Author’s note: This is a follow up to a story I wrote for Mysterious Universe and one for this blog about encounters with a bizarre, threatening man dressed as a priest.
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train system covers 104 miles around the San Francisco Bay area, and may be home to a monster.
Elaine Steele lived in San Francisco for about 10 years and often used the train to commute to and from work, usually sitting quietly in her seat, as is the norm on the BART, aware of, but rarely interacting with her fellow passengers.
Then one Saturday, her BART experience changed.
“It was June 10, 2006,” Steele said. “I remember the exact date because it’s my birthday.”
Steele didn’t normally work on Saturdays, but boarded the train around 7 a.m. to fill in for a sick coworker. However, something was wrong.
“When I got out of bed that day I felt this bizarre feeling like something bad was going to happen,” she said. “I was going to ride my bike to work but saw that it was kind of gray outside and although not cold, was worried that it could rain. So I decided to take BART but felt a little sick to my stomach at the thought.”
Steele dismissed this feeling because she was going to work early, not only on a Saturday, but on her birthday.
“I went in but even remarked to my boyfriend that I had a strange feeling about today,” she said.
Only four people sat in Steele’s car when she walked on at 24th and Mission and sat with coffee in hand. As she texted her boyfriend about birthday plans, someone sat in the seat behind her.
“I didn’t turn around to look,” she said. “Who does that?”
Seconds later, her new companion’s presence commanded her to look.
“I felt this chill travel up my spine,” she said. “While not fully summer yet, it certainly wasn’t cold in the train. I looked in the window next to me to see the reflection of who was sitting behind me. I saw a priest.”
Steele relaxed at the image of a man of God – but that feeling did not last.
“I actually felt like turning around and saying ‘good morning,’ but I did not,” she said. “Instead the priest tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘good morning.’”
She froze. Unless a BART traveler recognizes a frequent traveler and just says “hi,” or flirts, “generally, people keep to themselves. This type of behavior is not normal.”
Steele looked over her shoulder to return the priest’s greeting, but the words stuck in her throat.
“This guy was so scary looking,” she said. “He looked sweaty even though it wasn’t yet hot and he had this big birth mark that took up one side of his face and it was dark pink. He had incredibly thin lips and large teeth, and he had freaky, basically colorless eyes.”
As she stared at the priest, with his sweaty, pasty skin, and milky eyes, he moved – but she didn’t see it.
“It was like he didn’t take up space like a regular human,” she said. “His hand was resting on the back of my seat and I stared at it, then it was gone and he was adjusting his robe – but I never saw his hand move.”
The priest’s hand was in one place, then in another.
“It was like he just removed his hand from that place and decided it was going someplace else but didn’t actually move to make it happen,” she said.
As she watched, the outline of the priest’s body shook like a bad TV signal.
“It seemed like he was vibrating,” Steele said. “It was like the outline of his body hummed with vibrations, kind of like an animated cartoon.”
“Good morning,” she said back to the priest, then turned quickly away, inching forward on her seat to get as far away from him as she could.
“I felt bad but the guy was really freaky, so I didn’t want to be sitting close to him since he was leaning forward in his seat,” she said. “I kept hearing him say things under his breath that I couldn’t make out, which at the time I thought ‘chanting.’ He was also breathing like in a really forced way, like taking these deep breaths and exhaling in a loud and obvious way.”
He breathed heavily enough to move her hair. Steele wanted to bolt to another seat, but didn’t want to offend the holy man. Then she felt his hand.
“He reached out and touched my hair,” she said. The priest’s touch wasn’t normal. “It was sort of like having your hair stick to something when he touched it. Not like he pulled it, but like my hair got wet and that heavy feeling after.”
Steele pulled her hair over her shoulder and turned around.
“Please don’t touch my hair,” she shouted, but the priest was gone. He was no longer in the train car.
“It was like one second he touched my hair then he vanished,” she said. “I looked around at the other people on the BART as if to say ‘did you see that?’ and no one paid me any mind.”
Terrified, Steele shot from her seat and looked everywhere. The priest wasn’t in her car, or in the next.
“I know that people probably wondered who is this nuts lady running around and yelling at a priest? But I didn’t even care,” she said. “I was distraught, very shaken. I sat back down near the door as I was almost at my work.”
When the train pulled to her stop and Steele stepped off, the morning still was not right.
“It was so creepy,” she said. “I kept feeling as though someone was watching me.”
Steele’s job puts her into daily one-on-one contact with drug addicts and violent criminal offenders, but she said she has never felt afraid like she did on that train.
“I shake hands with these people, help them, travel alone in cars with them and not ever have I felt fear for myself,” she said. “This priest thing scared the crap out of me. I want to make sure that you know that this isn’t a man. There is no way.”
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, “Paranormal Missouri: Show Me Your Monsters,” is available at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.