The Haunted Workshop
Daniel H Heslin
It had been a busy night in Monroe’s Tavern, but at this late hour, most of the crowd had already left. Aside from being a Saturday night, it was also the night of a full moon. There had been a live jazz band earlier, and they had what was considered a huge following. The band, Resonance 5, regularly closed with the standby “Feet don’t fail me now”. They made an interesting improvisation on the classic; toward the end of the song, they alternated between the clarinet and the tuba. After their set, Resonance 5 systematically broke down their equipment and carried it out to the van. They didn’t have official “roadies”, but some members of the crowd helped to haul equipment. The jazz crowd left, and most of the energy left with them. For those that remained at the bar, the melody of the final number continued to echo in their heads.
At approximately an hour before closing time, only four people remained in the bar. Two of them were patrons, and two were employees. There was Cheryl, the forty one year old bartender, who was a short, stout, red haired woman. There was the bouncer, Arnie, who was a burly fellow, an ex con, and lived in a sober house. One of the patrons by the name of Ralph, was a regular. He was retired from the Air force, and occasionally did consulting work. Finally, there was Bill, a Superintendent at the Doogal Houses; a housing project for families on supplemented income. These four individuals occupied the far corner of the bar, in a closely knit gathering. They were having deep conversation which involved theology, extraterrestrials, and the supernatural. Cheryl, Arnie, and Ralph often had such discussions, but Bill was a member of their circle only of recent times.
As the group of four were discussing the mythology surrounding the spirit world, Bill had said, “The workshop at my job is haunted.” Cheryl, the Bartender smiled and asked, “You mean like, with real ghosts?” Bill concurred, and continued with his story. “They move tools around on me, they change the settings on my phone, and they knock my coffee over all the time!” “Oh c’mon. Spirits can’t do things like that, they can’t make physical contact with the material world.” said Ralph. “How do you know?” Cheryl asked in a teasing voice. “Because if they could, things would be moving around constantly.” Ralph replied in a matter of fact tone. “I guess that makes sense.” Cheryl conceded.
Ralph motioned for another beer. He drank the most among the four, but he also appeared to be the most sober. Cheryl poured him another one. “I believe it’s possible that spirits can communicate with us, they can relay information to us, kind of like Obi Won appeared to Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Ralph said.” Bill responded by saying, “I agree that spirits can communicate to us, but they are capable of moving stuff around because they have been doing it to me at my job. I actually caught them in the act!” Cheryl, Ralph, and Arnie were listening closely. Ralph asked Bill, what they looked like. Bill took a sip of his ale, scrunched his face as if it would aid in memory, and replied,
“They sort of looked like fire, but not as orange. They remind me of the filaments of an incandescent light bulb. They’re bright, but more like a yellow white, or a white yellow. I saw it one day out of the corner of my eye, and it was moving my channel locks deep under the workbench- hiding them on me. The channel locks appeared to be floating, but they were surrounded, or should I say, enveloped by this white – yellow electric fire. I yelled at it, ‘You sunnuva bitch! You damn dirty demon! Why do you keep messing with me? Leave my stuff alone!’ After I yelled at it, it took off with lightning speed. I thought I had scared it away. Then, as I reached for my coffee, the ghost came back, knocked my coffee off the shelf, and took off again. ‘Oh Screw You!’ I said, while raising my central digit at the area where the spirit had been. So you see, I’ve had a first-hand experience with a ghost…” When Bill had finished speaking, his complexion turned red and he seemed very upset. Arnie asked him discretely, “Hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but are you sure there is enough ventilation in the workshop? I mean, do you suppose you could be inhaling too many paint fumes or something?” Bill considered this possibility, but only for a microsecond. He answered, “Naw, that’s not it. There’s much more to the story; much, much more.” Cheryl asked him what happened next, and Bill continued his story,
“One day I was carrying a sawzall and a long extension cord out of the work shop. Every time I had walked past that door, a cable or something else would get snagged on the door knob. I turned to watch the doorknob to see if the cable would get snagged. Sure enough, the ghost appeared, and wrapped the cable around the doorknob. I hollered at it, ‘ you evil hearted rascal! Why do you keep doing this to me? What have I ever done to you? Why do you hate me so much?’ I shouted. Then the spirit said, ‘ We don’t hate you, on the contrary, we’re rather fond of you.’” Arnold interrupted him by saying, “You mean they actually spoke to you?” “Yeah, they did.” Bill answered. “Now I know you’re full of it.” Arnold said, shaking his head, while trying to contain his laughter. “You didn’t talk to any ghosts, you crazy old bastard! Who are you trying to kid?” said Cheryl. Bill sat in his stool, motionless. His expression did not change throughout the backlash. He sighed and said, “Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. I wouldn’t believe it either I if I were somebody else. I didn’t imagine it though, and there is much more to the story. I’m about to tell you the crazy part.” After this being said, there was a tremendous burst of laughter that made the glass bottles on the bar shake a little bit. “About to tell us the crazy part?” Cheryl. Arnie and Ralph all said in near unison. Bill proceeded to tell the story.
