Welcome back. As some of you know if you’re on The Storage Papers’ social media, I’ve dabbled in visiting places for the purposes of paranormal research – or as it’s more commonly called: ghost hunting. Some places can certainly be quite spooky, especially the long abandoned buildings like old hospitals. This paper recounts a statement provided to a park ranger from a woman who was picked up wearing just a shirt, a pair of underwear, and boots as she ran directly in front of his Jeep. Some abandoned places were never meant to be explored.
We weren’t even supposed to be there. When we ran into the No Trespassing signs, I told them we should turn back. Nobody listened.
There were five of us: me and David, Kristen and Raul, and Jemal. Raul and David kept goading each other, and Kristen has always been up for anything. I think me and Jemal were the only ones who just wanted to keep hiking. I knew there was no way to talk them out of it, though. Especially David. That’s part of why I’d been so attracted to him. I’ve never been much of a risk taker and he always pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.
It was just past three when we got to the chain link fence. I remember because that was part of my argument for not going inside: I didn’t want it to be dark by the time we got back to our campsite. Raul told David he should just hang back with his girl. David insisted that I was up for this. Then he turned to me and gave me a quick wink – the same wink he always gave me right before my boundaries were about to be pushed.
Jemal pointed out the barbed wire and reiterated how bad of an idea this was. What if it was some top secret government facility or something?
Raul just rolled his eyes and pointed out how unkempt everything was. Whatever this place used to be, it was clearly abandoned. David quickly agreed, trying to get Jemal onboard. While they went back and forth, Kristen was the one who pointed out the direction of the barbed wire at the top of the ten foot fence – specifically that it was angled inwards. She asked if we thought this used to be some kinda prison. The bickering paused as everyone looked at the fence and the roof of the structure beyond. We couldn’t see it very well – between the overgrown weeds and the overall shape of the landscape, it was pretty well hidden.
But, like David and Raul said, there was definitely no sign of human life anywhere within the area. Raul looked from side to side and started shaking the fence. He saw that part of it was loose and David helped him pull it up and away from the fence post. There was just enough room in the gap they created to crawl through, but only barely. Raul went through last and ended up catching his gray t-shirt on the fence, tearing a piece of it off.
Once he was through, him and David took the lead while me, Kristen, and Jemal kinda hung back a little. Me and Jemal really weren’t feeling it at all by the time we got to the building itself. It was a big, concrete structure. It almost reminded me of some sort of bunker, but it was a lot bigger than any bunker I’d ever seen pictures of. There were some windows that were reinforced with steel bars. They reminded me of Kristen’s comment about it being a jail and, even though there’s no way it was an actual jail, it still made me uneasy and I pointed it out.
Raul was unconcerned. He said even if it was a jail, it wouldn’t be the first abandoned one he’d explored, which got him and David talking about going on some sort of urban exploration adventure together or something. I ignored them, hoping David wasn’t planning on bringing me along as I peered through the windows… but I couldn’t see anything at all.
Then Jemal called out that he found a door around the corner. I hadn’t even noticed he’d wandered off, but the guys started celebrating that they’d gotten Jemal in the spirit with them. Nobody seemed concerned about the weather-worn signs plastered on the door saying stuff like “No Trespassing,” “Danger,” and “Fines and Prosecution.” Raul stood at the door with Jemal and asked if any of us had seen something we could pry it open with. I shrugged and looked around to see if there were any stray metal rods that may have broken off from the windows or something, when Kristen asked if they’d tried to open it yet. I rolled my eyes as the guys all looked at each other like dummies, then David stepped forward and turned the handle. It swung inwards.
This time Kristen pushed past them and led the way in. I entered last, pulling my flashlight out of the side pocket of my backpack. As expected, it was extremely dark inside. We all looked around with our flashlights to see that we were in a small, windowless room. There were some old newspapers scattered around the floor, some broken glass, and a bunch of cigarette butts. The light from the doorway cut straight across the room, illuminating the only notable feature: a set of steel double doors with a bracket on either side, holding a four by four in place. With almost no hesitation, Raul and David walked up to the door and removed the wooden bar. I asked why they thought it was there and David shrugged his shoulders and grinned, saying that he didn’t know but we were going to find out. That just made me more uneasy.
They each took a door and tugged them open. The rusty hinges seemed to beg us not to enter as they squeaked. They were heavy doors and they scraped a layer of dust off the ground as the two of them struggled to swing them all the way open. Inside the doors was a long hallway with a chipped tile floor.
