"Haints," you might say, is a deep southern or east Texican word for ghosts, and this story is my one and only run-in or brush by with what folks love to tell - a ghost story in a hospital. Now I am skeptic. Totally. I am such a skeptic, I am skeptical of my skepticism. But many years ago I experienced something that I never had before and never have since.
In a city I worked in, there was once a major hospital called Flow Hospital atop a hill in the center of town. It reigned as the medical place to go for many a moon. Both my kids were born there. When I got busted up as a cop, they "wheelchaired" me around inside there. I have had fights with prisoners in there and outside on the grounds. I investigated shootings, suicides, and killings in and around the parking lots.
Huge, modern hospitals were built over town, and Flow eventually lost business. Hospitals change owners, etc., and Flow was suddenly shut down. Empty. Being an owned property by ... someone or something somewhere else, these owners hired out our police department to work security in the empty Flow in the evenings and through the nights. Then eventually after a front office was fully shut down, we covered it 24 hours a day.
It was, as we cops love, a solid, great, easy overtime gig. I signed up also and worked out there three or four times a month for years. We had to walk the three-story building, morgue, and the basement - and, well, at 2 a.m. on a winter's night, it is a great setting for a horror movie. But the gig was problem-free. Between these foot patrols, officers brought in small campers' TV sets. The office also had a VCR and TV, and video tapes were kind of new in that decade, but there were still movies aplenty to rent. I wrote a lot and practiced my karate katas (hey, it was the 1980s!) between patrol walks. It was an easy gig.
Easy that is, except for ... Crazy Mary. Ahhh, ... that'll be the ghost of this story. Through the years, all the nurses and doctors knew about Mary the Ghost. You know the classic story, someone died violently on the second floor, and they all had run-ins and weird stories about ... Mary. But seriously, how many people died in an age-old hospital? A lot! Mary or somebody else died there. Anyway, the legend grew. Skeptic that I am, I totally ignored it ... until something weird happened to ME!
One summer evening shift at the hospital, in required uniform, I was blissfully wandering around the place. It was still daylight. I walked into the first-floor office, clicked on the TV, and scattered the contents of my briefcase on a big desk. I had to work on my detective cases.
“Hmmm, I need copies of this,” I told myself of some reports I had. I walked into a supply room right off the main office to a copy machine. Opened the lid, put in the paper, and hit the copy button. Boring, right?
I was suddenly struck by a whole-body, cold, spine-tingling chill that took my breath. Someone was behind me! It touched my back, but yet it didn't. I had to spin around. Instinctively. Reflexively. But as soon as I spun, this thing in the furthest corner of my left eye stayed right behind me just over my shoulder just, just ... over my shoulder and a hair out of sight. You know I saw something, but didn't. Couldn't, but did!
I probably spun around twice in front of that copy machine. Twice. Like a goddamned idiot. I felt like one. Then the electric feeling was gone. Flat gone. This chill, as fast as it came, was gone. "Well, what in the hell was that?" I said out loud to ... no one. No one?
I retrieved my papers and returned to the desk, trying to shake off that feeling. A feeling I've never had before and never since. I wasn't concerned or even thinking, even on the lowest subliminal level, about Mary or any haints.
I continued to work overtime there for years, even when they shut the front office down and moved our headquarters into the empty basement emergency room. The idea of Mary was scary; but if she was there, she kinda floated around and didn't seem to hurt anyone, huh? Even with her legend and my supply room, circular pass-by, I walked the halls of that building in the dead of night and never had that feeling again. You would think I would be mentally predisposed to feel something after that, but no. It came only when I was utterly, completely, thoughtlessly un-predisposed to the idea.
Years later, Officer Scotty Langford was wandering the halls at about 3 a.m., heard weird noises, and responded. No haints that time! He single-handedly caught three burglars in the building, with which I was quite impressed. Not just because he had to wrangle three bad guys, which he successfully did, but he was walking around and heard really weird noises in a suspected haunted building. And like Scully and Mulder in the X-Files, Scotty pulled his gun and flashlight and went forth to investigate.
Now, I only have one file in my personal X-Files. This one supply room experience. I am open to any explanation any pro in the field might have about that evening. Haint explanation? Dizzy from allergies? Ghost/no ghost? I have zero agenda. No dog is this hunt. It was just weird.
I think in six or more years at Flow, Scotty's arrests was the only time any of us had to take any action at Flow. Eventually, they ripped the whole outfit down, and I hear it was replaced with a University of North Texas dormitory. But I wonder where Mary is? Does she still "haint" those grounds?
Don't Even Think About It! The book.
"This short story is an excerpt from this book. I know many of you through the years have seen this cover and read the hints that the book would be released "soon." Fact is, the book has been pitched, in and out of contract, expired, promised to, stalled, and contracted again; and, well, years go by in this dirty, damn, flaky book business. Years. I cannot tell you how screwed up the book business is.
"Don't Think" has now risen to the near-top of the happening list again and should be coming out in early 2015." - Hock