The Haunted Office Block

by Tom Slemen

In the 1990s, at a certain office block in Liverpool, a woman in her twenties named Julia was taken on as a female security guard. She usually worked with a man named Stuart, and one windy night, she arrived at the office block to work the 11pm till 7am shift. The office block was empty except for Julia and Stuart, and after closing and locking the entrance doors, the alarms were armed, and the two of them settled down at the reception desk. The long hours of the night would be filled with the mandatory hourly patrols of the building, chit-chat, crossword puzzles, and listening to the radio. Upon this particular night, at a quarter-past eleven, Stuart received a telephone call from his brother-in-law. Stuart’s sister had been critically injured in a car crash on Edge Lane, and had been taken to the Royal Hospital on Prescot Street. Stuart asked Julia if he could go to the hospital at once, and without thinking for a minute, Julia said she’d be okay. This was an emergency after all, so the alarms were deactivated and Stuart ran out the building to the car park. Within ten minutes he was at the hospital. Meanwhile back at the office block, Julia had secured the doors, turned on the alarm, and started on her first round of the building. She went up in the elevator, and walked the dark corridors that were illuminated only by her flashlight and the luminance from the streetlamps of the city outside. Julia opened a door and looked into the board room; nothing amiss there. She checked the boss’s office, several other rooms, then walked down the stairwell to the next level, and inspected the rooms down there, and so on. About twenty-five minutes later, she was heading down to the reception area of the building, with worrying thoughts about Stuart’s sister. The elevator doors parted, and Julia walked to the three-sided reception counter. She noticed that the book employees and security personnel signed when they entered and left the building was open on the counter. On a blank page, there was a drawing in biro of a smiley face with a pair of horns. That drawing had not been there when Stuart and Julia had signed the book. That logbook had also been most definitely closed when Julia went on her rounds. There was only one obvious logical conclusion; there was an intruder in the building. Out the corner of Julia’s eye something was blinking. She turned and saw it was the floor indicators of the elevator console. The red light on the console was slowly rising up the column of indicators, to the top floor, as if someone had just summoned the elevator. The topmost light winked on, then after a long pause, it started to descend. The elevator was coming down again. Julia wasn’t allowed to take any weapons into work to tackle an intruder. She strolled over to a heavy ashtray stand in the reception area, and gripped it. It would make a formidable club in the event of an attack, but what if the intruder had a knife or a gun.
The elevator reached the ground floor and sounded its bell. The door opened. Julia stood to the side of the reception counter, waiting for someone to emerge from the elevator. No one did. She walked across the carpeted room and saw there was no one there. The image of the horned smiley face haunted her mind. Was it possible that Stuart had been doodling in the logbook and she hadn’t noticed? Julia wondered. She dismissed that possibility, as she was certain he hadn’t scribbled the face. He wasn’t the sort who doodled, especially in something as important as the logbook, and that book had been closed when she had commenced her rounds.
The elevator door closed slowly. This time the elevator stayed put on the ground floor. Julia was then startled by the ringing of the telephone in the reception area. She eagerly dashed to the phone and answered it to hear Stuart crying. Through his sobs he said his sister was on the critical list with multiple injuries. ‘I’ll be back as soon as I can,’ Stuart told Julia, but she told him to stay at the hospital, and reassured him she’d be okay on her own. Stuart then hung up.
Just before four in the morning, Julia had the radio turned on at low volume, when she thought she heard a sound somewhere in the building. She thumbed the volume control and muted the radio, then listened tensely. Someone was whistling. It seemed to echo faintly down the stairs, and it sent shivers down Julia’s spine. She crept over to the heavy fire door that led to the stairwell, and noticed that the whistling was now slightly louder. The tune seemed vaguely familiar - then she recognised the eerie melody. It was a song she had not heard since she was a kid, back in the 1970s. It was Moonshadow by Cat Stevens.
‘Who’s there?’ Julia shouted up the pitch-black stairwell. Her voice echoed up the stairs into the darkness and no reply came. The whistling faded, then came a brief distant chuckle of laughter. The female security guard swept the beam of her torch across the underside of the concrete steps that turned and spiralled convolutedly in a vertical direction overhead. There was no one there.
The phone at the reception rang again. Julia spun round and hurried to it with dark forebodings. Was it bad news from Stuart? She wondered, and she lifted the receiver and waited. Silence. Not even the sound of any background noise in the hospital. ‘Hello?’ Julia said, still expecting to hear Stuart, but instead she suddenly heard a faint chuckling.
