Author’s note: This is the second of a two-part story of Susan Smith’s experiences managing a haunted store.
Ten boxes sat on the storeroom floor as store manager Susan Smith sorted through them.
Another employee helped a customer at the cash register in front of the store, behind a shut door and out of earshot of Smith. These were the only people in Smith’s store, but that didn’t mean she was alone in the storeroom.
“I stopped to use the restroom, which was also in the storeroom,” she said. ”I heard nothing while I was inside but as soon as I tried to leave, I found that the door wouldn’t open.”
She pushed firmly on the door several times, but it wouldn’t move.
“Finally, I pushed again with full strength and got the door to open part way,” she said.
When Smith squeezed out, she found the shipment boxes stacked against the door.
“I ran out to ask my co-worker if anyone had been in there and she replied that no one had. She had been helping the only customer at the register for awhile and no one else had come into the store.”
Terrified, Smith slowly retreated to the storeroom and quietly said into the empty room, “If anything is in here that has a problem with me, please know that this is my job and I have to be here. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t trap, bully or frighten me ever again.”
Her plea only incited whatever stalked her store.
“From this point on, which was about a year after I had started, it was like a circus in that store,” she said. ”My employees and I also began to feel the toll of this in our personal lives.”
Smith and two employees in their early 20s began to develop benign tumors and all three were sick with a cold virus that wouldn’t go away.
“Of course these symptoms could just be a coincidence but I have never been sick for as long as I was in that store,” Smith said.
Smith’s assistant manager asked if she could bless the store. Smith agreed and the activity stopped for a few weeks.
“When they started up again, it was different,” Smith said. “The voices were louder, the storeroom more menacing than before and two of my employees even reported seeing a man, who we named ‘Harry.’”
Although Smith never saw “Harry,” employees reported seeing a man in a suit browsing through merchandise and when they approached him, he disappeared.
Smith knew it was time to call in an expert. She contacted a local paranormal investigator who worked on high profile cases. The investigator agreed to come by, but she wasn’t what Smith expected.
“From the time she entered the place I was uncomfortable with her and so were my co-workers, both seen and unseen,” Smith said. “I don’t know how else to explain this except that after a year or so of dealing with these ‘presences’ we were all very aware of their mood changes. We could all feel that this woman’s presence was not welcome.”
The investigator said she felt something “dark” in the fitting rooms and storeroom. Smith felt it, too.
“You could literally feel the change in the room,” Smith said. “It was oppressive, kind of like the feeling in the room when a fight is about to start. It was still and vicious. I had never felt it like that before.”
Before the investigator left, she politely asked the entity there to leave.
Near the end of summer, with everyone in the store preparing for the approaching holiday season, Smith received a personal message.
“One morning I was talking with my assistant manager about the goings-on and she suggested, maybe, that this entity was particularly interested in me,” Smith said. “I looked at her and said, ‘This has nothing to do with me.’”
As the words left her mouth, a 120-pound fixture mounted in the wall flew off its mounts and landed on the floor.
“These things were a pain in the ass to get into the wall, let alone out, and typically required two people and a lot of cussing,” Smith said. “They don’t fall out. We exchanged a look and didn’t have that conversation again.”
Then came the breaking point for Smith. At 7 a.m. one morning in late July, Smith sat at her desk in the storeroom filling out paperwork when she heard the now familiar sound of hangers rustling.
“With a sigh, I got up to check just to make sure no one was in the store,” she said. “Of course, the place was empty.”
But as she returned to her paperwork, she noticed a light in one of the fitting rooms had burned out. As she began to replace the bulb she realized something was in the small room with her.
“I heard the sound of someone sucking in their breath, like an inward gasp,” she said. “This sound was centimeters from my ear. With shaking hands, I replaced the (bulb) and calmly left the fitting room.”
When she stepped out of the room, the door slammed shut behind her with enough force to crack the hinges. Smith ran through the store, past a supply closet where items began raining from shelves onto the floor. She paused only to grab her purse, then bolted out of the store into the nearly empty mall.
“A woman came running from the store next door and asked me what happened,” Smith said. ”She was white-faced. All of the power in her store had just gone out.”
As Smith sat with her back to her store, she saw the woman’s eyes grow large.
“What?” Smith asked her.
“Look,” the woman whispered, pointing behind Smith. Signs firmly affixed atop floor displays in Susan’s store were swaying back and forth.
“I sat in the mall on a bench until my co-worker arrived at 10 a.m.,” she said. ”I told her what happened. We entered the store and examined it for signs of entry. Everything was fine, apart from the broken fitting room door and mess of supplies which had been neatly organized in the closet until that morning.”
Two weeks later Smith quit and never returned to that store.
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 email@example.com. 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.