I am glad to be here, and glad you are here, too. Sit down, have a drink–don’t worry, it’s red, but it’s not blood. Don’t mind the dust on the chair, or that strange smell. We’re all friends here. And we’re here because we like monsters.
So let’s talk monsters.
You are doubtless familiar with the basics; pop culture is saturated with them now: vampires, zombies, werewolves, dark-eyed, grinning demons. I love those guys–they’re what got me started in this, my Stygian profession. But we’re getting bored of them. It would seem that our time is lacking in imagination–that as we go about our daily lives, we’re running out of things to be unreasonably afraid of.
There are plenty of other things that go bump in the night (or in the day, right behind you) that are still lurking in the shadows, waiting for their moment in the spotlight. They deserve a chance to make someone shudder, squeal, or laugh a little too loud. This is a blog about those guys–the unique ones. The specific ones. The ones you won’t see coming.
So sit back, sip your drink, and let’s warm up with something more familiar–a real-live ghost story that was related to me just over four years ago.
It was late December, just after Christmas, in an underground metro station just outside the Oregon Zoo. When I say underground, I mean *deep* underground–at about 260 feet below the surface, Washington Park is the deepest subway station in the United States. It’s set up with a set of elevators at either end of the platform, which has an island of wall in the center to divide the city and suburb bound trains. The only normal way in and out of the station is to take one of those elevators; as I would find out, they shut down the platform after a certain hour at night, and when they do, those elevators get locked with it.
Of course, were you to get locked down there, I suppose you could always try to escape through the tunnel. It dumps right out into a graveyard. In fact, they had to relocate 14 bodies when they were building it.
Anyhoo, it was around 10:30 pm. I had worked late, and got off the elevator just as my train was pulling away. The next one wouldn’t be by for 40 minutes. I settled in on the cold stone seats, and prepared myself for a miserable wait.
Now, being a person somewhat small in stature, my wait was complicated by a fear that someone would show up on that empty, echoing platform and decide to harass or mug me. Imagine my relief when I heard the elevator bang, and not a vagrant but a security guard came strolling down the platform.
“Hello, there!” he said.*
We exchanged pleasantries, and I expressed my gratitude that there was someone on duty. The guard smiled and acknowledged that it could get creepy down there, alone at night. But no night, he said, could compare to a shift he worked there in ‘04.
He had to close the elevators that night, and he and one other guard were the only ones left–had been for hours. It was around 1:00 am. Our guy was the only one physically underground; the other was manning the camera feeds remotely, coordinating with him over the radio. The two of them were supposed to work together to make sure no one else was still down there, so that when they shut the elevators they wouldn’t inadvertently entomb anyone under 24 stories of rock.
The platforms were both empty and the radio man gave our friend the all clear to shut down the first set, which he did. All seemed well, but as our friend walked down the platform towards the other, his companion came over the radio.
“M23-10–hold up, we have someone else on the platform.”
The cold Trimet station got a little more interesting. “Someone else?” I asked.
“It happens,” the guard explained. Sometimes some hapless traveller will come down while security is closing the first set of elevators. So he took another walk around, trying to find them–even called out. Nothing. He assumed his radio friend had made a mistake, and told him so. He headed back to shut the rest of it down.
But the radio stopped him again.
“M23-10, do not proceed. There is another person on the platform.”
The train echoed down the tunnel as he continued. He raised his voice over it.
“So I looked around again, but nothin.’ He even tried to give me instructions, but I swear the station was empty. So by now, I’m a little freaked out. Finally I go and I stand on the walkway and look up at both of the cameras and wave my arms around.” He demonstrated; the train lights illuminated the station. “’See?’ I say. ‘No one else here!'”
“And he says to me,” the guard leaned in, “all shaky-like, ‘M23-10. They’re standing right next to you!'”
The train ripped out of the tunnel and slowed to a stop in front of us. He grinned, and I did, too.
There’s something magical about a well-timed ghost story. I got on the train that night electrified by the thought that there could be monster lore on a site built less than ten years before. Age was no longer a prerequisite for supernatural fun. And I thought, what else could be out there?
What have you seen?
* As this happened four years ago, all quotes are paraphrased, and the radio codes are deliberately pure nonsense.