My job takes me into a variety of places. We usually meet maintenance guys and security personnel. I've come to see that these people, while respected, are sort of ignored unless someone needs something. They go about their business nodding at people going in and out of the building, but people don't generally take the time to chat. As my job involves getting into areas of buildings which are usually off limits to the average person, I've discovered that if I give these people 15-20 minutes of my time just to talk to me, I'm their best friend, for life. Indeed, I have gone back into buildings some 4-5 years after we were first there and encountered maintenance or security people who remember me. Plus, if I have to get into the building again, having listened to them talk about anything, means they view me in a positive fashion and my request to get into the room with our equipment isn't considered an imposition.
When you ask how they are doing or how long they have worked at their job or what's the best or worst thing they have encountered, you'll hear all manner of stories. I've heard about families. I've heard about pets. I've heard really interesting stories about jobs such as the $50,000 mice which are used for research. I was reminded of one rather interesting story while inspecting this warren of rooms in the basement of a building on this large project we're doing. Someone mentioned getting lost in the maze and running into a ghost, since the building is not quite 100 years old. I'd forgotten this story but it bears repeating.
We were working in this big building that contained machinery at one end and offices at the other. It's a brick building, built in 1935, solid as the day is long. The project we were on was adjacent to it so I had to inspect the half of the building facing the project. There were large pumps and other machines I don't know in a very large room that was 3 stories tall. The biggest of the machines was in a pit two levels below ground.
There was a security guard at the building because of what was done there. I don't remember what was produced in the building. I just remember the size of the machine/pump room. It was kind of dark, a bit dusty, with water leaking onto the floor in corners. It was really noisy, too, with pumps coming on and off and machines clicking and whirring and grinding. Whatever they did was important enough to require an alarm to be let in, a badge, and a sign-in sheet.
I don't remember her name so I'll call her Eliza. She was a short Spanish-speaking lady with a lot of energy. She had a couple of sons in the military, had been married to her husband, at the time, for 35 years, and had worked for the security firm for 18 years, 15 of them spent at this facility. She liked it because it was "quiet", in that the building wasn't busy. There were times when there were a lot of people there, but anyone in the building was someone she knew needed to be on site.
The guards provide security 24/7 so you have to work all shifts. She'd been at the building a couple of years when the first incident happened. It was about 1:30 in the morning, she said. She doesn't bring in music and there isn't a radio in the security office. She prefers to read. While reading her book, she became aware of piano music. It was very soft and quiet. This was odd, but maybe the electrician, who had an office one floor below her, had set his radio to come on at an odd hour. She left the security room and the music stopped, but she checked out his office, finding the door locked. It was a bit unsettling but she'd speak to him the next time she saw him.
It was a couple of weeks before their paths crossed. He told her he didn't listen to music. He listened to sports radio. Confused, she shrugged it off as being tired. A month later found her working nights again. It was 3 in the morning when she heard the piano music. It was coming from the machine area. She opened the door to her office, stepped into the main room and the music was loud, as if she was standing next to the piano. Terribly scared, she called the security company who had people staffing their main offices 24/7 to handle emergencies. They told her to get to the front door and wait. "They must have driven 90 miles an hour through Chicago because they were there in 10 minutes." She was sitting on the floor, completely scared and shaking like a leaf, next to the front door when they arrived.
One of the things the guards do at shift change is walk the building together. They make sure of who is in the building and that things supposed to be locked are locked. When she had arrived on that day, they'd done a sweep. She should have been the only person in the building. Loud piano music was not acceptable. The two people from her company went with her through the building. They could find nothing and, of course, there was no piano music. Seeing how upset she was, they called the police and the building's owner. Soon, there were a dozen people poking in everything, from lockers to electrical rooms to the unused stairwell in the northwest corner. Nothing. They could find no one. They decided that someone had parked on the street next to the building and cranked up their car's radio. They would make a note of it and add extra police patrols by the building. "They could say it was a car stereo but look where my office is. I know what I heard." Her office was in the middle of the building, down the main hallway. If someone had cranked up the stereo, they would have alerted other buildings in the area.
