A little over a month ago we began noticing lights left on. We thought nothing of it. With two churches and a preschool sharing the space, there are lots of people in and out all the time. Plus, its a big building. When locking the place up after an event or meeting, it’s difficult to find every switch. Often I will think I’ve turned everything off only to get to the parking lot and see lights shining through windows because I’ve missed a random stairway or class room. In response to the random lights being left on simple reminder emails went back and forth between the leadership. ”Make sure you get everything when you leave.”
Then one morning, a staff member came in early to exercise in the church gym. There are four entrances/exits to the large central space. As she came in one door, she thought she heard someone leaving from another. Unsure if she was imagining things she pursued the sound. The hallways in the main building make a circle with a large room in the middle. As the staff member walked the circle, she felt like someone was intentionally staying just out of view. Then she thought she heard an exit door open and close in the distance. She went to it, but saw nothing. She looked out it and found no one. She reported it to the rest of it, but shrugged it off as most likely early morning imagination.
The instances of odd sounds and strange lights left on increased.
A staff member thought she heard someone making coffee in the kitchen. When she went to see, no one was there.
Another leader, the first to arrive at the building that day, thought she saw someone out of the corner of their eye exit the building out the back door as she was coming in the front.
Another staff member heard a shower in the men’s locker room running and a radio playing. She went to get others to help her investigate. When they returned, there was nothing.
Until this morning, I thought it was everyone’s imaginations running wild. I even accused several of our leaders of imagining ghosts.
At nine this morning, as I do every Tuesday and Thursday, I dropped my three-year-old off at his classroom downstairs. I sauntered down the hall, chatting with parents. I stopped and had a small celebratory conversation with the Pre-School director about how well a fundraiser went the night before. Finally I put my head phones in, turned on the sweet music of John Legend and the Roots, ascended the back stairway, passed through the gym, and finally walked down the hallway where my office is located.
My office is away from everyone else in a back corner of the building. I use to be in the main office complex, but when the Korean church began sharing our space I gave my office up so their leader could be by the front door and receptionist. If I were going to hide from everyone in the building, it is the spot I would choose.
I scared the man when I flipped on my office lights. He jumped up from the chair he had dozed off in. Immediately he smiled said “Good morning” and extended his hand toward me. He was a tall, thin, African-American man with a gray mustache and salt and pepper hair. He wore a blue track suit, tennis shoes, and an athletic brace on his right arm.
I shook his hand and asked, “Good morning. Are you waiting for me?”
He looked at me curiously and then said, “You know what? I think I’m in the wrong office. I think I should be waiting in the office down the hall. I’m sorry about that.”
“No problem,” I said moving past him to my desk. I put down my back pack, retrieved my lap top, and then turned with the intent of asking him how he got in, but he was gone. That was when it occurred to me who he was. I bolted from the door and looked down the hall. He was no where to be found. I ran around the circle of hallways to the main office. Our office manager was there answering email. She hadn’t let him in and assured me he hadn’t come past her. I ran back to my office, down the stairs to where the preschool director was still welcoming arriving parents. She also had not seen him arrive or leave; but she mentioned to me there were weird lights on in the building.
After over an hour of walking the building, I found a door to the outside which looks like it could be opened with a strong tug. In the bushes next to the door was a small next of cardboard boxes and blankets. If I had to choose between boxes in bushes and an empty church building, I take the building too.
We are getting the door fixed; but the truth is, this building is so larger and has some many doors and windows that if someone really wants to get in there isn’t much we can do about it. In fact, he could still be in the building right now and I wouldn’t know. There are too many rooms with connecting doors and too many places to hide.
I’m considering leaving vacuum cleaners out with notes that read, “If you are sleeping here at night, please vacuum this rug so we won’t have to later.”
All joking aside, it is a little spooky. I find myself looking over my shoulder every few minutes and I’m over-attentive to sounds in the halls.