My name is Rick, as some of you no doubt inferred by my user name. I just stumbled on to this site under Google (such an inspired solution to man's information browsing needs!) - and figured I'd give it a look over.
Lots of very interesting stuff, if a little slow, and I look forward to chatting with you all.
I have personally experienced a number of eerie, creepy, or downright "ghosty" happenings. I never believed in the stuff, though it was fun to read about and watch on movies, until I took a job as a security guard at the capitol in Helena, Montana.
"Ahhh", you're saying to yourself. "A security guard. The most reliable of sources on all things supernatural". I envision you saying that with a somewhat sarcastic smile. Perhaps you've read The Relic,a not unfine work of fiction, the opening chapters of which sees a drug abusing Security Guard scarfed by some other worldly entity, and are inclined to believe security guards are all pot-head college students, or middle aged fat men.
I assure you this is not the case. I am a 26 year old former Soldier (I'm in fact National Guard now), and tend to shy away from most drugs. I've been known to drink a few beers, though never on the job, but I stay away from all illegal or illicit substances. As I mentioned above, I was not previously a believer. These experiences changed that.
It started, as such stories quite frequently do, on a very dark night. I had completed the requisite training, and was on one of my first "solo" rounds. A tad of background is required here, though I'll do my best to keep this from becoming much more unnecassarily long - the Montana State Capitol compound consists of several (I believe 14) buildings in close proximity, and another half dozen scattered all over town. The outlying complex is patrolled nightly and on weekends by a motor patrol; the near buildings by a foot officer.
Onward with the narrative! On one of my first "solo" foot patrols, I found myself in the Cogswell Building. It is a difficult building to describe to someone who hasn't seen it (and given the population of Helena is barely above 30,00, I feel safe assuming most of you have not), but try to envision an arrow shaped structure, with three wings meeting at a common concourse. The middle wing extends to meet with Broadway Avenue, and a security guard commonly finds himself entering from Broadway, and walking down the hall to where the three wings combine. As I was headed in that direction, I saw someone (this was probably 30 yards away) cross the intersection and proceed in the direction of the "C" wing. I took almost no notice of it; it was not rare for people to be working quite late in these buildings. It was quiet. Though an occasional car passed by on the street, there where no sounds in the building. When I got to the intersection, I glanced in the direction I had seen the individual go. I didn't see them. Still unfazed, I determined to find them (I was single at the time, and always on the lookout for pretty girls with government jobs!). I proceeded down the hall, and though I had heard no doors open or close, payed attention for any that might have lights on. There were none.
I suppose, in my rational mind, it was possible for someone to have gone into a dark room, and stayed there in the gloom for the duration of my inspection. I cannot think of any reason why one would do this.
My enthusiasm for my new job only slighlty shaken, I continued my rounds. On the ground floor at Cogswell exists the State Child Abuse Hotline, which is manned 24 hours a day, each day of the year. After about 9pm, there are only 2 people working there through the night. It was our custom (I don't recall if it was required) to walk through this area, and check on the workers, who throughout my tenure, were 2 young ladies. This night, I patrolled through, glancing in the various cubicles to see what I could see. I saw one of the girls working at her desk (with the lights off, I immedeatly found odd), went through, and found two others working there as well.
Here I paused, lamenting the state of society that has caused us to not only have Child Abuse Hotlines that are manned 24 hours a day, every day, but has now caused that same Child Abuse Hotline to hire on extra help for the night shift! Recalling back to my earlier encounter on the 2nd floor, I summoned what courage I could in the middle of the night (here consisting almost entirely of a very large MagLite flashlight I later dubbed "Stevie"), and went back to investigate. This time, there was no one there.
I left. In quite a hurry. It's disturbing even when you expect to see something (which eventually of course I did). It takes on a whole new level of "ookie" when you see something that seemed perfectly commonplace on the surface, only to be revealed as unusual with further inspection.
I'll wrap this up for now, seeing as I've written the literary equivelant of a Michael Jackson song (dithering on and on long after I've made my point). I encourage you all to reply back with your own experiences. I'm particularly interested in stories from around Montana, with the Capitol, Carrol College, and the various Universities in Great Falls being favorite topics.
If interest exists, I will post more of what we will tentatively name "The Tales of the Cowardly Security Guard".
Thank you for reading this far, I look forward to your replies, and possibly posting again.
Thank you all for your very kind words and encouragement to continue. I will, for at least awhile continue to post, and hope you continue to enjoy.
For those that asked, I never questioned anyone else if there may have been a third working that night - perhaps someone working late. As I said, it would not have been impossible, but given the character of Cogswell, it seems less likely.