“I asked them why they continued to play tricks on me, and one of the spirits said.’ We have been bound to the basement of this building for 75 years. There is an abundance of idle time in our existence and the lack of activity causes us to suffer. Watching you get upset is our only source of entertainment. That is why we are so fond of you. ‘ after they said this, I responded by saying ‘ It may be entertaining for you, but when you hide my tools, snag the cables, change the settings on my phone, and knock my coffee over, you make me suffer. If you keep doing these things, I’ll leave.’ I threatened to leave the workshop, but I was only bluffing. I wasn’t gonna let those ghosts make me quit my job, I didn’t mind them being there, I just wanted them to knock off the shenanigans. Then, I tried to reason with them. I asked them if there was any way I could get them to leave me alone.” Bill paused for a moment. Ralph took the opportunity to ask Bill what the spirits sounded like. Bill said, “ Their voices were very clear, though they spoke with an accent that sounded – alien like.” then Bill said, “ Where was I?” , to which Cheryl told him, “ You were asking the ghosts to leave you alone.”, then Arnie added, “Yeah, you were trying to cut a deal with them”. Bill continued the story,
“ Oh yeah, I asked the spirit if there was any way for them to let me alone, and another spirit answered, ‘ Burn a stick of sage and let the smoke fill the air, we will then cease to torment you. Do this during the full moon of each month.’ ‘Okay’, I said. Then I asked them what the significance of the sage was. The spirit answered, “A chemical known as “ thujone” is contained within the smoke. It makes us spirits tranquil and at peace. Only then can we sleep. If you burn sage for us, we will no longer desire to haunt you.’ The next day, I went and got a sage stick. When the full moon arrived, I burned the stick, and waved it around like this.” Bill demonstrated by waving his arms in slow motion. He almost fell off the barstool, but Arnie caught him. “Did you say “ thujone? , that’s the active ingredient in absinthe. I guess the spirits like to catch a buzz.”, said Cheryl, pouring herself another beer. “Can you blame them? All there is to do down there is watch Bill the Super yell about his channel locks and coffee. They must be desperate.” said Arnie. “You know I’ve heard about people burning sage to sanctify their homes from evil spirits. Maybe Bill really is telling the truth.” said Cheryl. “ Or maybe he’s just pulling our legs. Oh, by the way, that’s a great story. You’ll get along with these two real well, my man.” said Arnie, clapping Bill on the back in good humor. Bill got up and put his coat on. He finished his beer, and counted out a few singles for a tip. “Did burning the sage help to resolve the problem?” Ralph asked him. Bill answered, “ That it did. After I burned the sage, they left me alone. There was no sign of them for a whole month. Then, during the next full moon, I caught one of the spirits changing the settings on my phone, so I burned another sage stick. I haven’t been bothered by them since. I just burned a stick this morning” Bill walked toward the door, disappeared within a dark spot, and reappeared near the neon signs. He bid everyone a good night from across the invisible bridge of darkness before exiting the bar.
“What do you make of that guy?” Ralph asked the other two after Bill had left. “Oh, he’s a character. I like that dude.” said Arnie. Ralph continued, “No, I mean what do you think of his story? Do you think he was telling the truth?” Sheryl and Arnie laughed at the possibility. “I don’t think so. That guy clearly has some psychological issues. Aside from being passive/aggressive, he’s probably schizophrenic.” said Sheryl. “Big deal. Isn’t everybody a little crazy in one way or the other. I think he was making it up so he’d have something interesting to talk about.” said Arnie. “ It was a good story wasn’t it,” Sheryl began, “ It’s the only ghost story I ever heard where rather than being afraid of a ghost, the victim gets mad at it.” They all laughed in agreement.
It was near closing time, and Sheryl yelled “Last call.” “You don’t have to yell, we’re right here.” said Arnie. Sheryl chuckled a bit while Ralph began to tell a story he had told his bar companions many times before which involved his dead brother visiting him in a dream.
After Ralph spoke, there was a half a minute of silence. Then Ralph candidly addressed the others by saying, “You’ve both had experiences that were inexplicable. Sheryl, you told us that you and your family witnessed an alien spacecraft on a camping trip when you were little. And you, Arnie, you said you saw the ghost of your grandmother a few dozen times after she passed. Do you find it so hard to believe the story of Bill the Super?” Sheryl threw the question back at him when she returned, “Do you believe him?” Ralph took another sip of beer and inhaled before saying,” Well, I have no reason not to believe him, and I suppose it’s possible. I cannot deny the experience I had with the dream, so I couldn’t rightly begrudge anyone that claims to have had a similar experience. I can see three distinct possibilities. Number one: he’s making it up solely for our entertainment. Number two: he believes he communicated with spirits but in reality was hallucinating. Number three: He may have indeed communicated with the spirit world. If what he said was true, than I think it only makes sense that he found his way to our little circle.” Ralph finished speaking, and the three raised their glasses in a toasting manner. “To the spirits.” Sheryl said.
“To the spirits”, repeated Arnie and Ralph.