soon. My friend Will and I, both good students with families very active in the PTA, were given an assignment we were happy with. We were excused from class to collect things needed to go into storage. We had to collect textbooks, extra supplies, and the over-head projectors in each classroom. We were given a push cart and the elevator key and sent on our way; the principal didn’t care how much we collected in a trip or how many trips it took us. We had the day, and in many ways the whole elementary school, to ourselves.
After four years in the school (I went to another school for kindergarten) and Will’s five years, we were both curious about several places in the school that stories were whispered about. Now, free from adult supervision, we had the ability to explore. And considering the stories our peers told, we had a lot to look into.
The girls used to tell stories about the first-floor girl’s bathroom. The story was that a few girls before our time went into that bathroom to summon the murderous ghost of Bloody Mary. We even knew the exact procedure; turn all the lights off, say her name (Bloody Mary) in the mirror three times, turn to the wall opposite the mirror, and throw a piece of spaghetti at the wall. The spaghetti had to have sauce on it, or else it wouldn’t work. What was supposed to happen was the spaghetti would form a strange shape. Meanwhile, the other girls in the room (because you couldn’t do it alone) would watch Bloody Mary appear in the mirror and attack your reflection. The story was that Bloody Mary was summoned, it supposedly happened often, but rather than vanish when the summoning was over the ghost remained in the bathroom.
Will and I investigated, one at a time while the other kept an eye out for adults or girls that needed to go to the bathroom. We both expected it to be a silly story, and were satisfied in that respect. I found it funny that girls would sneak spaghetti from the lunch room to try this, only for nothing to happen. But in some ways it was disappointing, I wanted to see a murderous spirit that wanted to take my soul; only for the experience not because I wanted anything to happen to my soul.
We collected things, as expected of us, from the first-floor classrooms and brought them into the basement storage room, using the treasured elevator key. Only the handicapped students ever used the elevator, it was exciting just using it. The storage room was at the far side of the basement, near the janitor’s office but far from the elevator. We had to take a gray hall, which turned to the left like an ‘L’ to reach the storage room. After our first deposit, we went to see another “haunted” place. This was a square in the wall of the basement, where the hallway turned.
The hole was a few feet off the ground, not too high that we couldn’t climb into it. The story was that some ghostly thing lived there. It was a spooky place; there was no illumination and the ground seemed to be covered by some odd rock and debris. It was like it was used as a garbage can that the janitor never cleaned. Maybe it was the janitor that threw stuff in there, nobody else came into the basement. But our mission was to find this beast that everyone said always appears. We just needed to see its eyes, which supposedly burned with the fires of hell.
Seeing the burning red light wasn’t hard, but with our 4th grade intellect we could see the electrical box the LED lights were attached to. There was no beast in there, just some box at the far side of the chamber that scared the little children we went to school with. Disappointment filled us; I didn’t know Will’s mind but my own was tired of these stupid stories. We had only one place left on our list and so far it was 0 haunting and 2 disappointments.
We had to go to the second-floor to find this place, not far from our classroom so we had to be careful not to be sent back there. The place we wanted to see wasn’t actually on the second floor, it was above it. But there was no third floor; this place didn’t seem to have a reason to exist. If I had hope of finding anything, it was this place.
We parked the cart in the stairwell in the middle of the hall and took the single flight of steps to the strange place. It was two flights to cross floors; this place just seemed like an accident of architecture. The door was unlocked, which gave us hope; there were no markings indicating what it was. The lack of signs alone made kids tell stories. Now, we were going to see what was in that place which might’ve been a gateway to Hell.
Nobody was in the room, so we were safe to explore for the moment. My hopes were crushed as I looked around. It was a storage room, though not for things like Will and I were collecting. Old yearbooks and outdated textbooks were stacked on shelves on the left side of the room; to the right was a small desk with a typewriter on it. We left the place as we found it and resigned ourselves to collecting projectors and math books.
We had lunch to look forward to, though that was still an hour away. We’d have recess then and be able to escape what we’d come to realize was child labor. We were slow in our job, taking our time so that we didn’t have to go back to class. But we finished faster than we’d have liked, we didn’t even go slow enough to work until lunchtime. So as we finished our last trip, Will suggested that we explore the basement to see what was down there, not just look for ghosts. We never had the chance to be down there normally, I couldn’t say “no.”
Don’t expect me to say there was anything interesting, there wasn’t. The funniest thing we saw was the janitor sleeping in his office, with a small 4” black and white TV on his desk. The most interesting thing we found was the special-ed gym. Directly below the regular gymnasium, we’d both wondered where the handicapped kids went to gym. There was a sign telling us what it was, it was too dark to see inside.
Will tried the handles but the door wouldn’t budge; it was locked so curious elementary students couldn’t go in and play around. It looked like a fun place, nothing like a gym; if only we were able to get in. Beside the gym was a bathroom marked as a special-ed bathroom. I tried the door and found it open. Schools were required to keep the door unlocked for safety reasons; the janitor likely used it rather than run to the first-floor bathroom which was on the far side of the school.
Will and I went in and noticed there was another door; the sign beside it said ‘Gym.’ I tried to open the door but, like the hall doors, it was locked. Will shook it like he could force it open, but everything he tried failed. I wasn’t interested in the gym any longer and went back to the door we’d come through.
It was locked!
There was no way the door could lock; it wasn’t that kind of bathroom. There wasn’t even a keyhole. We both pounded on the door, but with the sleeping janitor the only person close enough to hear us we didn’t expect rescue. We gave up and in the dark bathroom we tried to think of what to do next. It was almost thirty minutes until lunch, which meant about three more hours before school ended for the day. Will didn’t see his parents until they got home, about seven hours from now, and though my mom was home I often went to his house or another friend’s house. At the earliest, our absence wouldn’t be noticed until about 6 PM, almost seven hours away!
I put my hands on the sink and leaned against it, my head hung low as I began thinking of how much trouble I’d be in. The school wouldn’t let me or Will do anything ever again, and my dad could be a hard a*s and would likely yell at me. I’m not good at dealing with those sorts of situations; I was more afraid of being stuck in there until our parents came than anything. I started to wonder if dropping dead on the tiles would be a better solution.
I looked up, expecting to see my own face in the reflection. Where the bathroom and Will behind me should have been there was only darkness. My body wasn’t there; just a face. It was an older man, middle-aged, with a wide-brimmed hat like those cowboys wore. He had thick eyebrows and a handlebar mustache over big lips. I couldn’t see eyes, but I suspected there weren’t any. He didn’t speak, didn’t make any acknowledgment of me or Will’s presence. I swear my heart stopped beating.
A brass key appeared beside the ghostly face, hovering as if it was floating in the air beside me. I don’t know who screamed first, but I tried the hallway door and cringed when it was still locked. Will ran to the gym door, if only to escape the view of the mirror, and grabbed the door handle. The handle turned easily, as if it was always unlocked, and we ran into the gym screaming.
We were finally in that new room, but we didn’t care. We ran to the exit doors as we yelled in terror and exploded into the hall. We ran away from the gym and bathroom toward the janitor who we prayed had woken. But we weren’t lucky enough in that respect, the man was still sleeping as the soap opera he’d been watching continued.
Will and I never spoke about what we saw to each other, but we did write it down. After it was over we read what each other experienced and, without talking about it, we wrote the very same story. I don’t know who the ghost was, I never learned of any deaths occurring in the school; but I am thankful that we had help.
Still, I wish this never happened to me; it’d be easier to pretend I didn’t believe in ghosts if I never saw one myself.