For the next few months, the piano music was soft. Sometimes, it was in the office. Sometimes, in the hallway outside the office. She started hearing it on her other shifts, as well. She could not figure out a pattern. It was played randomly and it was not the same song two times in a row. It didn't seem to be threatening but she was getting spooked by it.
Then, one day, the door alarm went off. Outside the door stood a tall, well dressed black man. "I will always remember how finely tailored his suit was, the tilt of the hat on his head and he had a red pocket square. I remember how bright red it was." The man stated that he had once worked at the building some 60 years ago, when he was 15. He wanted to know if he could have a look around. He just wanted to see the building where he'd spent his youth. She couldn't let him in without clearance. He was persistent so she had to get the electrician to talk the guy away. He returned the next day with his business cards and told her to run a check of him. She sent his cards to her boss and the owner. A check of records indicated he had, in fact, worked for this company some 60 years prior. The owner said she wasn't to let the guy in. "We don't give tours," was the response. Her boss, however, told her that if the guy came back, to let him have 15 minutes. "He's not going to hurt anything."
A couple weeks later, the guy returned. With the electrician accompanying them, they walked the main hallway. The man recalled names of people who were in the offices when he worked there, how the building had beautiful leaded glass windows and all the transoms over the doors, which were now wood, had been painted glass. Because the building was built in the depression, money was provided to put artists to work and they made the windows and transoms. He walked to the pit where the machines are and remembered sweeping up dirt and debris and helping the maintenance men keep the pumps in working order. He remarked how much quieter things were than when he was there.
Then, he looked at Eliza and said, "You know, two guys died in this building." She said she just stared at him. He nodded. "See the hoist. (There is a hoist spanning the building. It's used to replace the large machines in the pit.) They were replacing a machine and the guy moving the hoist had been yelled at to slow down. He was moving things too fast. Well, they had a machine on the hoist, all the way at the top and he was to move it toward the door where a truck was waiting for it. He started moving it fast and people were yelling at him. Then the superintendent yelled that the machine was tilting and people needed to run away. It broke loose, fell, and crushed two guys. They died instantly." She said he looked down into the pit with a very sad look on his face. Then he pointed to the southwest corner of the building. "The sad thing is that it killed a guy who loved to play the piano. They had a piano in the southwest corner over there, for him to play on his break or lunch or when he didn't have anything to do."
Eliza said her blood went cold. She shivered. She said she couldn't speak. The man nodded and thanked them for letting him remember his youth and left the building. She never saw him again. "I hear the piano player. I swear that's got to be him. I hear it more since that man was here. I hear him. I'm not scared anymore because I know he's just here to play his piano."
But, a few days later, it happened again. It was the same time, between 1 and 1:30 a.m. It was the same scenario. She would feel the need to look up toward the locker room and the shadow of a man would exit the room, turn left and head down the hall. If she turned to look at the shadow, it would be gone. "I believe it's the other guy going home. He's done with work and he's going home. Because I think this is what it is, I am not scared. They aren't here to harm anyone. The music is never at the same time and the shadow never appears on the same day as the music. It's those two guys." She was completely convinced in her experiences.
Now, I believe there are some things which we may never fully understand. I had one experience after my dad died that causes me to believe there is another world, another layer to perception, that is sometimes opened to us. Piano music provided by a person who died in a tragic accident? Sure. Why not? A shadow that is perpetually "going home". Sure. Why not? So many things are unexplained. Why can't they be a part of a world we can't always perceive?
I never did do the math to figure out when this accident would have occurred, to look things up in the newspaper. Something like this would have been covered so there should be a record of it. But with the memory of sitting in Eliza's office listening to her tell me this story, I'm tempted to do some digging. And then I wonder, what would I do if I heard the music? I wonder what he plays. I know a lot of music. Would I recognize the tune? I believe Eliza and I believe the place may be haunted, but not in a way that needs the Ghostbusters.
Beverage: Dunkin' Donuts tea