I wasn't the only one to see or hear things in that building. Of course, I never let myself be sold to the truly fantastic tales - there was, for awhile, a story of a demon dog in the basement that I somehow never qutie believed, but there were others. My partner for most of my time, was a very nice man we'll dub Don (it is not my practice to give out other people's names or personal information. While I share my own quite readily, some folks are touchy about this). Don was a religous man, almost Buddhist in how he presented himself as centered and unfazed at the prospect of walking into a building full of God knows what. We all displayed a certain bravado, but Don's seemed true.
So when something shook Don, it shook us all. The way it worked there, as I've previously discussed in passing, there were 2 working the foot patrol, and one working motor. The 2 on foot patrol took turns - one did his round, then the other, then the first did unlock. While the one doing rounds was out, the other manned the radio and cameras from our desk inside the Capitol building (soon to be discussed in greater detail).
Don was an older fellow, and quite large in the belly, so it frequently took him upwards of four hours to complete a round. During this time though, he'd be calling in every so often ("Security Desk this is Don, 1420 Roberts secure"). You eventually got a feel for where your partner was, simply from the time it took him from his last call in. One night he was quite late to make a call in, so I tried to call him on his radio. I never got a response, but soon after he came back in to the desk area, having completed less than half the round. He was white as a sheet, and a little out of breath. When asked, he told me he had been in Cogswell, and someone had walked by him. Don, being a singularly friendly guy, had said hello, how are you, that type of thing. When the other guy didn't answer, Don turned to see if he was alright (or maybe just to see why he was being a prick), and found the individual had no legs. Nothing below the waist, in fact. Don, despite his inquisitive and courageous nature, decided this situation was a little beyond his scope of training. He hot in the elevator to get back to the ground floor and leave. The lift was not amenable to this idea. First, he said, it took him from the 2nd floor to the 3rd, then from the third to the basement. The basement was creepy in itself, a long dark hallway lined with some form of insulation. Ever play that old computer game Doom? Looked like a level out of that. Even a place where you had just seen an apparation was highly desirable over this place. Don stood there for awhile, pounding away at elevator buttons. It refused to move. What bothered him most, he told me later, wasn't that he had seen the ghost, or that the elevator was playing tricks with him - it was the feeling he had of being watched. It's hard to convey just how creepy this building is in general, and the basement in particular - but that someone so nearly panicked he ran through the basement to get to the stairs so he could get out says an awful lot to anyone who's experienced it.
Some of the more careful readers may have noted the way I refer to the elevators as almost sentient. The did seem to have a mind of their own. In each of the 4 buildings I learned to truly loath, the elevators were usually the start of it. The Capitol building itself was where I first started hating the lifts. At the beginning of my shift, I would come in, take the elevator to the basement (oddly, the basement in the capitol never bothered me, other than the one lady who had a 6 foot cardboard cut-out of Elvis located strategically behind a corner, so an alert security would note first a shadow, then an arm, then a man who appeared to be hiding. I soon began to anticipate him, and eventually he became a source of comfort - a running in-joke. I mean, if you're going to be haunted, who better than The King? But I digress), and get a soda. I would then reboard the elevator to go back upstairs, only to be deposited on the third floor. Usually, I had no patience for the antics of prankster elevators, and would quite simply walk back to the ground floor, to be greeted by an open elevator. They also had an unsettling habit of popping open in the middle of the night, with nobody on them - or on one memorable incident, with somebody on it who leaned out, smiled at me, and promptly disappeared.
The third floor of the Capitol was of particular concern to me. This is where I most often got the feeling of being stalked by something unseen. On either end of the 3rd floor is access to the chamber galleries, Senate to the west, House to the east. We walked through at the end of our patrols. These doors are locked at all times, unless the House or Senate is in session. Even then, they are locked after 5pm. So at 2 or 3 in the morning, there is no reason to expect anyone to be there. But there was. The first thing I noticed was a perfume smell. Not a lingering odor, as if a remnant of the day, but one that would gather from nowhere and quickly dissipate. The gallery seating consists of movie theater style chairs - with static backs and folding seats. I would see the seat portion pop up, as if someone had just stood up, but I was alone. Soon, I actually saw her - a lady in a blue dress sitting in the gallery.
This bothered me. A lot. To the point I ended up talking to my boss about it, and became exempt from gallery patrols. That didn't solve the problem, but made it a little less in my face. The third floor interior runs across the veranda, overlooking the second floor. The Governor's and Secretary of State's offices are on opposite ends of the second floor, and in the middle is the actual Veranda, where you can look up the inside of the dome. (If you ever find yourself in Helena, I encourage you to take a look at this. It's quite beautiful). As I would walk from one office to the other, under the dome, I always found the third floor demanding my attention. I would look up, and often see the lady watching me. Occasionally, though infrequently, I would hear crying, though I was never able to determine where it may be coming from.
