10/30/2005

Being Lost


It's Halloween. I thought I'd tell you a scary story, so scoot back in your chair, plant your feet firmly on the ground (so you don't get the urge to run away) and read on. It's kind of long but I promise you'll want to read to the end.

First a little history lesson: In the early 1900's a well noted doctor, Dr. Zellar, designed and help build a state of the art Hospital for the Criminally Insane just outside of Peoria, IL. You see back then, anyone that was nutso, was labeled 'criminally insane.' It didn't mean you really committed a crime, it just meant that being a nutjob was a crime in itself. This hospital performed lobotomies - a new procedure. They removed certain lobes of the brain in the hopes that it would make patients calmer, more sane. The hospital was closed in 1970 after too many inquiries into Zellar's techniques caused the state to pull all it's funding. The hospital, surrounded by iron fences with two iron gates at its entrance - was abandoned. It was said that the grounds were haunted by the patients who had died and who lost their way, lost their minds, lost anything and everything that tied them to reality. It became an urban legend.

When I was a kid there were always stories floating around about ghosts at 'Zellar Zone'. People reported hearing wailing sounds coming from the grounds near the hospital. Vandals often broke into the hospital and tried to destroy what was left of the building windows but as the legend goes, many vandals were never seen again after entering those iron gates. So of course every curious seventeen year old that I knew, wanted to visit the grounds every Hallow's eve. My parents refused to let me go. Even though they denied believing in the urban legend about ghosts wandering the grounds, they said it was dangerous and I was absolutely not to go anywhere near those grounds. So, of course I listened. Instead of going with my friends, I stayed home and studied. Yeah right. No, I lied. I told my mom we were going to hang out at the mall then spend the night at one of my girlfriend's house. Damn she was naive - she let me go. After making an escape from my parents my friends and I met up at the local Steak-n-shake. My boyfriend pulls up in his Chevy 4x4. He jumps out of the truck and shows me he's come prepared. In his possession, a flashlight - of course so we can see where we're going, a bundle of rope - in case we need to tie something up, a flare gun - in case we need to shoot off a flare to alert the need for help, and a case of Budweiser - in case we're too scared while we're sober, we'll drink ourselves into oblivion and head off to the mental grounds. Ironic. So we pile into the back of his truck and head off into the night. Turns out we didn't need the Bud because we started thinking what if we're so drunk that we can't run fast enough to get away from the ghosts, we might have been young and gullible - we weren't stupid (ok so maybe we were). Since the grounds were private and there was security that patrolled the place every few hours, we parked the truck in the back woods about a 1/2 mile from the entrance of the hospital. I remember thinking that the walk up to the gates was actually the longest 1/2 mile I've ever walked in my life. It seemed like forever from the timeI hopped out of that truck and I was standing in front of two of the biggest iron gates I'd ever seen. The guys kept pushing us girls up in front of them. "Go on, you go first," they kept saying (so much for chivalry). We stood there for what seemed like an hour but was actually more like 5 minutes, until one of us was brave enough to crawl under the gate - it happened to be me. I was young and stupid back then and I still had the mentality of, 'try anything once.' I scooted myself under the gate and stared back at my friends - there were 6 of us all together. Two of my girlfriends followed and crawled under the fence behind me. The guy just stood there - stupified. "Cowards," I yelled. "How about you girls go take a looksy and then let us know if it's safe," my brave knight yelled back. Pathetic. "Yeah you sissy boys wait right there and we'll take a look around and come back with a full report." So off we went - flashlight and rope in hand. I didn't take the flare gun because I actually thought I might get scared and end up shooting someone instead. It was cold, I remember this. The wind wasn't blowing at all, in fact everything seemed very still, quiet, peaceful. Here we were, the three musketeers, daring to go where no MAN dared to go. The place was set back off the main road a bit so you couldn't really see it from the front gates. When we came upon the main building I felt a shiver run up my spine. It stood there with every window in tact and the front door was standing wide open. It was as if someone was inviting us in. I took my lead and headed up the front steps. Just before I was about to step inside my friend whispers, "Wait, did you hear that." "Hear what," I respond. We stop, we listen - nothing. "Ok then, let's go." Just as I was about to step through the front door I hear a sound, it's almost like....crying sounds. We stop, we listen, there it is again. "Someone is crying, did you hear that?" We duck down and hide behind the stone columns and peek over the edge to see if someone has spotted us. No one. The crying sounds stops - it's quiet again. We decide to crawl on all fours around the pillars and into the front door. "I think the coast is clear," my friend says. As we stand up we notice that a light keeps dancing off the walls. We look down to see if our flashlight is on - it's not. We press up against the wall - because it feels safer, and we start to make our way around the room. It was amazing really, the place still had furniture with sheets over top of it; it was just like the movies. The light keeps dancing off the walls and it's really starting to freak me out. Is someone else in here? You have to know that I was kind of a brave kid, my dad always taught me to confront my fear straight away so that's what I did. I jumped out in the middle of the room, "Who's in here, come out and show yourself." "Whaaaaaaaaa." and then "Bang." The light got brighter, the front door slammed shut, the wailing got louder. We run - up the stairs because that's what they do in horror movies. A few of the stairs are broken or missing so we almost trip and fall back down. We make it to the top and we scatter each running into a different room thinking that the one behind us will follow. Then it's quiet again - and dark. I have the flashlight, my other friend has the rope. I'm wondering how to get the hell out of this place because it appears my feet will not move, my legs are broken. I close my eyes and I breath, softly and quietly so no one can hear. Ok, open your eyes, see what's in here. A window, a frayed curtain, I can make it over there. I scoot my bottom along the floor until I reach the window sill. Slowly, carefully I pull myself up and peer outside. I see a man, he's holding a flashlight. Ok, now I get it, it's the security guard. Whew, now we're safe. I stand up and head out to the hall way and call softly to my friends, "hey come out, there's a security guard down there - we're safe." Each appears from behind closed door. Instantly we run to each other and fall into a group hug. "Wow, that was freaky wasn't it." "Yeah well I wasn't scared, " I reply. We're still a bit cautious so we descend the stairs quietly. Before we can reach the landing, the front door swings open and a man appears. He doesn't say anything but he motions us to come outside. We follow like good little students eager to please our teacher. Once outside I turn to look at him, his eyes, there's something about his eyes. They seem empty and lost yet vaguely familiar. He says nothing - only points in the direction of the front gate. "Ok, we're going, you know you really scared us," I say. He says nothing in reply. "Come on, let's get out of here," my friend whispers. We start to walk away but I can feel something, someone, pulling me back. I know I have to leave this place but this feeling, it's the strangest...ok well whatever, I'll go. My friend is pulling my jacket, tugging at me to come along. As we're walking back to the front gates I can't shake this nagging feeling I have. There's something about that guy. Why didn't he speak, he wasn't even wearing a uniform, was he really security. I turn to look back at the house, the man is standing on the steps watching us. He sees me looking at him and then, he motions to me, he motions for me to come back. I pull away from my friend and slowly jog back to the house. "Are you crazy," my friend yells. Maybe I am, but I have to go back, there's something else, something, something....there's just something else. When I reach the stairs the man is still there - staring at me. "Who are you," I yell. "Don't you speak, say something, anything." "I knew you'd come," he said. "You look like her," he said softly. "I look like who, who are you talking about, how do you know me?" He just smiled and said, "now you have to go, don't come back here." "Go, please, just go," he commanded. His voice, it scared me this time but not in a wa y that makes you want to hide, it scared me in a way that makes you remember something. I turned around and walked back to my friends, when I reached them I looked back to see him - but he wasn't there, no one was. We made it outside the gates and of course there were no guys waiting for us. Those sissy boys left us all alone to walk back a 1/2 mile through the woods. That walk seemed like the shortest 1/2 mile I've ever walked. No sooner did I come down those steps of that hospital and I was standing in front of my boyfriends pickup. There they were, in all their glory. Locked inside the cab of the truck holding a flare gun for protection. We snuck up beside the truck and each grabbed a hold of a side. We started pushing and pulling the truck every which way causing it to bounce and squeak. The boys, they screamed and evern though the windows were up you could hear them freaking plain as day. I laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. As soon as they figured out it was us - and not a ghost, they started cursing at us for scaring them. That night the boys rode up front in the cab and us girls, we rode in back. The whole way home, we said nothing. I'm not sure why, but maybe it was because all of us knew that something more than what seemed to be - happened back there. We knew that place was haunted, but none of us could speak of it.

