Author’s note: This is the first of a two-part story of Susan Smith’s experiences managing a haunted store.
The shopping mall in Southern California didn’t look ominous. Built in the late 1970s, it resembled shopping malls scattered throughout the country.
Susan Smith took a job as assistant manager of a retail store there in 2005 and discovered the mall was much different, much darker than what it seemed.
“The incidents around my experience grew worse and more intense over the two years I was in this position,” Smith said. “They started off very innocently and progressively became intelligent, reactionary and ever present.”
Smith worked in the store for six quiet months when store management brought in a new manager and several new employees.
“I began to notice small things, such as hearing the clothing hangers move when the store was empty and the ventilation systems were turned off,” Smith said.
She dismissed these noises as vibrations throughout the building until the noises began to get more distinct.
“I began to hear the sounds of running down the hallway where the dressing rooms were located,” she said. “But found the space to be empty.”
Smith ignored the sounds, not discussing them with coworkers. A month later, the lights started going out.
“The store’s lights (began) burning out two or three times a week,” she said. “I don’t mean one light bulb, I mean at least half of the lights in the ceiling track lighting would burn out on a weekly basis.”
Smith called in the mall’s maintenance people who couldn’t solve the light problem. Neither could electricians or the power company.
“We were not having any surges and no wiring was faulty,” she said. “After nearly eight weeks of this we had the system partially replaced and still had lights burning out.”
Around this time, the manager moved to a different store and Smith was appointed manager, which brought her to the store earlier in the morning.
“I would come into the store around 7 to 7:30 a.m. several days a week to do
administrative tasks,” Smith said. “At this time, the entire mall was closed and usually empty.”
Sitting in the store office, Smith often heard hangers moving and footsteps, but when she investigated the sounds, the air conditioning was off and the store was locked and empty.
“I wasn’t calling this paranormal although I did think it was creepy,” Smith said. “I still had not spoken to any of the staff about it but that soon changed.”
At the monthly staff meeting, everyone confessed to hearing these noises – and more.
“One employee said that she felt as though she was being watched when she was alone,” Smith said. “As the conversation progressed, it began to be very clear to me that something strange was happening in our store.”
As the months unfolded, the hangers, footsteps and burned out lights continued. Then came the voice.
“We all began to hear a very firm voice that was entirely sexless say a few words such as ‘hey,’ ‘excuse me,’ or ‘hi,’” Smith said. “I specifically heard this voice on three occasions after the store had closed and the assistant manager and I were doing paperwork. It was so clear that we both turned at the same time to the source of the voice to see who was there.”
Employees began to notice the store take on different personalities. A “playful” entity with scampering, childlike footsteps would place pens, notebooks and tools in odd places in the front of the store. A cold spot lurked in the back corner, a spot employees and customers alike described as “sad.”
“When I would be working in that area doing stock or merchandising, I would have my eyes well up with tears and not know why,” Smith said. “It could be explained by something natural but I couldn’t figure out what would cause that. Whatever was in that area was miserable, verging on angry.”
Something ripped off signs fixed on the walls so often Smith had the signs removed permanently.
But it was the fitting rooms that bothered employees and customers the most. Fitting room doors would open and shut with no one inside of them, and many people reported feeling someone inside the fitting room with them, watching.
“In the fitting rooms and store room, which were separated by a hallway, the presence was angry. Definitely, positively, completely hateful,” Smith said. ”Customers often said they felt watched and uncomfortable. I had several customers ask me who had been banging on their door while they were in the fitting room and I could only shrug, as no one had been there.”
Next week: The presence gets physical.
Copyright 2010 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s newest book on the paranormal, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard,” is available at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.