Working with the Dead

The undead dwell in many places. You may think that you are safe after you’ve crossed out of the threshold of your haunted house, off to work where the ghosts cannot follow. But what you may not have taken into account is that your workplace may very well have some demons of their own. Or perhaps some regulars and patrons who just don’t ever want to leave (anyone who has worked in hospitality knows the type all too well.)

Who knows what those buildings may have seen throughout the years, passed over to various owners, enduring countless renovations and changes. The shady happenings behind the scenes, the proverbial skeletons in the closet (or literal depending on the management.) Every place has a story.

Over the weekend I took a trip up to the Poconos with some of my lady friends for the Lantern Festival in Long Pond, PA to set off paper lanterns into the sky, along with our aspirations and wishes. Taking a break from the suburban/ city life, we decided to make a weekend of it. We spent the first day hiking Mount Tammany, one of my favorite hiking spots along the Delaware Water Gap, and spent the night in Hawley, Pennsylvania where I previously lived (and started this whole blogging endeavor).

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We decided to visit some of my old stomping grounds with a trip over to my previous workplace. A sports bar where I used to sling drinks and banter with the locals. The bartender working that night had become a friend of mine, and she and I would often trade ghost stories and our experiences in the bar. This trip down memory lane caused me to recount my interactions with the dead during my time there, as well as other places I’ve worked.

 

The Old Fireside

For anonymity purposes I cannot tell you the name of the bar. But I can tell you what it isn’t called! This establishment is located off of the beaten path on an old country road in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was my first real bartending job, as well as experience with the country lifestyle.

This place was real country. Not trashy country, but there was a hell of a lot of camouflage and neon orange if you catch my drift. Dirty, tired men lined the bar sipping their beers after a long day of manual labor or hunting, spitting their dip into styrofoam cups. It took some getting used to.

I was kind of thrown into the job without any training. My boss briefed me on how to use the computer over the phone, and all of the rest was pretty much common sense. Pour beer, make mixed drinks, take and serve food orders. I’ve never fancied myself to be a front of the house person but I caught on pretty quick.

Most nights I would close by myself (until I started begging my coworkers to stay with me.) I always had an eerie feeling, like someone was watching me. I’d sing to myself and keep the TVs on blast to drown out my fear. I just told myself I was uncomfortable because I was alone in an unfamiliar place. There’s no one else here. Just me.

Fast forward to a month ahead. The kitchen had just closed and the cooks all went home. The bar was slowing down so I began my closing duties so I wouldn’t be there too long wrapping up alone. Luckily the server on duty that night always stayed with me. At first I thought she was waiting for a ride, but realized she had her own car. She was a mother of two, so I assumed she just didn’t like leaving a young girl there alone. It was in the middle of nowhere, and there’s a heroin epidemic in NE/PA.

I ran down into the basement to grab refills for the bar. Napkins, straws, juices, all that jazz. I heard the office door slam behind me, but thought nothing of it. It was a little strange that the owner was still there so late, usually he was gone before dinner service ended.

After refilling the bar, I peaked outside to see who was still here. But there was no one. Only my car, and one belonging to the server.

“Huh, that’s strange. When did the owner leave?” Thinking that I must have just missed him.

“Oh, he’s been gone for hours!” She replied, catching on to my shift in demeanor.

“Is someone else here? I heard him in the basement. The office door slammed shut.” I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but my stomach dropped as her eyes focused on me, accompanied by a knowing nod.

Oh shit. “This place is haunted isn’t it.” It was more of  a statement than a question. I already knew.

She nodded again. “The other night I was closing up with one of our regulars, we were right over there chatting.” She pointed to the right corner of the wrap-around bar. “We both saw it. You can even ask him. The bar stool next to him slowly leaned back, nearly touching the floor, and then leaned forward again, steadying itself.”

A chill ran down my spine. I fucking knew it.

“Ask the other girls,” she went on. “They’ve got stories. That’s why I always stick around. No one should have to close up here alone.”