Raul asked what this place was, seemingly in awe at the discovery. Nobody answered. Instead we quietly made our way inside. Kristen fell behind with me. I whispered to her, asking if she thought this is what ghost hunters feel like. It definitely had the vibe of some old, haunted school… or psych ward, maybe. The first few doors we came to in the hallway appeared to be some sort of offices. Each of them had a desk, although in one of them the desk was split in half. Most of the desks were adorned with a typewriter, ashtray, and a golden lamp with a green shade, all covered under a few layers of cobwebs. Yellowing papers and old cigarette butts littered the floor. Some of them had windows, but metal plates were bolted over top of them, which explained why I couldn’t see in from the outside.
It was the next few rooms that made me think of an old school, though. There was a chemistry lab – it looked nearly identical to the one I’d used for my chem class at San Diego State, except a couple pieces of equipment looked like older versions of the stuff I was used to and the general state of disrepair, of course. A couple of lab coats hung on a rack by the door, and there were still some formulas written on the chalkboard, almost like everyone had left in the middle of a class.
The next lab smelled terrible. I never actually went in, but David told me it looked like someone had been experimenting on animals or something. There were a bunch of cages, but no animals were actually in them. Instead there were a few small bones and what might have been blood stains scattered around on the floor. That was enough for me to try to get everyone to leave, but now I was alone. While Kristen was grossed out too, even she was determined to find out exactly what this place used to be.
There were a few more labs. When we found beds that had restraints for wrists, ankles, and heads in a couple of them, Raul made a joke about someone being into BDSM, but I was starting to feel like the odd one out for not finding any humor in the situation. I’d seen enough. If it wasn’t for David pushing me… I agreed to keep going.
We came to another set of steel double doors – this one without the security bar. Raul was about to step through when Jemal stopped him. He pointed up and we all looked. Directly above us there was an iron grid, approximately six feet by six feet, with spikes at each joint. Jemal’s flashlight traced a cable and system of pulleys from one end of the grid to a metal box directly over the door Raul was about to push open.
David ran back to an office and returned with a typewriter. We all stood back as he tossed it at the door. Immediately, the wall of spikes swung down, impaling the one door that was still shut. We all looked at each other with wide eyes. That was some Indiana Jones shit.
Raul told us all to be careful, like he wasn’t the one that had almost gotten himself killed in the first place. We pressed on, keeping a close eye anytime we neared a door. David poked his head into another room and was like, “What the fuck?” so of course we all crowded into the office there with him. There was a skeleton slumped in a corner. A beige suit was partially visible under a lab coat that was stained blackish-brown all around the top. There was a large, jagged hole on one side of the skull and the fingers gripped a pistol. Kristen was the one who noticed the message scrawled in black marker on the opposite wall.
“It’s not them” is all it said.
I was more insistent about leaving this time and David finally relented. He stood up from studying the skeleton and turned to leave when Jemal started reading from a small leatherbound notebook that had been on the desk. I didn’t think it made any sense, and whoever wrote it kept jumping around from one thing to another. It said that the bodies weren’t hanging. Something about a maze being all wrong, that it was like a different world or universe or something and the rules didn’t apply. Then how something was more quiet than it should have been except when it talked, or if it was too late to matter.
David told Jemal to take the notebook so we could read it around the campfire so he put it in his backpack, then quickly scooped the gun up off the floor and packed that away as well. When we got out of that room, David looked around and asked where Raul went. I was confused because he had just been right behind me, but I spun around myself and found that he wasn’t anywhere in sight. Kristen started calling out for him, but aside from her own echo there wasn’t an answer. David shook his head, saying that the bastard must have wandered off. Kristen and I exchanged worried glances but followed David as we turned another corner deeper into the building.
There was only one door ahead. David turned back to us, grinning as he pointed at a sign on the door that was clearly missing letters – only an M and an A remained. He said now he knew where Raul went.
“He saw this room was rated MA and was hoping to see some boobies.”
Kristen and I both groaned at the terrible, middle school maturity dad joke. He turned back to the door and, after closely examining around it for any apparent traps, slowly turned the doorknob. There was a loud click, then a rumble and a clatter on the other side of the door. We all backed up and Kristen once again shouted Raul’s name. There was no reply and after a moment the racket stopped and things were once again silent.
David cautiously stepped forward and tried the door again. It swung open towards us and I immediately grabbed David’s arm. Directly on the other side of the door was a gaping square hole in the ground. He stepped back and shone his flashlight into the hole. Neither of us could see the bottom. My heart was pounding but he just smiled at me and said that was a close one. I turned back to Kristen and Jemal to calm down but my pulse only sped up as I realized Kristen wasn’t there. We ran back around the corner and called out for her, but she was nowhere to be found.
