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Mark Twain Elementary Auditorium

Tom, USA
June 2006

This happened to me when I was a seconded grader at Mark Twain Elementary School in Oak Cliff - really almost a part of Dallas, Texas.

The school in 1969 still had a new feel to it and was considered upscale as far as elementary schools of that era went. It had an auditorium with a formal stage and lighting, a film room, a first grade wing with restrooms in every classroom, an attached gym with a wood basketball court floor along with locker rooms and showers, a big library, science rooms, a special art room, and many other features most grade schools of that time simply did not have.

That year, I was fortunate enough to be picked to be in the PTA talent show for the school. Only three from my grade were chosen.

My act was a western song and involved the use of toy prop guns, which at that time were not forbidden in schools. We rehearsed every day for two weeks for this show.

Often the rehearsals started in the early evening and we were allowed access into the auditorium through its side door so we could not wander through the school itself. In that era, parents were not so frightened of kidnappings or other sinister events, so I was allowed to stay by myself at the school during these rehearsals and my parents would pick me up around eight when we were through. One night, however, they got confused as to which one was picking me up, so no one came for me. All the other kids' parents picked them up, but I could only sit by the door and wait. Even the teacher/director locked the door and drove off in her car leaving me sitting alone on the door's stoop.

I had been sitting there for what seemed an eternity to me when I heard the door open and swing slightly ajar. No one seemed to have done this, so I assumed it must not have been shut fully. I stood up and opened it up as I somehow felt safer to be within the building than on the concrete step. When I opened the door, the auditorium was pitch black as all the lights had been turned off and the black out curtains on the windows were closed. I did not know where the light controls were, so I just sat down inside the doorway in the light coming from the outside security fixture.

While I sat there, I became aware of a noise coming from the back of the auditorium where the doors to the hallway lobby were. It was a rhythmic clicking kind of sound like what comes from a janitor's industrial dust mop when it is being pushed back and forth over the floor. I looked in the direction of the sound, but I couldn't see anything. The sound kept coming closer to me, however as if whatever was causing it was slowly making its way down the aisle to the stage area where the side door was. For some reason, I was not fearful of what might be causing the sound, so I stood up and looked into the dark as hard as I could. I saw nothing for a few moments, but then I began to make out the figure of a woman walking with a cane. She was very thin and was stooped over with a hump back. She looked to be horribly old, almost ancient - and was wearing a dark gray, wool shawl over her shoulders and head like a loose cowl.

She wore a long, loose, dark dress. She was looking right at me with a blank expression. Her eyes did not reflect light like most people's eyes do and I could see the cheek and jaw bones jutting out from under her wrinkled skin. It was now that I felt my heart start to race, but somehow I felt frozen in place as I watched her walk up to me. The woman stopped just about twelve feet from me and looked me straight in the eye. Then she held a bony hand out to me and said in a scratchy voice, "Come with me, boy." I stood transfixed with her gaze, but I managed to shake my head back and forth. The left side of her mouth pulled up a little as if in a partial snarl or sneer, and I could see yellow-gray, crooked teeth. She then started moving closer towards me as she said, "I know you. You will obey me!" With that, the door suddenly swung to shut, but someone was watching over me that night and the cap gun prop I was using in my act was lying in the doorway where I had left it. The gun stopped the door from shutting fully. The sudden motion of the door was all I needed to break my paralysis, and I threw myself at the door and was running out into the yard between the first grade wing and the cafeteria faster than I ever thought possible. I could hear the woman shrieking in rage behind me as I ran. When I got to the street, I turned and looked back. The woman was standing in the doorway with the most horrifyingly angry expression I ever have seen. Then the door slammed shut completely. I continued running all the way to my house. When I got home, I was crying hysterically. My mom was home and looked surprised that my father was not with me. I tried to tell her my story, but she believed I had imagined it all. She was upset and sorry for the mix up with my father, but she chalked my experience up to the frightened imagination of a seven-year-old. My father did not buy the story either.

The next day at school, the teacher/director handed me my prop gun. Its metal barrel was crimped and broken in half as if something had crushed it, and its plastic grip/handle had melted impressions on it as if it had been tightly squeezed by very hot, bony fingers. She told me she had found it at the back of the auditorium by the lobby doors. I told her I must have left it behind that night, and had no idea what had happened to it. I found the other half of the barrel that afternoon in the bushes right by the stage door. I never allowed myself to be alone in that auditorium again. Everyone said my performance in the talent show was good, but I looked extremely nervous, which they attributed to simple stage fright.

We moved away from Oak Cliff at the end of that year, and I never have been back inside that building. I shudder to imagine what would have happened had I not left my prop gun on that stoop!

Tom, USA
00:00 / 01:04
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