Feeding off of each other’s anxious energy, we got progressively freaked out as we closed up the bar. We journeyed down into the basement together to drop off our registers in the basement; in the office. I noticed that there was a door blocked off by a desk, adjoining to another room. Light was shining under the door. I pointed it out to my coworker.

“Weird.” She said. “They must have left the light on in the other room. We’ll go turn it off together.”

We dropped our deposits into the safe and rounded the corner into the other room where we found, darkness. The light was not on. (This would happen every single time I went into the office after closing.) We locked eyes and silently agreed that we were getting the fuck out of there ASAP.

She held the door to the kitchen open as I walked around the dining room turning off all of the lights and TVs. The only light now illuminating from the kitchen. We then made our way through the kitchen turning off the lights, hitting a switch that controlled all of the fixtures in the hood.

Just as we were about to leave, we noticed a light was still on in the kitchen. A single hood light.

“How is that possible?” I asked. “Doesn’t the switch control all of the lights?”

All of the color drained from her face as she nodded. “I’ll get it-“ she shakily whispered, taking a step forward towards the light.

The building began to shake like a stage 4 earthquake. The glasses all chattered together creating a horrific ruckus.

“FUCK THIS! PEACE OUT!” She screamed as we slammed the door behind us, running for our cars.

Did that really just happen!? Yes, it happened. And we were both there to back up each other’s stories.

That is the only time something of that velocity happened there. It shook me to the core. Literally. I considered never going back, but jobs were scarce in this area and I needed the money.

I can deal with the ghosts, I thought to myself. I’ve been dealing with them my whole life.

The next day I told the other girls about our experience. Everyone had a story to tell. Patrons stopping in, sensing unrest, specifically in the basement.  Phantom hands touching them, ominous whistling, one woman heard a voice scream “GO!” As she was locking up.

Months went by without incident. I assumed that I’d put up a wall between myself and the spirits. I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn’t have to share my home with them, so there was no reason to entertain their shit. They must have sensed it because they didn’t bother me. Occasionally I would see a dark shadow pass by my peripheral, or see a patron sit at the bar and turn to see that no one was there. But nothing direct.

I expressed my concerns to one of my coworkers one night. I’d hoped I didn’t hurt their feelings, I was just scared. But now that it had been so long since I’d heard from them I was starting to become curious. Were they still here? What do they want?

As I closed up that night, I was alone. The waitress on duty had to race home to her sick child, leaving me to my own defenses. I printed my check-out as normal and began counting down the register.

To my right I heard it clear as a bell. A whistle. A “yoohoo” type whistle as if to say, “hey you, I’m right here.” My blood ran cold. I froze momentarily, but didn’t want to reveal that I’d heard it. I was afraid it would try to engage me more. I quickly finished counting down the register (which came up short because I was panicking) and got the hell out of there.

I know I was alone. I checked outside for cars or any sign of life. I was the only one there. And regardless, the whistle wouldn’t have sounded so close even if someone were outside. It was right next to me.

Today, dear readers, you are in for a treat. One of my coworkers had began making recordings  as she closed up, hoping to catch a message from the other side. Most of the recordings consist of white noise or nothing at all, but one managed to capture something sinister.

Whether or not you want to believe it. This recording is real. 15 seconds into the recording you will hear a man’s voice very clearly whisper the word, “dead.”

Well, thanks for the information. We know you’re dead. A name or source of unfinished business would be a little more helpful.

 

purple-gang

 

Prohibition Phantoms

The 1920’s were a crazy time full of debauchery and crime. As we all know, prohibition failed due to the general public’s unwillingness to obey. Great measures were taken to bootleg and distribute various spirits. Speakeasies sprang up like weeds in the backrooms of many restaurants and establishments.

For historical novelty, many venues have preserved the foundations of the illegal distilleries; the trap doors, secret tunnels, etc.

When I was 17, I’d decided that I wanted to work in food service. My sisters friend had recently started working at a local fine dining restaurant and bar, and told me they were looking for help.