David glanced back at the room with the hole in the ground but I quickly pointed out that we know Kristen wasn’t that way because she was behind us the whole time, and Raul wasn’t in that room because he would have set off the booby trap. He agreed and the three of us stood there for a moment, lost. That’s when we heard Raul calling out, “Guys? Hello? Where are you?”
We all turned. His voice had been coming from the room passed the hole. David called after him, “Raul! Come over here!”
There was silence for a minute, then Raul shouted back that he was hurt and needed help. Jemal muttered to himself about how of course Raul hurt himself. One by one, we jumped over the hole and entered the room. As I walked in I realized that this was more than a room. I pointed my flashlight around and found that, while the walls for the next few yards were narrow, I couldn’t see the ceiling, which surprised me. The building had looked big from the outside, but not that big.
We carefully proceeded, looking for any buttons, tripwires, or giant boulders ready to roll and crush us because who knows what the hell to expect in a place like that. The walls were replaced with railing and the floor turned into a metal grate platform. On the end of the platform was a ladder leading down. I looked around us, trying to see beyond the railing, but I couldn’t find any walls around. In fact, even though I had a pretty powerful flashlight, it felt like it was only shining a few feet in front of me.
Before we climbed down the ladder, I yelled out for Raul again, then called for Kristen. There was no response. Not even an echo. David was already climbing down. I looked at Jemal and he tried to give me a reassuring look but it was pretty easy to tell he was just as terrified as me. I heard David yelp and ran to the edge, asking if he was okay. It was all quiet for a sec and I couldn’t even see him below us, then I heard him yell back that he was fine and we should get down there. It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but I climbed down the ladder, Jemal immediately following me.
We got to the bottom, stepping on the cement floor. David was nowhere to be seen. I called out for him. It sounded like he was a ways away when he responded and told us to hurry up, he found something. Jemal and I ran towards his voice, unable to see him in the darkness and our flashlights doing little to make it easier. I yelled back, asking where he was and what he found. He just said to come quick. Why wouldn’t he just tell us? We came up to a wall that rose up about ten feet with only one gap to pass through. It reminded me of the entrance to a corn maze. Only pausing for a moment, we entered to find it was a maze, but we continued running.
I suddenly felt myself falling face first as I tripped over something on the ground. I broke my fall at the last second and heard a crunch, followed by Jemal crying out behind me. I rolled over and saw a thin wire pulled around my shoe and beyond that a series of jagged metal rods protruding out of the wall that hadn’t been there a second ago. One of them had gone completely through Jemal’s calf. The rod was connected from one wall to the other with his leg pinned in mid air.
I rose to my knees and tried to move the rod back into the wall but it wouldn’t budge. I was so amped up I didn’t even realize the jagged edges of the rod cut into my palms when I grabbed it. Jemal looked at me, teeth clenched in pain. He told me to just leave him there. I looked around desperately trying to figure something out. I screamed for David, for Kristen, for Raul, for anyone who could hear me to come and help us. The dark seemed to eat my words. I heard David, now even further away, telling me I had to hurry. I was on the verge of tears when Jemal reached out and grabbed my arm and told me to hurry up and go get David, he had a knife that might be able to help us.
I stopped and looked at him. I suddenly remembered – Jemal had a gun in his backpack from the dead guy! Careful not to move him too much, I reached into his bag and pulled out the pistol. I had never shot a gun before and I wasn’t even sure it would work. Jemal looked at me with fear in his eyes, asking what I was going to do. I got on the ground and pointed it at the other side of the rod. I closed my eyes as I squeezed the trigger. I couldn’t help it.
Jemal screamed and I jerked my eyes open. The bullet had broken through the rod, but the force also pushed it backwards, the jagged edge slicing through Jemal’s calf. Free of the metal, he fell to the ground. I looked at the bloodied flesh, panicking. Raul had been the one carrying our primary first aid kit; all I had was some aspirin. I dug through my backpack and pulled out a spare shirt to tie around his leg, creating an improvised tourniquet.
Jemal told me to go again. I knew I couldn’t leave him there, though. Something had been picking us off, one by one. We had to stick together. Ignoring his protests, I pulled him up and slung his arm over my shoulder, forcing him to walk with me.
I couldn’t help but wonder aloud who the hell was doing this to us and why. As we hobbled, Jemal eventually responded between grunts. The traps weren’t intended for us. Everything – from the traps to the windows to the door to the fence – wasn’t set up to keep us out. It was all designed to keep something in.
