The following is a semi-true story that happened to me a few years back at my last job. Which is funny because after you read it you’ll be asking me “but haven’t you watched every scary movie ever! Who goes to investigate a scary noise they hear in the other room!” And to that I say, “you don’t know how you’ll react until you’re in that situation!” Again, even though some parts of this story really did happen and it’s a real place I’m using fake names all around to respect people’s privacy and obviously I’ve added some flare to the events…With that being said, enjoy!
It was the middle of winter and the weather app on my phone told me that it was minus 24 degrees Celsius outside. Most people in the Centre were bundling up with two or three scarfs before walking outside. I was suddenly reminded of one of my favourite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story, and of the little brother Randy who by the time his mom finished dressing him he couldn’t put his arms down.
The Centre had an abundance of donated hats, mittens, scarfs and clothing for the clients to take before they left. Normally the clients would complain about taking second hand clothing, as a good chunk of them had experienced either bed bugs or lice at one point in their lives. But today was the exception, it was too cold to care about such a minor detail. As the Centre’s hours were wrapping up everyone continued putting on layer after layer.
The clients near me stood puzzled as they looked into the small corner office I was working out of for the day. I was stripping off layer after layer. The back of my shirt had been plastered onto the chair and every few minutes I was wiping beads of sweat from my forehead. The staff often overcompensated for the temperature outside and cranked the temperature one way or another. In the summer months I often worked with long pants and a sweater because they blasted the AC as hard as it would allow. I found that there was never a happy medium in this place.
6 o clock came and everyone began pouring out of the centre, walking as quickly as they could to the next available open “cold site”. All of the services in the city often had to coordinate times we were open so that none of our “at risk” or homeless clients would have to stay outside during a cold weather alert.
I stood outside the sweltering office and waved bye to everyone leaving, which included the two staff who had asked if I minded closing up the building alone. I told them it was fine, they had busses to catch and no one should have to wait long on a day like today. They waved their thanks to me and left with the clients.
With the door firmly closed behind them I set to cleaning the Centre. Plates lay on the ground with half eaten food, cold coffee mugs that had spilled over the rim covered the table and the once very neatly printed crosswords now lay torn and semi-completed. Cleaning had become routine here, you had to check everywhere for loose dishes or coffee mugs first, to make sure you weren’t coming into broken glass in the morning. Second you had to collect all the food that had rolled off of people’s plates, and you’d find this on chairs, under the couches, in the children’s toy bin and once I found discarded peas beside the coffee maker. Once that was done all you had left to do was the garbage and clean any leftover dishes.
Sweeping the Centre’s floor was particularly difficult in the winter time as everyone tracked snow and salt onto our floors, if you didn’t let enough time for the snow to dry then you’d be fighting a losing battle with the salt. Often my shoes were soaked by the end of the shift from walking through all of the snow everyone kept bringing in.
I was walking through the Centre with my broom in hand checking to see which spots were dry enough to attempt to sweep when my shoe scuffed the ground and made a very loud squeak.I always hated that noise, it was a sound you often heard come from people who never lifted their feet when they walked. In the summer time you’d hear them awkwardly shuffling and in the winter time you’d always shear them squeaking.
I swept the dry patches of floor as best I could and began shutting off all the lights, leaving the dim light of our staff room for last. With everything finally cleaned I walked to the doorway of the staff room and was about to reach for my coat when I heard the squeaking of a shoe. I looked down and cursed but saw that my shoes for the most part were dry. Confused, I turned around to see if maybe someone else was there.
I shrugged and turned back to the office when the sound suddenly came again. This time I knew I hadn’t imagined it. I walked towards the source and realized that the kitchen door – which was closed and locked – had been where the sound came from. I sighed with relief and unlocked the door to pop my head in.
Our Centre shared a building with a Café that normally operated during the day but often it held events at night. I must’ve forgotten that they were hosting an event tonight, luckily I hadn’t locked all the doors to the building yet so I could ask them to do it.
I opened the door and my stomach dropped when I realized that the kitchen was pitch black and not a soul was in the café. I kept the keys in my hand and walked in. I’ve known the kitchen staff to sometimes pop in after their shifts if they forgot something. I called out a greeting and waited to a response. Hoped or a response.
