Haunting Memories – A True Story by Doug Rinaldi
The guest blog series resumes with this chilling account by author Doug Rinaldi. I imagine we all have a story or two like this we could share around the campfire or candlelight, something which happened to us that we just can’t quite explain away and for which we suffer those sidelong glances and eye rolls from the skeptics and the scoffers at the telling of it. Enjoy.
What I present to you here is a tale of the unexpected and the bewildering. An account of something life-altering that, over the years, I have never truly forgotten… my first experience with something well beyond the reach of rational explanation. Believe the validity of these words or not, I won’t blame you; up until that day, I, too, was a skeptic. These occurrences are always stuck in the back of my mind, stewing and churning until something jars them loose again to flood my memory banks. Profound and personal, the effect they had on me is still substantial to this day. While others around me at that time had had a sense of something strange, it seemed as if I was the only one singled out or given extra attention for reasons outside my understanding.
Back in 1997, I had just returned home from college. I landed my first job upon returning at a chain bookstore in Connecticut. At the time, my nights consisted of working part-time as the warehouse clerk on the closing shift. One night, going about my usual routine, I heard one of my female coworkers call out my name for help. The warehouse—shaped like a backward L—made it impossible for me to see her from my vantage point. So, being the polite and helpful guy I was, I hollered back, telling her I’d be right there.
I stopped what I was doing and hurried over. When I rounded the corner, almost tripping to my death on some boxes, I expected her to be right there, waiting for me. The warehouse was vacant; not a soul to be found. Maybe she’s hiding behind a cart, I thought, playing some kind of lame joke.
Now I understand audio matrixing and that it’s possible to hear one thing and mistake it for something else, but the fact I actually answered back reinforces what I heard. That’s how certain I was that someone called my name. Moreover, whatever made the sound absolutely resembled my coworker’s voice. I made it all the way to the door and after opening it, I peeked around the immediate area.
No one there either.
I ventured out further and found my coworker across the store and on a stepladder with a stack of books in her hand as she restocked a shelf. I already knew the answer, but I asked her anyway if she’d been to the warehouse looking for me. As I figured, she hadn’t. The probability that she could have gotten that far and that involved in her task in the time it took me to cross the back room seemed next to nil. The perceived facts of the situation stacked against me and I was tweaking out a bit. Regardless, I reluctantly went back to my duties until the end of my shift.
Incident number two happened about a week later. Again, standing at my station and scanning boxes full of books, I had my back to the rest of the warehouse. Everything was silent and still between bouts of ripping up cardboard and the annoying ding of the barcode scanner. And then I heard something unmistakable… a faint giggle.
I whirled around and saw nothing there. Or, so, I initially thought. However, as I turned back to my work, my peripheral vision caught something. A short figure. I froze in place, transfixed. Roughly about the age of nine or ten, a small boy stood against the back wall. His skin was ashen and his clothes were dated. A deadpan expression crossed a face framed by a mop of brown hair as he stared at me, unmoving.
In that three-second interaction, I registered those few details in my startled brain and my skin rippled and crawled with gooseflesh. My heartbeat raced, bouncing in my ribcage. The fight or flight response kicked in; I felt it in the back of my throat. With haste, I rushed to exit the warehouse, doing my utmost to avoid the area where I saw the boy. Not once did I—or could I—take my eyes off that spot.
Panicking, I stumbled over boxes in my retreat before finally making it to the sales floor. A little bit later, after I had calmed down, I pulled a coworker into the warehouse (the same one I thought had called my name earlier) and told her what I had seen, despite knowing how crazy I sounded. Of course, I spooked her out in the process. To this day, my memory is still seared with the image of the sad, ghostly boy.
The third of these most vivid incidents happened one night sometime after that “visit.” As I recall, I was in the humor section and helping with closing duties (i.e., flipping through a copy of Blanche Knott’s Truly Tasteless Jokes). While straightening the shelves and alphabetizing books, I heard someone whisper my name plain as day. Ambiguous yet startling, I could not make out if it was a male or female voice—the word just echoed in my ear.
I turned around to nothing but another shelf full of books. Honestly, at this point, I was kind of enjoying the attention it was giving me. A few minutes had passed and as I continued fixing up the aisles, I felt someone blow on the back of my neck. My skin crawled and covered my body in a cold wave. I spun and I looked around—no one was there, again. Though still alone, I did happen to notice that there were no vents or air ducts overhead that could’ve kicked on and spit out the cold air. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, but facts were facts.
Later, before we left for the evening, I brought my experiences up again to some coworkers. Come to find out, I wasn’t crazy; others had also felt that something was not right inside the store. They had kept quiet about it for fear of sounding out of their minds, but once I brought up my three big incidents, they all opened up and admitted similar events. Though I was happy I wasn’t the only one, I anxiously waited for something else to happen. Unfortunately, it seemed whatever otherworldly presence or supernatural energy that might have been dwelling on the property packed up and shipped out.
Soon after, my store closed up shop and moved to a new location. At first, strange things happened to me there, too. The instances were very subtle, almost dismissive, this time: things being misplaced, odd shadows and whispers. I brought up my concerns, anyway, to my friend who also shared some of the strange sensations at the old location. She still agreed that something was still off, joking that I had brought the “ghost” with me to the new store.
Funny thing is, that the old location still remains empty today. It’s almost as if the land it occupies is sour and unusable. I find it sad knowing that it’s not possible to venture back into that strange, yet familiar, territory. I’m just left to wonder if whatever force that had so desperately tried to make contact with me is still there… waiting.
In closing, I’m aware of how insane it all sounds—and believe me, I still get those looks from people. Those three very unexpected and life-altering experiences have stuck with me over these last two decades. Even though I now live in another city, in another state, the memories of that place and the things I had seen and felt within its walls still haunt me to this day—and probably forever will.