Early Ghosts I Have Known
While I was working on a newspaper on Mount Hood in Oregon, I discovered that our printing plant in Gresham was haunted. The hauntings always seemed to happen late at night, close to midnight, when I was the only soul left in the building. I would be puttering away to get things ready for the next edition of our paper when I would hear strange noises--a ghost who would leave little doubt that it was out and about.
My sightings occurred in the summer. I would typically be working in the air-conditioned lunchroom where the beverage and snack machines were located. Because I was the only person in the building, I could spread my things out on the nice large lunch tables. The rest of the building consisted of the composition and press area behind heavy doors at the back of the building and a large, combined newsroom and business area at the front of the building, just outside the lunchroom. The building had been absolutely dark when I opened the door and entered.
My newsroom ghost made his presence known to me on three separate nights.
The first night I was startled to hear the doors that blocked the pressroom slam shut. Now, these were very large, heavy metal doors at the back of the composition area near the big presses. They buffered the noise of the presses. Also, you did not want just anybody going back there when the high-speed presses were running, so it was unlikely that these heavy doors had been left ajar or had blown open and closed by a strange draft. It took a strong press operator with both hands to pull back the pressroom doors.
Naturally, I ran back there to investigate the loud noise, even though I could easily identify the distinctive sound of the heavy press-room doors slamming shut. The building was otherwise deathly quiet.
Of course, I found nobody in the press-room or in the composition area. Both areas were dark and empty.
The experience gave me a strange chill that ran up my spine and made the hair on my neck tingle. There was no earthly explanation for that mysterious sound. Was the building haunted?
I quickly gathered up my things, turned off the lunchroom light, and left the newspaper plant. I did not bother to look around. I did not want to see or hear anything more inside that building that night. I told nobody about getting scared out of my wits.
But then it happened again the next week. I was behind on the week’s work and struggling to get the next paper out. I really didn’t expect another scare. I figured the mysterious noise was a one-time phenomenon, or at least that is what I tried to tell myself. Nonetheless, I decided that I would rush through my work and try to get out a little earlier that night. But my evening stay grew longer and longer, and soon I was back to working alone in the newspaper plant close to midnight. I was so absorbed in my work at that point that I did not think about the consequences of a repeat encounter with the ghost. And, after all, nothing had really happened to me last time: just a weird noise that I could not explain. And I did not expect something that strange to happen twice.
Well, I was wrong. About a quarter to midnight I heard what sounded like typing coming from one of the old typewriters in the business area at the front of the building. The bookkeepers still used old Underwood manuals. Only the newsroom was computerized back then. So I could easily recognize the sound of a typewriter when somebody was pounding on the keys.
And that was exactly what I heard. Somebody or something was pounding the keys, but in a concerted way that sounded like serious typing. There was a regular rhythm and pace to it, as though the words came easily to the typist. Whoever was typing knew how to type.
Now people always ask me what the ghost had typed. That is a reasonable question, and one I should be able to answer. All that I needed to do was run up to the front desk and check the typewriter. Even if there was no paper in the typewriter’s spindle, the depression of the keys would certainly have left an impression on the rubber roller itself.
But the truth is that I never went up front to investigate. I quickly grabbed my papers and keys to leave the building. I did not want to meet the ghost up close and personal.
Unfortunately, I had no choice. In a few weeks, I found myself working late and alone at the plant again. This time, however, I decided that I would close the doors to the lunchroom and get my work done as fast as possible, so that I could leave earlier than before. And the plan seemed to work. I was not distracted by things that go bump in the night, and I gathered my things to leave the lunchroom around 11 p.m.
Just as I was leaving, however, I caught something out the corner of my left eye. There was no door to the composition room, and you could easily see back there, even in the dim lighting. At one of the typography machines where compositors set type for display ads, I saw the hunched-over figure of what looked like a wiry, old man. He wore one of those old, green shades on his head, the sort of visors that old typesetters used to wear in the early days of newspapers. He seemed oblivious to me, absorbed in his work.