They dropped me off at the end of my driveway. I was supposed to be staying at a friends but I needed to go home, to some place familiar - and safe. When I came in the house my parents were sitting at the kitchen table. I thought for sure I was going to get in trouble, after all it was 2 a.m. and I had a curfew of midnight. They just looked at me as if they knew where I'd been. Turns out they did know, but I'm not sure how. "Sit down," my father commanded. "We told you not to go there, it's dangerous." "Yes dad, I know, I won't go back." I wanted to tell them what I'd seen, what I'd felt, how strange it all was. "You know we didn't get far when we were there." "There was a guy, a security guard I guess, he stopped us." "A guy," my father asked. "Yes there was a guy, but it was weird, he wouldn't speak to us, he just motioned for us to leave." "Oh, wait, he did say something." "What did he say," my mother asked. "He told me I looked like her," I answered. My parents looked at each other and it was clear, there was something they were not telling me, something they thought I couldn't handle, couldn't understand. "Damn it, just tell me what you are both so tight lipped about." "I'm not a child anymore." "There's nothing really, it's just that your great grandfather, on your father's side, well he lived there." "Lived where," I asked. "He lived at that place, that hospital." "What, he was insane," I asked. "No dear, he worked there." "He worked there, he helped Dr. Zellar perform some of his procedures, sort of like a nurse's aid." "Well what happened to him," I wanted to know. "He left one day and never came back," my father answered. "Some say the stress of being with 'those' people was too much for him, he disappeared and we never saw him again." That was all they could tell me. My great grandfather disappeared and that was that. I didn't believe them. My grandfather didn't disappear - he just got lost.

Incidentally, I've been told my whole life that I resemble my great grandmother, the black Irish one. I have her dark hair and eyes, her olive skin, I've even been told I have her voice. I have a theory about that man I saw - I think finally, he wasn't lost anymore.

Happy Halloween. P.S. this is a true story.

11 Comments:

  1. sirreene said...
    that's a seriously spooky story!
    Violet said...
    oh my gosh, that was so cool!
    klcdh said...
    Okay so I have chills right now. I grew up hearing stories about Zeller Zone all the time - but never an account from someone that visited. Great story - Happy Halloween.
    Sky said...
    Very eerie but great story!
    k o w said...
    I've got goosebumps, seriously.
    WDKY said...
    Mmmm... I ilked that. And I like your writing.
    NewYorkMoments said...
    Great post :-)
    Networkchic said...
    Thanks...you know I have a lot of scary stories...I wonder why that is.
    TJ said...
    great post--I felt a chill reading it too.
    NMAMFQLMSH said...
    Most excellent but I have to know who is the cutie in the picture?
    Peace,
    JJ
    Shannon said...
    that was creepy... good story telling and good timing too!

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