Fired For Encountering A GhostJune 7, 2011
A few years ago, I worked as a bartender in Hollywood. The bar itself was this hole-in-the-wall type place that hipsters loved to frequent, located on the first floor of a failing hotel.
A little background on the property: long before this building was gutted and gentrified to house trust-fund hipsters, it used to be a hotel. In the 1930s and 40s, it was an elegant posh place where Hollywood stars used to dance the night away, drinking merrily, living the good life. It then became a depressive hotel where prostitutes turned cheap tricks and drug dealers strung people out till they looked like ghosts. In the 1970s, it became a home for the aging citizens of Hollywood, probably for the same folks who used to frequent its bars in the 30s. Then, the property was sold to an entrepreneur, who planned to turn it back into a hotel. After sinking several hundred thousand dollars in removing the asbestos and renovating the entire inside of the hotel, the owner sold the property to another entrepreneur, who continued to invest in carving out the cancerous past of this building, installing upscale lofts and crammed dorm-like studios for the not-so-starving artists of Silver Lake.
But before the hotel was even completed in the late 1920s, a mental institution used to exist on the same plot of land. And if you haven’t heard about mental institutions from the late 1800s and early 1900s, they weren’t the grandest of places to work out psychological issues. If anything, they were places where defenseless people suffered at the hands of doctors who had the authority to practice whatever experimental treatment they could conceive on a population of stigmatized and socially-shunned folks.
I came to learn about this history from my boss and co-workers, who also described bizarrely cool drafts that would sweep through the hot sweaty bar during peak hours, glasses and beer bottles that would shatter for no apparent reason, and doors that would curiously open and then slam shut on their own.
I took all of their stories with a grain of salt. With such a history, I was sure that there were certainly some spiritual imprints left in the corridors of that building with the passage of time. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it just changes shape. Some happenings and human experiences are so wild and dense that, if they abruptly end, there’s certainly a bit residual energy that never truly leaves completely. Considering the building’s background, I was certain that all sorts of people died in this building over the years, from drug overdoses and murders to old folks passing on.
So when it was my turn to close, I always made sure to ask a couple of the restocking fellas to stick around a while longer to help clean up (I’d break them off some of my tips) while I closed the register and handled my paperwork. I didn’t like being alone in that bar (nobody did, really), but I could get over the strange vibes so long as there were a couple of other people there to keep me company.
One night, my boss decided to run the show that shift, and it was unusually busy and crowded. By the time we closed, the whole place was a disaster; the kitchen was a giant mess, and the entire bar was littered with beer bottles, plates, and glasses everywhere. My boss asked me to help with the cleaning, and specifically asked me to take a cart full of used beer bottles down into the basement, where all the recyclables were kept. I didn’t think too much of it; I was delirious, it was nearly 3 in the morning, and I hadn’t eaten anything the entire day. I just wanted to get my work done and go home to sleep.
I took the freight elevator down, and when the PING sounded and the elevator doors opened, I pushed the cart forward and turned towards the small storage room where the hotel kept all the glass bottles and recyclables, which was just down the hall from the laundry room. Usually around this time, it’d be very busy and noisy down here; a graveyard shift of workers would be bustling around, washing, drying, and folding sheets and towels. But that night, it was eerily silent.
I pushed on, listening as the bottles clanked together in the cart, my ears throbbing from the loud music playing all night in the bar. I stopped for a second, and noticed that it was dead silent; all I was able to make out was a slight buzz coming from the florescent lights above. A cool draft brushed against my flesh, and I watched as the hair on my arms rose and then settled. I shivered.
My destination was just down the hall, the last room in the corridor. I soldiered on, pushing the cart, listening as my footsteps and clanging bottles echoed down the hall. As I ventured further away from the elevator, I began to feel a strange sense of dread and sadness in the pit of my stomach, which I remember finding alarming. The silence began to feel dreadful and claustrophobic. A sense of deep sadness began to spread through my chest and I felt like at any moment, I was going to burst into sobs. I didn’t understand it. The place creeped me out and I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
Once I reached the recyclable room, I pushed the cart through the door and flipped on the lightswitch. And that’s when I saw her: she was an older lady with dirty white stringy hair and deep gashes on her face, her eyes swollen black and shut, dressed in a filthy nightgown. She was standing upright against the opposite wall with her arms wrapped around herself in what apparently was a straight jacket. At first, I thought that she might have been a homeless person who had sneaked into the basement from the outside to find shelter (this happened every once in a while), but when I realized she was wearing a straight jacket, my heart stopped. I glanced at her legs only to realize that she didn’t have any; her nightgown went down to what I thought would’ve been her knees, but there was nothing underneath that. She was just floating there, looking straight at me.
I turned around and ran back towards the elevator. When I reached the elevator, I began frantically pressing on the UP button, all the while glancing back towards the room where I had seen her. She didn’t come out. I heard the elevator door PING and the doors slid open. I jumped in and pressed the CLOSE DOORS button. As the doors began to close, she appeared right outside of the elevator in the hallway, her straight jacket having come undone. She extended both arms towards me and her mouth opened. A sharp screech filled the elevator. I covered my ears and the elevator doors closed completely.
Once I was back in the bar, I grabbed a bottle of bourbon and poured myself a shot. My hands were shaking violently.
“What happened to you?? Where’s the cart?? We have more bottles to take down there!” my boss yelled at me.
“I’m not going back down there. I saw her! She scared the hell out of me!! She screeched at me!!!” I exclaimed and then took my shot.
“I need you to go back down there and grab that cart! We need to get this place cleaned up!” my boss yelled.
“No. I’m not going down there again. I’m done.” I said.
“You’re done, eh? Well… if you don’t go back, you’re fired.” he said, his tone even.
“You’re going to fire me because I don’t want to down there and be face to face with… whatever it was that was down there? You know weird shit happens here, and just now, I saw her. I damn near shit my pants. Look at me!!” I raised my trembling hands to his face. “I’m not trying to be dramatic. I really saw an old woman in a straight jacket down there!”
My boss fired me on the spot. I grabbed my bag and left, relieved to be out of there.
Several nights later, my boss called me to apologize and offered me my job back. Apparently, news got out that I’d been fired because I didn’t want to go to the basement where I saw that apparition. Some of busboys, who had seen her in the past, talked to a few of the housekeepers who frequently went down into the basement to leave baskets of dirty laundry in the laundry area, and they all came forward to vouch for me. They told my boss of the old woman who periodically appears in the basement floating above the ground, of her arm gestures that seem to warn people not to enter certain rooms, and of the horrific screeches that emanate from her mouth.
Oh man… I just remembered another quick story about that building.
A coworker who worked at that bar with me once stayed in that hotel a couple weeks while he was in between apartments. He stayed in one of the rooms on the top floor.
He told me that his first night, he went in to take a shower, he closed the bathroom door and closed the window in the bathroom. When he stepped out of the shower, he found the bathroom door and the window opened once more.
But he was a cool guy, unafraid. He figured out that so long as the bathroom door and window stayed open, he’d have no problem. And he was right. Whenever he closed the door, it wouldn’t be long before it would open itself. Same with the window. So he just kept them both opened. Nothing else happened, nothing else moved. Weird.