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Thursday, October 31, 2002


Everybody's posting scary stories. I'm afraid I don't have one. Not even from my childhood. I have funny stories that make people cry, and sad stories that people have laughed at, but I can't think of any scary ones. Except this one, a tale of terror for the 21st century (even though it happened in the 20th). You can tell it's a true story because it's not very good. It also does not take place in the spooky south, but in California.

About five years ago I was working at a remote mountaintop location. There are technicians and administrative people around during the day, but at night it's pretty deserted and very dark. Not only that, but there's a man buried on the site, beneath the building we work in---a rich and famous and rather strange man. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, the elevator rises unbidden to the second floor. We say it's the ghost of this man, making his rounds. The building has an ancient heating system, which creaks and hisses and moans and emits odd banging noises. So it can be very spooky. Sometimes, when there's a storm howling on the mountain, the fog closes in so that you can't see your hand in front of your face, but if you look out the window you can imagine the faces of the damned, crying for mercy. I try not to look out the window during storms. I see too much.

Fortunately this time there was no storm, and I was working with a partner. Now, every once in a while you have to go outside and check on things, and we're doing that when we hear this...noise. It's like a hiss and a rattle and a hum, very strange. My colleague says, "Oh, that must be the raccoons in the trash can. I think they make a noise like that." (This is a city woman who don't know SHIT about wildlife, now, but I figured it was possible she was right, though I should have KNOWN better because of that time in Arizona with the bear...but I digress.)

So we go out again in a couple hours, and we hear the noise again. It seems to be coming from somewhere in the middle of the parking lot, not at the edge where the trash cans are. I shine my flashlight out there and two green eyes flash back at me. "Look! Look, did you see that? I saw its eyes!" But there doesn't seem to be anything out there. Nothing casts a shadow in the flashlight beam. Hmmm...well, might be a rattlesnake. Better be careful where you step when you go outside.

A little while later I go out again, alone. Only this time I don't go through the side door, as before, but out the front. I hear the noise again, and it plainly is there in the middle of the parking lot. I shine my flashlight on it and see this very small...thing on the ground, maybe 20 feet away.

Now here I admit to cowardice, of which I am ashamed. I go and get my colleague. While we stand there (safely near the door) looking at it, we hear it hum again. So we take the flashlight, and, huddling close together, we approach it. It hums again, an awful sound. And as we get right up to it, we see, crouching horribly...


It's someone's damned pager, which they have dropped in the parking lot, which here had me imagining critters and bombs and maybe ghosts. So we picked it up and we laughed about it and the next day my partner turned it in to the admin people and told them it had scared me.

That's it. That's my scary story. Sorry.