It wasn’t long before we came to another opening. Ropes hung from wherever the ceiling was and disappeared under a wide pile of clothes that covered the entire floor as far as I could see with my flashlight. There was probably about a solid foot or two of messily stacked clothing. I noticed resting atop the pile was a gray shirt, torn. It was Raul’s! He had to be nearby! I yelled out for him. It took a few seconds, but he answered! I nearly melted with relief. We weren’t alone.
I started searching for him with my flashlight while I asked him where he was. I froze as I pointed the light up. The ropes weren’t attached to the ceiling at all. Each rope rose twenty feet in the air and ended in a noose. Dozens of naked bodies hung upside down, hovering above us in the darkness, tethered to the ground by the ropes that were tied around their necks. They were all pale, seemingly drained of blood and glowing in the light against the endless black. My light had just fallen on the body of Raul when I heard his voice off to my right, telling us he was just a little further and to hurry up.
I dropped my flashlight and covered my mouth to stifle a scream. As soon as the flashlight hit the floor, I heard something shuffling in the distance – from roughly the same area I had just heard my dead friend’s voice. Tears streamed from my eyes as I saw David’s clothes in the beam of the flashlight. I looked at Jemal and whispered that we had to run. He slowly nodded, his wide eyes matching my own. We turned and tried to run back the way we came, but we were barely moving at a brisk walking pace with his now useless leg.
I was already on the ground when I realized that my body had just been spun around like a ragdoll and tossed aside. Jemal was gone. Something had jerked him away from me so fast and with such force that I was now dizzy and on the ground with the wind knocked out of me. I was alone.
Taking time I knew I didn’t have to recover, I unsteadily rose to my feet and staggered forward. I slowly regained my breath and my balance and was able to run again. I ran blindly, knowing that between the traps, the maze, and whatever the fuck was behind me I had no chance, but I had to run. I heard a sound that I didn’t realize until later was flesh being torn apart. Jemal’s death was buying me time.
I finally made it out of the maze and ran in the direction I hoped was the ladder. I had left my flashlight behind and couldn’t see anything in front of my face. I reached out into the blank space before me, praying my hands would make contact with the metal rungs. Behind me, I heard something skittering across the cement floor. It sounded like something with a dozen legs was running at me.
I felt cold aluminum hit my bloodied palm and used my momentum to thrust myself up the ladder, skipping the first few rungs. It was getting closer behind me. I made it over the ladder and ran as fast as I could. I remembered there was a hole somewhere ahead of me, but I couldn’t see it. I leaped with every stride, praying that luck would save me. A doorknob caught my hip, instantly bruising it. I didn’t care, though. That meant I had just passed the door and made it over the hole.
I put a hand against the wall as I ran so I could feel when to turn. I rounded the corner, my own heartbeat deafening in my ears. I kept my hand against the wall. If I wasn’t careful at the next doorway, I would impale myself on iron spikes. I didn’t slow down though. I could still hear it. It had jumped over the hole, too.
I made it through the doorway, feeling my way around the trap and continued running again. Although it sounded like the feet were a dozen yards back, I felt hot breath huffing on my neck. I could see a crack of dusk light ahead. I was almost there. I didn’t dare look behind me. I didn’t want to see it.
I made it to the doors. I grabbed one and yanked at it, trying to close it. I heard the thing slow down – it was at the spikes. I put all my weight against the door. It moved, but so slowly. I screamed in frustration but kept moving it. Inch by inch, it swung shut as blood smeared from my hands across the metal. The thing from inside was past the spikes now and had resumed at an inhuman pace.
I grabbed the other door, crying and screaming as I fought the decades of rust to close it. It skittered with all of its feet, halfway to me already. I shut the door. With strength I didn’t even have, I somehow lifted the four by four and put it into the brackets, just as the doors pounded against it. I fell backwards as it rammed the doors again. I backed away, then got up and ran out as it continued pounding. It was only a matter of time. I ran through the grass and slammed into the fence, dropping to my knees to try to crawl under it. It caught the leg of my pants – just as I heard the sound of wood splintering. I yanked at my jeans, willing them to tear loose of the chain link fence. More wood cracked.
I undid my fly and jerked my pants off, then I ran and I didn’t stop running.
This poor girl went through hell, but I can’t help but wonder what she discovered in the process. I may never find out, though. A search and rescue team went looking in the rough area she had been but found no evidence of the building she described. What’s even more concerning is the fact that a piece of wood was all that stood between whatever was within the belly of that structure and the rest of the world. Who knows how long that will last – if it even lasted at all.
My advice: enjoy nature when you get the chance, but if you run into a sign that says “No Trespassing”… heed the warnings.
Thank you for listening.