At nine-years-old, I was always fascinated by the boiler room in our basement. Growing up in a very haunted 1800s Victorian hotel, I was obsessed with that room. My tummy cramped very badly each time I was near the room, yet I persisted. Staring, my eyes alternated between the actual boiler and the walls, sometimes for hours. The only lighting in this cement room was the glow from the boiler’s pilot light.
Eventually I started seeing random flashes of light. At other times, lights would slowly go across the walls like a spider. Initially when I tried to visually follow the lights, they would suddenly vanish as if someone turned them off. At other times, I was able to follow them until they went around the corner or through a crevice.
The more I went into this room, the more frequent these lights became. Eventually, I met my first shadow people. When I first saw the shadow, I thought my parents were behind me; when I turned to look, nobody was there. The basement was not accessible to hotel guests due to the door being locked, and I had access to the only key. Then I thought maybe it was my own shadow, but I was standing still while they were moving.
One day I felt as if a shadow man was staring back at me. Obviously, I could not see his face but it felt chilling. Just then my tummy cramped as it always did whenever I was in danger, so I yelled, “Go away, leave me alone”, and ran out of the room. For a week I avoided the basement unless my mother was with me. Even though I felt scared, my obsession increased.
Finally, after giving in to my obsession, I grabbed our Polaroid camera and returned to the basement. My intention was to take just one picture of the shadow people and then show the picture to my adoptive parents. After taking a bunch of pictures, I went upstairs and laid them on the kitchen table, I anxiously waited in anticipation of seeing a shadow person. Just then my parents walked in. After seeing 30 pictures of an ugly boiler, they became very angry with me for wasting three packs of Polaroid film.
I tried to tell them both what I had been experiencing; they said I was dreaming and that what I claimed to see was “absolutely impossible”. I insisted that what I was seeing was very real; they told me to “stop lying”. As a result, they did everything in their power to prevent me from going back down there including hiding the key. However, as a sly child, I saw where they put it.
I didn’t mention it for a couple months and, because I had always loved taking pictures, I begged for a camera of my own. For Christmas that year, I received a Canon Canonet. I was so excited because, while my parents thought I had forgotten about the boiler room, I hadn’t.
Armed with my new camera, I headed to the boiler room. I waited until they went to bed and spent all night down there, almost every night. After repeated attempts over several months’ time, I finally ended up with the photo I wanted so desperately.
One area that I was always scared of alongside the boiler room was a short hallway that led to some narrow steps which led to an unknown location. My father, who was 6’0” and 195 pounds, could not fit in there. My mother, who was 5’2” and 130 pounds, could barely fit in there. So I knew at 4’11” and 88 pounds that I could and, despite my fearful resistance that increased my desire to do so.
Off and on during the previous months of trying to capture a shadow person on film, I had seen round white, semi-transparent circles floating in and out of the camera’s frame. I even saw a few with my naked eye but I was so focused on the shadow people that I initially ignored the white circles.
One evening during a typical overnight stay in the boiler room, I saw a very large white circle. It appeared the size of a baseball. Because it was so big and was moving toward the scary area next to the boiler room, I decided to go too. I grabbed the flashlight from the boiler room and followed the circle down the hallway. Partway up the stairs, my cramps were replaced with a tickly, butterfly-flutter and an ice-cold chill.
I sat down on the steps and folded my shirt up over my now-crossed arms. I was feeling light-headed and unable to move. To-date it was one of the most bizarre feelings I have ever experienced. Then, just as suddenly, I became extremely hot. I started sweating behind my neck, on my forehead, and my armpits were sticky. The heat increased and a desperate urge to find some place cool came over me, as if I was suffocating. I knew if I went back toward the boiler room, I would be even hotter so the only other way to go now was up.
I slowly continued up the steps then stopped to look down the tunnel. I noticed several small white circles moving; they looked like bubbles. I then saw several semi-transparent gray, human-shaped lights but told myself that was impossible. Still distracted by the noticeably cold air and still sweating, I continued.
Once through the tunnel, I noticed another narrow entrance leading into what appeared to be a very dark space. By this time, the bubbles disappeared and I was no longer sweating. .
As I got closer to this narrow entrance, I started to feel like I was walking into a private space – a place where I wasn’t supposed to be. My tummy didn’t ache but I had this weird feeling that there were people in there. I listened, but didn’t hear anything. How could people be in there and why would they want to live in such a creepy place?
I stopped and looked all around me. My mind told me to leave but my heart told me to keep going. I had never felt so confused or energetically paralyzed. I felt like I was watching myself from behind.
I knew I could never begin to explain this to my parents. They didn’t believe me now, so I knew that I was all alone in this experience too.
My mind started racing – even if I screamed, nobody would hear me. It is the middle of the night, my parents and the hotel guests are floors above me and asleep, and I am in some dark cave somewhere. I am doomed if I can’t get out. My parents would never think of looking for me in this area. They had hidden their key when I got into trouble and they did not know that I knew where it was. I started panicking yet I came too far to not continue. I just had to know who is in that room.
The room was approximately 10 feet square, and all I saw was old toilet and plumbing parts on one side and a couple sticks and feathers on the other side which were laid out in a cross shape. I was so mentally exhausted that all I could do is just sit on the floor, thankful that nobody was in there. I ended up falling asleep for a short time but was soon woken by the sound of kids voices. When I could finally focus my eyes, I saw four kids and a bunch of babies. They were semi-transparent just like the bubbles I had followed in there. When I tried to stand up, they vanished.
“Who are you?” said a voice that sounded like mine. I could not believe I asked someone a question – a “someone” that was not really there. Was my mind playing tricks on me? Was I dreaming?
Feeling thankful nobody was around to hear me, I shut my eyes again hoping to wake up from this dream. It wasn’t a dream… this time I heard various voices, a trailing whisper “Luella, Delores, Nancy, Sara”. I jumped up and looked around; nobody was there.
I ran out of the room, through the narrow doorways, down the steps, through the short hallway, back into the boiler room and up to my bedroom safe and sound. As I lay in my own bed under the covers, I could hear my heartbeat which sounded like it was still running and trying to catch up with me.
Not being able to sleep, I sounded-out the names and drew what I saw.
© 2018 Taken from my memoir Shattered to Shining, by Mozelle Martin at www.MozelleMartin.com