I had absolutely no experience. I rocked up in a sweatshirt and jeans without an appointment, clearly uneducated on interview protocol. The owner loved me. I had ambition, and obviously I wanted the job. He hired me on the spot.

On my first day of training I was given a tour of the entire establishment. The restaurant had two floors along with a basement and an attic. The first floor was an open floor plan. The dining room took up most of the space, sharing with the kitchen on the back end. Upstairs, there were a number of small private dining rooms, and a few rooms which were blocked off.

My friend who had gotten me the job informed me that the place had first opened in the late 1800’s as a brothel. The owners had apparently spent some late nights here organizing the books, sometimes spending the night, overworked and would be returning early in the morning regardless.

They’d reported stories of being woken up in the night by the sounds of partying patrons, as well as phantom headboards slamming against the walls as the ghosts relived their scandalous activities.

After viewing the first and second floors, I was taken down into the basement where we kept the majority of our supplies. There was one room in particular that stood out to me. A room that every member of the establishment only referred to as “the scary room.” The foundations of the old distillery from the 1920’s were still there; after it had been converted into a speakeasy. The trap doors were still present on the ceiling, blocked off from above, but lingering below. It was so cool.

I’d only been working there for a few weeks when I pulled up for an event one morning. I was the first one there I thought, no one else was parked in the lot. I took out my phone to call my boss when I noticed someone standing on the side of the building.

“That’s strange.” I thought. I’d only noticed a front door and a back door, but this man was holding a door open on the side of the building, as if he was waiting for someone to approach. I was at least 100ft away so I couldn’t make out any distinguishing features. He was wearing a suit, a tie, and a fedora. I assumed he was the owner, perhaps he liked to dress up like a prohibition goon for events. I waved, hoping to catch his attention. Instead he walked back inside, closing the door behind him.

I attempted to enter through the back door, it was locked. I went around to the side to try this door I’d failed to notice. It too was locked. I started to make my way around to the front when the dishwasher, Juan pulled in with his Chevy.

“Hola senorita! Buenos dias!” he chirped, taking out his keys to unlock the door.

“Hola! Hey…is Steve already here?” I asked, inquiring about the owner.

“No, I just spoke to him. He’s going to be late.” He didn’t skip a beat as he opened the kitchen door.

“Oh. Hm. Well, someone is. I just saw a man standing at the side door.”

“Not possible chica.” He said wearily. “That door is locked.”

“Yeah, they locked it behind them. But I saw someone. He was just standing there holding the door open.” I tried to explain.

“Mira!” He beckoned as he led me down the stairs. On the landing between the first floor and the basement, there was a door. It was laden with multiple heavy chains and padlocks. “We never use this door chica. You must be mistaken.”

I just nodded wearily. It wasn’t worth arguing. But we exchanged a glance that told me he knew I believed what I saw, and he believed it too.

Later that night my friend and I were sent down into the basement to grab a few loaves of French bread from the cooler. We kept the bread and beer in a separate walk-in cooler, that was only accessible from within another cooler. The doors could open by opened from the outside, so I held the door open while my friend grabbed the loaves.

As you would have it, the coolers were located in the scary room. The light switch was a timer, with a maximum time of 60 minutes. We set it to 20 as we rummaged around the cooler to acquire the supplies.

While I held the door, I saw a very fat Chef dressed in whites out of the corner of my eye, walking down the corridor and passed the scary room. I assumed it was one of the Chefs, Raul, as he was the only fat man upstairs.

“Yo Raul! I called after him! Just tell me what you need and I’ll grab it for you!”

Darkness. All of the lights in the basement turned off.

“Shit! Shit!” My friend called out from the cooler. “Don’t fucking leave me!”

“Hurry up!” I squealed, shaken by the darkness and freakish energy.

She darted passed me, her arms full of bread and we both sprinted up the stairs, passed the padlocked door, up into the kitchen. The entire staff was there. Raul, everyone. They all rolled their eyes at us as we bounded into the kitchen, out of breath and clearly spooked.

We decided it was best to keep that one to ourselves. But we know what we saw.

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