This is a true story of fear that I originally wrote and published Sept 20, 2014.
The old theater has always had its share of creaks, pops, and other unexplained sounds. During the few years that I’ve been running the theater, I have gotten accustomed to most of the noises—the wind howling between the old-fashioned narrow doors, the apparent sound of movement in the empty locked up spaces, the bathroom door that closes on its own, and even the radio that occasionally starts itself up and plays me a tune. These don’t phase me anymore.
But one night, I heard a sound that stopped me in my tracks and chilled me to the bone.
Built in the 1940s to replace an opera house that burned down, this one screen movie theater with an impressive 190 plus seat auditorium was on the cutting edge of technology at the time—introducing movies with sound (or “talkies”) to the valley. Many theaters have ice cream parlors or sandwich shops built on to the sides of them. This theater had a hospital wing built on to it’s side which ran the length of the building. Phone reception to this day isn’t very good in certain parts of the building because of the metal plates built in to the walls to try to contain the radiation from the x-rays.
Usually, after the show ends and the crowds leave I lock myself in the theater so that I can clean up and shut things down for the night. Most people have never heard the silence of an old empty movie theater. When they arrive music is already playing and when they leave the credits are still rolling or music has started up again. After the climactic completion of car chases, alien invasions, and sweeping romances the silence seems palpable as I whisk my broom through each aisle of the now abandoned room.
After turning the key the other night, and switching off the music and various concession stand lights, I spent 30 minutes or so finishing up some paper work and then put my ear buds in to listen to a radio program while I started to sweep the theater. The ear buds make the time go faster and help me ignore the stretching and groaning rafters as they settle in for the night.
The radio program I was listening to occasionally had music or audio effects in the background so when I first heard the noise I assumed it was part of the recording. I thought to myself that it seemed strange to have crying in the background of that part of the show, because it didn’t seem to go at all with what they were talking about.
When I heard it again I realized that it wasn’t coming from my ear buds at all and I immediately paused my show. I stood there in silence for a moment wondering if I had imagined it—until, very clearly and louder than I expected—I heard it again. It was in the theater with me.
I had thought it was crying when I heard it through my ear buds, but now I could tell that it was not crying, but more of a laughing—a baby or child laughing. But not a real child laughing, this had a tinny sound to it that made it sound somehow different. That was when I noticed the light.
There—down on the second row against the left wall was a light shining up between the seats that seemed to be flickering on and off and it was from there that the sound seemed to be emanating. My mind raced. What could that be? It finally settled on some sort of baby’s toy. Something that lit up and laughed. Yeah, that must be it. Some sort of doll that laughed. And for some reason it had been silent through the entire movie and for the last half hour since I locked the door…
I found myself clutching the broom. Glad that I had some sort of weapon to defend myself from the crazy images my mind was conjuring up. I knew I had to walk down to that row but my feet wouldn’t move. I could imagine some evil looking doll with glowing eyes and a little mouth that opened while the recorded laughter played. It would of course start talking to me when I saw it and I would be forced to use the broom on it—beating it until little springs and cogs came out of it. But would that really stop it? I told myself I had seen too many scary movies and nothing like that could actually happen. Yet, there I stood. In the middle of a movie theater—living in my own horror movie. With the broom now positioned more like a baseball bat in my hands I slowly made my way down the empty theater to the second row.
I didn’t see anything at first except for a black rectangle on the ground.
It took me a minute to process that the rectangle was actually a cell phone laying upside down and that the baby laughter must be someone’s ringtone.
I let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding and picked up the phone. Sure enough, missed call-one minute ago. Shaking, I called the number back and a woman answered. She had just realized her phone was missing and was scared she had lost it. She had been calling hoping I was still there and would hear it ring.
I thought to myself that her fear of losing her phone was nothing compared to the fear that still hadn’t dissipated completely from my racing heart and shaking body. She may have been scared of losing her phone, but I had been scared of losing my life—or at least my mind.
We hope this true scary story put you in the mood for Halloween! Please share this with your friends.