I began working at the mansion on the top of the hill when the winter had stolen our long days. The structure surrounded by bare trees stood juxtaposed to the deep gray skies. The manor was built in 1916 by a Gatsby-like figure. A millionaire with a taste for the extravagant. I go into work every day greeted by a grand staircase and chandeliers. Working in a place so beautiful, for a Fraternity committed to serving others, Phi Kappa Psi, is serendipitous.
This morning I decide to get to work excessively early due to a night of insomnia. It’s been raining in Indianapolis for the past couple of days and there’s no sign of it stopping. As I pass the gates and drive the narrow winding path to the top of the hill, I look to Fall Creek’s risen rapids as they rush east seemingly toward the horizon to meet the sun, eager to welcome it to a new day. I park my car and look toward Laurel Hall, the architecture only warmed by a few stray lights in the dark morning. Walking to the front door, I schedule my day ahead. There are a million things that need to be done and only so much time in a day. I unlock the door and step into the thick darkness, throwing my hand to the side instinctively to flick the lights on. I have to get those forms submitted. They haven’t called me back. Did I forget to plug in my laptop before I left? The stream of consciousness leads me to the third floor to my office. I trek down the hallway and arrive at my door. Reaching out to grab the handle, a soft laugh grazes my ears.
Whipping around to the dimly lit hallway, I stare at the emptiness. There is only silence in the nothingness. I probably imagined it. I didn’t sleep well last night. Cautiously turning back toward the door, I enter my office and turn every light on to drown out the memory of the laugh in the darkness. Within minutes, my mind is consumed with the never-ending list of tasks that I must complete. When I finally lean back from my computer and into my chair, thirty minutes has passed. People should start filing into work soon, I think to myself. I look around my office to get relief from staring at a computer screen so intensely. Turning my head toward my bag I realize that I forgot to put my lunch in the fridge. I unzip my work bag and take out the cold tote containing left-overs from last night’s dinner, carrying it to the second-floor break room. Opening the refrigerator door, I slide the bag onto the second shelf. As I shut the door, I hear people talking from downstairs. A conversation I can’t quite make out but is sprinkled with laughter. Finally, I’m not alone in this big building.
I walk to the second-floor landing to see where the conversation is coming from. Peering over the railing, I’m surprised to see a beautiful young woman in a white dress. There are often weddings in the mansion, and I assume that she is having her pictures taken on the grand staircase. It’s odd for her to be here this early. As the thought races through my mind, the young woman looks up toward me and beams a radiant smile. Smiling back, I watch as she elegantly runs her hands over the railing and disappears from my sight onto the first floor. I straighten myself up, thinking maybe it was her laugh I had heard earlier. Maybe an early morning photoshoot is the only time that worked for her. Releasing a breath I didn’t know I was holding; I turn toward the stairs to the first floor. I love seeing the guests here and want to get a sneak-peak of the photos being taken. Stepping onto the landing between the first and second floors, I look at the first-floor entrance and once again only emptiness greets me.
I move my feet cautiously down each step to the first floor. Maybe they moved on to take photos somewhere else. Peeking into the dining room, I move to the other side of the manor glancing toward the end to the solarium. They are nowhere to be found. I stand in the middle of an empty mansion wrapped in the dark morning and get an odd sense of eyes following me. Swiftly moving to rid myself of the feeling, I quickly return to my office on the third floor.
I plop myself into my office chair after turning the coffee maker on. As the air fills with the smell of dark roast, my nerves begin to calm. I grab my cup from under the single-serve coffee machine and inhale the warm comfort. The window beside me looks over the grounds, and as I sip on my coffee light begins to pour into the window. Watching the sun rise from the east, the sky gets lighter and my drink depletes. As the sun fully emerges from over the trees and welcomes Indianapolis to another day, a beautiful laugh grazes my ear.
Like other large, old buildings, there are many stories that our staff have passed around over the years. While some might make the hair on the back of your neck rise up, we are pretty sure if there are ghosts roaming our halls, they are quite friendly. Now, we want to hear your scary story. Share your close encounters with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.