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James R. Stout

The Haunted Elevator

            We were expecting our second child, my daughter Hayley, and things were tight financially speaking. Our son was about 7 months old at the time. The job that I had went away with the downturn of the construction industry in Houston during the mid-80’s. It was a good job with excellent pay and a fair amount of esteem attached. But the company was family owned and the first employees to be let go were non-family members. This included me. So, I took what I thought would be a temporary job just to pay the bills. I ended up working there for nearly 3 years. It wasn’t in the trade that I was trained in and lacked any esteem at all. But I had to have something coming in and given the situation I took what I could get. I began working for a delivery service. The pay turned out to be dismal given I was a “contract” employee and all of the expenses were on me. All that said, I found myself making deliveries in my pick-up truck all over the greater Houston area. A good day was a day where I didn’t have to go downtown. The parking and hassles associated with going to the skyscrapers were nerve-wracking. The pay was also considerably less because there was no mileage charges for delivering from one building to another in downtown. I got to where I hoped for a run with three or four delivery points that would have mileage between them. The truly terrible deliveries were the ones where I had to park underground at a high rise and take a freight elevator up several floors with large boxes on a two-wheel dolly. It was on one of those deliveries that I thought I was going to be on the evening news that night.

            The building had about 40 floors and the load of boxes I had to deliver was going to the 35th floor. First, I had to circle through the underground sub-level and back onto the street several times before I could find a parking space available at the loading dock. This was very irritating. I finally found a space and parked. Second, I had to unload the boxes onto the dolly and make my way to the loading dock office to be checked-in and cleared to deliver. It was not as security conscience as it is these days, but it was still a time-consuming process. Finally, I wheeled the boxes into a freight elevator and selected the 35th floor. The trip up was no problem. It was just a typical trip to the chosen floor where I wheeled the loaded dolly to the customer’s suite and got a signature. Like I said, no problem so far.

            I wheeled the empty dolly back to the freight elevator bay and pressed the button for the sub-level loading dock. After a short wait, a bell rang signifying an elevator was about to be free and available. The elevator door opened, and I wheeled the dolly into the elevator and pushed the button for the loading dock. The doors closed as usual and then the elevator just sat there. After a minute or so I pushed the button again and the elevator still wouldn’t budge. So, I figured that I would get off that elevator and take another one down. Something was amiss. I pushed the button to open the door and nothing happened. I’m not exactly at ease in closed spaces and especially while in a box that is dangling 35 floors off the ground. That’s roughly 500 feet up in the air!

            After another minute or so the elevator started to move, but it didn’t feel like it was moving at the typical speed. I looked at the floor counter and the elevator seemed to be crawling down. And then it wasn’t crawling. It was freefalling and there was a loud grinding-squealing sound. Well, I was being shaken and definitely stirred. At about the 20th floor the elevator suddenly stopped. Then it fell another two floors or so. I kid you not when I say that I was praying earnestly at this point. The floor counter said I was at the 18th floor. I pushed the “open door” button and the door opened with only about a 2-foot opening. The elevator was also not level with the foyer floor. It was about 3 feet below. I called out and nobody was there. I tried the emergency phone in the elevator and no answer. The way I saw it, I could either exit the elevator by climbing out or I could close the doors and hope the elevator would get me down safely. I looked at the opening and the 3-foot difference and steeled myself for an escape. The first thing that I did was lift the dolly up and out of the elevator into the foyer. I pushed it away from the opening giving myself plenty of room to get out. Now, 3 feet may not seem like much, but it seemed like 10 feet to me at the time. I put my hands on the threshold between the elevator and the foyer floor, bent my knees slightly, and hoisted myself up and literally dove through that opening. I stood up and looked back at the elevator door and that’s when the elevator jerked and dropped about 5 feet with the door still open. I was already sweating from the ordeal, but it became a cold sweat when I realized what would have happened to me if I had been in that opening when the elevator fell those five feet.

            I immediately sat down and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I also thanked God for my safe exit. Well, I wasn’t about to go down one of those freight elevators now. Despite the rules in place prohibiting deliveries via the tenant elevators, I wheel that dolly to one of them and with a couple of timid steps got on one and chose the ground floor. There were a couple of people onboard and I figured if the worst happened, then I wouldn’t die alone!

            For a few weeks I refused any deliveries to high rise buildings if it meant taking an elevator. I eventually pretty much got over that phobia, but even 35 years later I don’t like riding in an elevator. However, as the old saying about a dark cloud having a silver lining goes, something good did come out of that experience. I wrote one of the best short-stories that I have ever written (maybe I’ll post it a chapter at a time someday) about a haunted elevator named Grover. But Grover was a good ghost and, well, you’ll just have to wait for the story. Try to find something good in everything when you can. Especially people.

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