Haunted Halls

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This bizarre and chilling experience actually happened to me back in 1999. At the time, I was working at one of the National Institutes in Mexico. For reference, I was born in the U.S., but as fate would have it, I ended up working in a semi-high position at this Institute and raising my family in Mexico. I had recently changed from working in the area where I had been for some years and to another area: same job level but a totally different physical space and set of responsibilities. It was a pretty big challenge for me and given my high work ethic, I naturally want to excel in my new position as quickly as possible.

It was Friday and I had several reports that I wanted to be ready for Monday, and my daughters were away with their father, so I decided to work from my office that night after the rest of the staff had gone so I could focus without distractions. By late evening, there were still a few people finishing up working; I could hear their murmurs and an occasional crescendo of laughter, but little by little, it grew silent. I decided to take a short break and opened my door for the first time in a couple of hours. As expected, most of the lights were turned off but it was bright enough to move about so I decided to stretch my legs a bit and walked down the hallway to the main building. Now, the main entrance to the building opens up to an impressive 4-story open patio, three sides of which are lined with the interior office windows along the halls. I could see a few lights still on and could hear the muffled voices of people trying to get some late-night work done like me. This was the original building where my old office used to be, but in my new position, my office was located in a recently built wing.

I returned to my office and got back to work on my reports. I decided to leave my office door open just because there was no need to shut it since everyone was gone. Twenty or thirty minutes had gone by when suddenly I heard the curious noise of what sounded like a ball bouncing down the hallway. Strange, given the time and place, but I figured that someone had to come in with their kid to get something done, so I decided to get up and close my office door again. I could just imagine the soon-to-come voice of a loud child or worse yet, children, forced to come into work with one of their parents on a Friday night, and frankly, I just wanted to finish up and go home. I got back to my computer and was immediately focused on my numbers again, but after a few minutes went by and I didn’t hear any follow-up-voices, I thought it was odd. You know, like when someone calls out to you and you answer and then they say nothing. But I thought that maybe the kid’s ball had accidentally bounced into the hallway of the new wing from the main building, been recovered and they had left, so I returned to my work. A few minutes later, I heard the faint sound of the ball bouncing again. I stopped working and mindfully waited to hear the voices that would normally accompany the sound of a bouncing ball, but they never came. Now I like spooky things just as much as the next guy, maybe a little more, but this seemed a little too odd for my comfort and quite honestly I was beginning to feel that eerie nervous feeling. I took a deep breath, shook my head and decided to brush it off, besides, what could happen?

Several minutes passed while I worked away and then I heard it again, but this time it sounded like the ball was bouncing on the other side of my office. That meant that my office was now between the main building and the ball! There was no way that anyone could have gotten passed my office without me hearing something. I was officially freaked out but remained rational. I figured that there were only two possibilities: or the ball had bounced away from the kid, who was either too scared to walk down the dark hallway alone or not given permission to retrieve it, or the kid had quietly run passed my office door and grabbed the ball without me hearing this. Either way, I was not happy about it. I decided to call out and see if anyone would answer, but no one did. I wasn’t able to focus anymore so I called it quits and packed up my work to go home for the night.

I carefully opened my office door and peered out, looking up and down the hallway before exiting my office. Why did I do that? Well like I said, I was definitely having an eerie feeling. There was no ball and no one to be seen. I closed my door behind me and started for the exit to the main building, and then I heard it! The distinct sound of a ball bouncing behind me raised the hair on the back of my neck. I spun around and froze. There was nothing there! I never thought something like that would happen to me! But there I was, standing there like a statue, my mind was racing, and without thinking, I called out in Spanish, “Is anyone there?” I could just hear scary-movie cliché oozing from my ears, but it was the only thing that occurred to me. No one answered. That was good enough for me. I was just about to get out of there when I heard it again, but this time it sounded like the ball was bouncing away from me, just around the corner of the end of the hallway. That was it! My heart was racing, but my mind desperately needed some rationalization, and I did what I always criticize in horror movies: I went to investigate. The sound faded away as if the ball had stopped bouncing. When I got to the end of the hallway, I slowly looked around the corner and was immediately overwhelmed with the most horrific stench of decay. I’ve smelled dead animals enough to know what that stench is but this, this almost made me vomit right then and there. I threw my hand over my nose and mouth, turned around and got out of there. I never did see a ball.

But my story doesn’t stop there. During the weekend, I calmed down and of course let my rational brain wrap around my experience. There must have been a dead mouse or something trapped somewhere in the wall. And as for the sound of the bouncing ball, I rationalized that it must have been something that just sounded like a bouncing ball; after all, there was all sorts of computer equipment in the area and a special A/C unit, so that must have been it: that and my wild imagination.

So Monday morning, when I arrived at work, the place was already busy with people working here and there. I walked into my office, dropped off my stuff and headed back out for coffee. I decided to walk toward the end of the hallway first to make sure that the smell was gone, and sure enough, it was. I mentally patted myself on the back for being right and went to the secretarial area to get some coffee. There were several people there doing the same, and I nonchalantly commented to them in Spanish. “Hey, I guess the security guards reported the dead animal at the end of the hall.” They all looked at me completely confused; realizing they obviously wouldn’t have known what I was talking about because they weren’t there during the weekend, I explained. That’s when they all exchanged a looked that made my heart drop to my gut. My assistant was among the group and asked if she could speak with me in my office. That made me feel somewhat nervous but played it cool and she said she would meet me there in a few minutes. I got my coffee and returned to my desk. A few minutes later she knocked and came in with one of the veteran department heads and they shut the door behind them. Now I was really getting curiously nervous. She asked me if I would mind telling her what happened and I simply told her that I had smelled a dead animal at the end of the hallway Friday night, but that it was gone now, so obviously, Security had notified maintenance, and someone had recovered it. And there it is was again: they exchanged that same look. This was getting entirely too unnerving for me! “All right, what’s going on here?” She hesitated and then asked me flat out if anything else strange had occurred before I discovered the smell. That was when I knew for sure that something other than Denmark was rotten here. When I told them about what sounded like a bouncing ball, they both literally turned white, so I sat back and listened.

During the construction of the new wing, one of the construction workers had brought his son to work. Apparently, he was working with the crew on the cement pour to connect the exterior walls of the main building to the new wing. The kid was supposedly at a safe distance, but somehow lost control of his ball and it went bouncing toward the pour. The boy tried to catch the ball just as it fell between the walls, lost his balance and fell in after it. Since the body was lodged in the cement between two monstrous-sized exterior walls, it was literally unrecoverable: it became his tomb. She told me that other people had similar experiences with smells, sounds, and even sightings, but for me, that was more than enough. I don’t know how I never heard about that, but given the tragedy of the event, it’s not surprising that it was respectfully played down. I was told that a memorial plate was placed in a little garden area outside of the street entrance to the Institute; I had never even noticed it from my car before, until the next day.

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