Growing nervous I turned to leave when a small sliver of light caught my eye. I was already scared and the idea of wandering further into the kitchen didn’t appeal to me at all, but I knew if I left a light on overnight we would all get in trouble for the cost of the electrical bill. I walked towards the light to see which light in the kitchen they had forgotten to turn off when I saw it’s source.
An old wooden door stood open in the tiny hallway of the kitchen that led to the emergency exit. I have been in this kitchen countless times and not once had I ever seen this door. I slowly crept towards it and opened it completely. There was a single bulb hanging just inside the door that lead to a stairwell that looked as though it hadn’t been used since the day it was built. A faint light was coming from the bottom of the stairs and every part of me was screaming to leave.
Only I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t even sure what I was seeing was really here. I took a step on the stairs and heard it groan loudly under my weight. It didn’t fill me with the greatest confidence but I pressed on. Every few steps I looked behind me to make sure the door was still open. Finally the door was out of sight and I was down at the bottom step.
I looked at the room in front of me and began laughing. Quietly at first then loudly, I didn’t know what I was expecting to find but it certainly wasn’t this.
The room at the bottom of the stairs was a storage room for the kitchen that held extra chef jackets, cutting boards, chairs and spare uniforms. Along the wall hung coat hooks for the staff, many of which held spare winter jackets. I sighed with relief and turned around to go back upstairs when I heard the same sound I had heard a few minutes before.
The squeaking of someone’s shoe.
I turned back around and called out, positive that someone was down here at the moment. I walked further into the room and found that at the far left corner stood a short built in doorway that led into another unlit room.
The sound came again.
My heart began beating out of my chest and my hands shook uncontrollably. I reached for my phone and switched on the video to have access to the camera light. I owned a garbage phone but the one thing that wasn’t garbage on it was the camera light. The entire room lit up and I stepped inside.
The room was open and spacious. The ceiling came in low and even at 5’9 I had to crouch just to be able to stand in the room. The walls were faded yellow brick and had thick layers of dust on them. Pipes hung inches above my head and the floor was a solid concrete. I wandered into the room with my camera light on to it’s max setting. What I found was 3 openings to 3 identical rooms. The depth that these rooms reached were far beyond what I thought the original property was. The further I walked in the more I was convinced that I was underneath the street itself and no longer directly below the building.
The further I walked in the more I realized that each room as identical to the last, and I had no idea which way I had come in. I tried staying calm but as I tried retracing my steps I began pacing faster and faster. I could feel myself sweating despite the deep chill these rooms held. My light began flickering and when I looked at the screen of my phone it said I had less than 10%. Frantic I began running from room to room until finally I saw the light of the original staff room I had entered. It felt like ages ago that I had laughed to myself for almost getting scared. I sighed with relief and brought my phone down to turn off the light.
The camera setting had remained on this entire time and as I pulled up the settings to switch off the flash. Something flashed across my screen. I looked again and saw a foot print. I moved my phone away from my face and saw that no foot prints were on the ground. Bringing my phone back the footprint was there clear as day. I slowly moved my phone to the right and noticed a series of footsteps leading to the back wall. When my light finally hit the back wall I saw that the footsteps had stopped.
Resting against the back wall was a chair. I pulled my phone away and saw that indeed the chair was actually there. I backed out of the room and ran up the stairs without looking back. I felt the dread growing within my chest the longer I lingered there and knew I had to get out.
After getting back up to the kitchen I closed the door, ran back into the Centre grabbed my coat and left. The temperature had dropped 4 degrees and was now negative 28, but I was sweating too much to care.
That night when I was at home I decided to re-watch the video of my excursion in the basement. Seeing if maybe anything else besides the footsteps would appear so I could show it to people. All of me was terrified but part of me really wanted to try and scare my co-workers with the video.
To my surprise when it got to the end of the video the footsteps weren’t there. You could clearly tell where I pulled the light away and had tried to find the footprints without the camera. But when the camera returned there was nothing, just the dusty concrete floor.
I had been so sure. The video ends with me pointing the camera at the chair and then running out of the room. I tossed my phone on my bed disappointed when a thought hit me. I picked up my phone again and hit replay. The video starts with me lighting up the room and looking inside. I did a full scan of the room.
That’s when I noticed.
There was no chair in the room.
I fast forwarded it to the end and there it was. Plain as day. I began shaking as I held the phone and before I set it down I heard a sound come from the video I had never heard. The sound of a shoe squeaking followed by soft breathing.
The sound of the breathing, wasn’t me.