Monday, October 27, 2008

Ghost Story - Nicole Maggi

As promised, today I bring you the first of five ghost stories to get us in the Halloween mood this week. Today's story is from Nicole Maggi, an actress and writer from LA who also happens to be one of my fabulous critique partners.

Many years ago, when I was in college, I worked as an Assistant Stage Manager on a play that was being done in the Emerson Majestic Theatre in Boston. Theatres are notoriously haunted; the Majestic certainly was, from the seats up in the unused second balcony that would randomly snap up and down to the ghosts that wafted through the basement costume shop.
The Stage Manager I worked with was named Melinda, and one day we started chatting about haunted theatres. She told me this story.

Melinda used to work for the Alley Theatre in Houston, a theatre that was founded by a group of women. One of the founders, Iris, was murdered in the theatre offices several years before Melinda started working there. Iris had hired a security guard and had run a routine statewide background check on him when she had hired him, but a few months later when she ran a nationwide check on all the theatre's employees, she'd discovered he was wanted in a couple of states. So she fired him. Knowing her habit of working late, he came to the theatre one night and strangled her with a telephone cord. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder.

Fast forward to Melinda working there years later. One day, one of her crew members called in sick, so Melinda called up her friend Amy to fill in. Amy came to the theatre during the day to run through her crew routine. She was in the wings when she heard the sound of someone violently choking onstage. She ran out onto the stage, but no one was there. A search of the theatre turned up no one; it was empty. She chalked it up to her imagination and left.

Later that night, after the show, Melinda and her roommate were the last ones in the theatre, shutting out all the lights and locking all the doors. Now, the stage at the Alley has a central vaum running behind it, with a single door that leads out onto the stage. As a final check, Melinda reached for the doorknob to check the stage. As she did so, her roommate said, "Don't open that door." Melinda ignored her and opened it.

"It was like looking into the pit of hell, " Melinda told me. "The stage was gone, the theatre was gone, the world was gone. If I had stepped out onto where the stage should be, I would have fallen into a bottomless hole."

Screaming, the two women fled the theatre, jumped into Melinda's car and raced to - where else - the nearest bar. At the bar, they ran into Amy and told her of what had just happened. Amy then related what she had heard earlier in the day. And as they're talking, they suddenly become aware of the TV over the bar. There's a little item on the news. The man who had murdered Iris was supposed to have been executed that day, but had been granted a stay of execution.

The next night, Melinda was at the theatre until 3 am and nothing happened. "Iris was just pissed," she told me, "and she let us know it."

Happy Halloween!