Beyond the familiar horrors of the workplace — bad bosses, annoying co-workers and demanding deadlines with no end in sight — some people have unsettling experiences that cannot be explained by Earthly logic. Years later, even after they’ve left their jobs, they still remember the offices that haunted them during long, lonely shifts.
Below, six professionals share the spooky encounters they had at work.
1. The One With A Disembodied Voice
We’ve come to believe a terrible accident took place during the building [of our coffee shop]. The first time I noticed anything, I was in the lobby alone, no customers, all co-workers in the back room, and I heard a man ask, “Where are my hands?!” I nearly peed my pants. Since then, every now and then, weird things will happen. We’ll hear someone asking for help or saying, “Hello? Hello? Hello?!” when no one is in the store.
There have been multiple times I’m in the back alone washing dishes and see something move out of the corner of my eye or hear something fall or shuffle. I’ll check, and no one will be there. We’ll hear the bell of our door opening, but no one is there. I definitely don’t enjoy my shifts when something like that happens. —Francisca, barista for a major coffee chain in Washington
2. The One With Creepy People Just Out Of Sight
I was in field service [as a technician], so I traveled a lot. This was a customer that I was dispatched to in Texas. I flew in and arrived late on Friday, so I had to go in on Saturday. When I arrived, I noticed that there weren’t many cars in the parking lot. The business was closed and had someone waiting on me that morning to let me in, and he left me there alone. It’s a large building about the size of 1½ football fields. It has about five fans on the long walls with loose slats on the outside to blow out hot air, but not let cold air blow in. I started up the machine and got to work.
I didn’t notice anything at first, but kept having a strange feeling that someone or a few people were there. I even went out to check the parking lot a few times. At about noon, the guy that let me in came by and asked if I wanted to go to lunch. I told him that I was fine and continued working after he gave me his number to call when I was close to being done.
Shortly after he left, I started hearing footsteps all around me. Like people casually walking down aisles but stopping as soon as I got near the few times I would investigate. I smoke, so I was outside almost hourly, and it was a calm and cool day without any wind. When it wasn’t footsteps, I started hearing the slats moving about as if there was wind. I couldn’t get a good look from the inside because of the fans and it just looked as if wind was causing them to flap, but I walked out and there wasn’t any wind. Not a single leaf on the trees was moving. When I came back inside, they would stay quiet for a short while and then start again until I would go outside to check. This happened about 10 times or so. The creepiest part of being there was seeing what appeared to be people walk past equipment in my peripheral vision but seeing nothing when I would turn around. I had about four or five of those experiences.
I called the guy around 5 and told him that I was done. He came in and he locked the place up. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I remember that he wouldn’t come inside. —Carlos, then a field service technician for a laser company
3. The One With Ominous Phone Rings
In our old office, if you worked past 9 p.m., sometimes the printer would just start printing stuff and you’d be the only one there. Phones would ring and ring but when you answer, no one’s there. Lights flashing on the intercom, but no one was around. Those were some dicey nights. —Karen D’cruz, then in sales for Mongoose Publishing
4. The One With Noises Downstairs That Can’t Be Explained
The food kitchen [at the restaurant where I work] is downstairs. We stop serving food at 10:00, but we’re still open till midnight. [When I was closing up a few years ago,] I was minding my own business when I started hearing what sounded like pots and pans clanging. I assumed the kitchen boys were still there, so I went down to see what all the commotion was about. When I got down there, the lights were off and they had left for the night. Needless to say, I ran back upstairs and waited for the arrival of a regular to calm my nerves. When I mentioned it to other regulars and our nighttime cleaning man, they corroborated my story and said that they have also had strange experiences in the restaurant at night. Enough to get my blood pressure up! —Lainey Espick, restaurant server
5. The One With A Ghost Turning On The Light
[Tampa Theatre is] a very haunted place, and we’ve had enough paranormal investigators that have explored the building and corroborated, “Yeah, you’ve got something here.” [Foster “Fink” Finley, the ghost of the former projectionist] likes to turn the lights on up in the projection booth. That probably scared me more than anything else just because we had been in the building all evening with a group of investigators and with a documentary crew.
We were up in the booth. We were wrapping up the night. We had a piece of equipment called a REM pod with us — it’s a proximity sensor. The woman had asked Fink, the spirit of our projectionist, “Can you make the lights light up?” — indicating the piece of equipment — and the overhead lights came on.
The documentary crew — thank goodness — did not use the clip of their friendly marketing director going, “OK, that’s weird.” —Jill Witecki, director of marketing and community relations for Tampa Theatre
6. The One With A Ponytail Tug
There were occasions that I would be working on off days or times when no one else was in the [elementary school] building. In the silence, I could sometimes hear what sounded like faint shuffling and whispering in the hallway. Very often, toilets would flush and sinks would turn on and off by themselves. One hot day near the end of the school year, I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail. As I sat at my desk, I felt someone lightly tug the ponytail twice. No one was there.
It all felt very playful and “kid-like,” and I wasn’t afraid. Other people were a little freaked out when they noticed things happening, especially the flushing toilets. They were loud! —Laurie Hennessey, then a family advocate for a preschool program called Head Start
Stories have been edited and condensed for clarity.