‘Who is that?’ she asked, and she looked over her shoulder uneasily as the sniggering sound continued. It stopped after about ten seconds, followed by a telephonic dead tone. Julia replaced the receiver, and tried her utmost not to let the strange events of the night get the better of her, but then one of the internal phones started to ring. The guard answered it – and it was silence as before, but no faint laughter this time. The silence went on for something like a minute in duration, and Julia put the receiver down, and although she was rather unnerved by now, what, with the mysterious doodler, sinister whistler and telephone pest, the guard was also very curious to get to the bottom of it all. Of course, the thought of the culprit being a ghost did cross her mind a few times, but Julia had always been a down to earth woman who had no time for such ‘figments’ of the human imagination. ‘There are no such things as ghosts,’ she muttered to herself.
And all the lights in the building went out.
Julia barged forward over the counter, fumbling for the flashlight, and knocked over Stuart’s empty mug. It rolled off the ledge behind the counter and shattered. Her hand then located the torch and clicked it on. She then searched for Stuart’s MagLite torch and switched that on too. Julia then proceeded to the small metal door set in the wall opposite the entrance. She unlocked it and opened it – and saw that the emergency power supply to the alarms wasn’t on. There should have been two steadily glowing red auxiliary power indicators there, but the console was dark. That seemed impossible, because the alarm system to that tower block had its own battery. Julia swore and tried to click switches and turn keys in the console, but it seemed as if there wasn’t an amp of power in the system. She read the emergency call-out number on the inside of the door of the alarm unit, then repeated it to herself as she went to the telephone. Although it was nigh on five in the morning, an electrician would surely be on call to service the alarm and hopefully diagnose the cause of the electricity failure throughout the office block. Julia picked up the phone and dialled the 0800 number – but the phone sounded dead. She dialled again. The phone was definitely dead.
Then she saw some dark unfamiliar object standing there by the fire door. What on earth was it? Julia swore with fright. It was silhouetted, about four feet high and broad, with a flattened top. Julia shone the two torches at the thing, and the beams revealed a grotesque spectacle. The thing was a grotesquely disfigured man. The top of his bald head was flattened and embedded partly into his chest, so only his face from the nose up was visible, and the top of his legs were hidden somewhere in the upper abdomen. His arms were of normal length in proportion to this compacted, squashed together torso, yet the hands were almost touching the floor. It looked as if this poor individual had sustained horrific injuries from some serious accident, yet Julia realised that no person could survive being crushed and maimed in such a way and survive. The compressed figure walked silently towards Julia, and she let out a scream and turned to run to the entrance of the building – but she’d left the keys in the recess behind the door of the alarm unit, on the other side of the room. In sheer desperation she pulled repeatedly at the handles of the doors, but they wouldn’t budge, and she felt the hands of the grossly misshapen man feeling her legs and her behind. She screamed and ran off in a curve which took her to the alarm console, where she searched desperately for the keys to the entrance doors. Footsteps echoed as the ghastly deformed intruder dashed towards her, sniggering. That very same chuckling she had heard earlier on the telephone. Julia suddenly located the keys, grabbed them, and ran around the reception counters to the entrance doors with the hideous thing in close pursuit. She turned the key in the lock and pulled it open just in time. She fled out into the windy street. The clouds had parted with the gales and a waning gibbous moon shone down on the deserted streets. Julia ran off, deserting her duty, and looked back only once, but she could not see her repulsive squashed-together figure. She refused to go back to work at that building. A week later, when Stuart’s sister was taken off the critical list, she visited her at hospital. After the visit, she told Stuart of the weird-looking man with the hideous-looking body, and he told her that he had heard an old ghost story about a man who had been horrifically killed in the office block in the 1970s. The man, an electrician, had been working in the elevator shaft when two workers boarded the elevator and went down to the ground floor. The electrician was crushed to death by the descending elevator, and when the body was recovered, the head had been crushed into the chest, and the thighs had been impacted into the abdomen. There was a rumour that the accident victim had been still alive when he was hoisted up the shaft, and that his eyes were wide with shock. He tried to run from the building, but after a few feet he fell down and died. After the office block was officially opened, the night workers heard the ghost of the man whistling all over the building, and sometimes glimpsed his apparition standing in corridors. The management of the building tried to hush up these weird rumours, but the ghost was still occasionally seen at large, all hours in the morning, with the most nerve-shattering activity taken place each year on the anniversary of the tragic accident. Sometimes strange graffiti would be scrawled on the walls of the stairwell and even in the log book. The ghost had even been known to play havoc with the telephone and alarm systems. Julia shuddered upon hearing this, because when the alarm engineer called out that morning, she heard that he had found the electricity on and the alarm system functioning perfectly. The office block still stands today, and from time to time I still hear about strange goings-on on the premises.

© Tom Slemen 2009.