Besides the soda machines, the basement also houses a small cafe. All are welcome to eat there, and if you ever check out the Dome, you should also stop there and get an Egg Muffin. The ladies that work there are very nice, and most mornings came in quite early to get started on the cooking for the day. They had a closet on the 3rd floor where they kept their extra cups and straws and such. One day, the manager hopped out of the elevator with an armful of supplies, and came over to the desk to say hi to me. We chatted for a bit, and she asked me "who's upstairs". There was nobody inside that I was aware of (and it's next to impossible to get inside when the doors are locked without attracting attention. The employees have magnetic keycards that let them in, but when they swipe them, our computer beeps, alerting us someone is coming in). I told her I didn't believe anyone was there, and started looking at the camera that covers that area of the floor. She told me "no, I just saw a lady up there. I thought it was odd, since Senate's not in session."
I never had the heart to tell her she had seen a ghost.
Enough for now, you say? I agree. We'll next discuss the Department of Power and Water, a little office building just across the street from Cogswell, and, if we have time, the old orphanage. Thank you all again for reading - Rick
I thank you all again. I enjoy writing, though am only rarely given the oppurtunity to be critiqued, and it's gratifying to be appreciated.
While what I've written is far from the limits of what has occured in these buildings, I feel I've at least touched on the more interesting parts. Almost certainly, I will pepper little antecdotes throughout the remainder, but let us now move our attention away from Cogswell and the Capitol.
In the years that have passed, my recollection of certain aspects has naturally diminished. I've never been good with the Cardinal directions anyway, and having not considered it in some time, I'm not entirely positive where many of these buildings are in relation to each other. In my mind, however, we will be moving North, just across the street from the Capitol, to a small building I never became certain about the purpose of.
Small, here, is a relative term. Compared to the Capital, Cogswell, Mitchell, Sullivan - most buildings, it seemed quite tiny. It had three floors (no elevator though - it was very old), and our sole purpose here was to check the boiler on the top.
This building was unique in that it was the only building I was warned about during my training. I'm quite sure the warning biased my opinion, and I was never comfortable there. Our tour consisted of coming in the front door on the south side, facing the Capitol, climbing the stairs to the third floor (shaking door handles on the way out of habit more than requirement), then taking a very narrow winding stair to the attic and, ultimately, the boiler. Across from the door to the winding stairway is a vault, with one of those great wheels for a handle, like you see in old westerns. This was never locked, and the one cursory glance I made in there revealed nothing more exotic than office supplies. It seems, though, that in the buildings history, a man had hung himself in the vault. It became my habit to push the vault door completely shut as I went by, then ascend the tight staircase to my left. Perhaps due to faulty hinges, or breezes, this vault door was almost always open again as I came down (I in fact stood to watch one time - hoping to see it swing open. It didn't this time, but that doesn't ruin my theory of hinges). The stairs themselves were what I hated. Again, perhaps this is difficult to imagine without having seen it - it was (as I said) a very narrow staircase, scarcely wider than me (and I am no large man) that wound around to the right as you ascended. It opened to a small attic area, with a single small window set maybe a foot above the floor at the top of the stairs. As you came off the stairs to the right, the boiler room was directly ahead.
Any other night shift security guards here will understand this - as you grew more comfortable navigating through a patrol, you'd stop turning on lights. Often, the only source of illumation in a given area will be your flashlight. You begin to grow comfortable with the shadows you cause, with the way the light and shadows bounce around as you move. I suspect it is less likely for a security guard (or police officer, or anyone who spends time in this condition) to spook themselves as might a novice shadow hunter. You tend to know what you've caused, whether an odd shadow, or a sound created by stepping on a creaky board.
And you know when something is out of place. A shadow flitting across a door frame, a thump where no thump should be. There was such a shadow - it seemed as if he (and I always assumed it was the poor man who had hung himself in the vault) would be standing in the doorway, and step to the side just as I topped the stairs. I can't describe how much willpower it takes to continue into that room - hoping against hope to see someone there - perhaps working on the boiler, fumbling for a dropped flashlight. There never was.
As you leave, heading down the stairs, you can see your reflection in the small window, caused by your flashlight beam. Often, there would be a second reflection - a shadow, standing just in the doorframe, that seemed to jump to the side when you turned around.
This building bothered me a great deal - though never as much as the third floor of the Capitol. It was small, so I got through it rather quickly. It is to that I attribute my ability to be so cavalier with it. If I had to spend any great amount of time there, I doubt I would have been nearly as nonchalant.
It bears mentioning that in recounting these events to my peers at the Security Desk, I was never answered with derision or doubt. Some of these guys were quite old and crusty, seemingly unflappable in their grit. Though only a few of them would share tales of their own (2 of which just came to mind, and I will insert during discussion of the appropriate buildings), but none of them ever seemed to doubt mine.
This brings us to an end for today, and a little closer to the bane of my existence - the dreaded orphanage, The Department of Corrections.