It was right after the Martins Ferry chapter of the National Honor Society’s annual spaghetti dinner. A few of us decided to take rare opportunity of a vacant school to do some exploring (i.e. breaking and entering) which led us to the basement. While all of us had entered the cigarette-filled room at the bottom of the stairs that functioned as the janitor’s office before, none had ever passed through the doors beyond to the boiler room and, we assumed, an epic adventure worthy of a feature film.
We located a flashlight and pushed through the first door. What we found wasn’t much beyond the stuff that powered the school, albeit in a dark, creepy and someone bizarrely laid out manner, though these otherwise intelligent young people were treating it as though we had stumbled across the Five and a Half Minute Hallway. As there were about 10 of us, we took turns walking through the different rooms, occasionally playing pranks worthy of a Ouija Board party – closing doors when no one was looking, subtly throwing small objects to make loud noises, etc.
When we got bored we made to go back upstairs. That’s when we first noticed it, as it had been to our backs before we came down – just to the right of the staircase back to civilization was a roughly blasted hole near the top of the wall, big enough for a person to fit into, and leading to a room.
Usually climbing into mysterious dirt hole rooms in walls of hundred-year-old basements is a bad idea, but what the hell. We were the National Honor Society, not a group of smart people.
A few minutes of carefully navigating the dirt room with the help of a flashlight brought us to a sight that led those who had watched too many horror movies to unnatural hypotheses: In the back corner of the room was one chair, facing a wall with unknown hieroglyphs scribbled in a blood-colored substance. Behind that was a dirt mound roughly in the shape of a human body.
Now, by this point I’ve accepted that this is just a place where the janitors came to get high (the roaches on the ground didn’t make this a difficult conclusion to reach.) But everyone else now thinks we’re in some fucking sacrificial chamber with a corpse behind us.
With an “are-you-kidding-me” attitude, and despite protests, I sat in the chair.
The second my ass touched that seat, I stopped smiling. I stopped talking. I tried my best to stop blinking and breathing. I just stared at the markings (which I am pretty sure were plumbing drafting symbols.) I ignore several rounds of “Cheryl, are you ok? Cheryl, stop joking around.” More importantly, I ignore my urge to start laughing at the terrified expressions on my peers’ face. And then I start speaking in giberish. Some nonsense about the death of a girl mixed with random syllables that sound impressively evil. And then I slump back in the chair.
This is where the Martins Ferry National Honor Society starts to panic, because 1) I’m possessed, or dead 2) We’re not actually supposed to be down here, so someone’s getting in trouble when he/she goes to seek help and 3) I’M OBVIOUSLY POSSESSED OR DEAD. One of my classmates, a burly football player and otherwise bright fella, carried me out of the hole with tears forming in his eyes. The group propped me on a chair in the janitor’s office, where I muttered something along the lines of “I can’t unsee it” a few times, and theatrically staged a panic attack.
I was getting bored, but I coudn’t think of a good way to end this – it deserved more than a quick “gotcha!” So while they were huddled in the corner debating my well-being, I located my car keys in my pocket, shouted “I have to do it!” and ran as fast as I could into my car and sped off.
At this point I planned to hide and keep them scared for a bit longer. Nope. Two noble, fearless students chased after me in their respective cars. Still unsure of what I was going to say when I eventually admitted to NOT being possessed, I did the only thing that feels natural – I drove up to the goddamn cemetery.
The cemetery in Martins Ferry is on a very steep hill with very narrow turns and a few different paths to choose from, so I eventually lost my “rescue party” and went home to rest, feeling satisfied.
There had been plans set earlier to meet up that evening for kickball, so when the time came I headed over to the lot and greeted everyone casually, as though this had never happened.
It took me a several weeks to get most of them to speak to me again.