Charlie McCarthy Hanging Out

Scaring Myself

or ‘Accidentally Finding a Ghost Story While Writing a Ghost Story’

I didn’t really expect to contact any spirits at our new escape room location the Saturday night before Halloween. For one thing I wasn’t a believer. While I loved all things spooky and supernatural, it was as a hobby. Also, our awesome office/warehouse combination was hardly ten years old—not nearly enough time to generate a ghostly history. Finally, our medium, a friend of a friend, didn’t look like Carol Cane from The Princess Bride, but instead more like Daria from the old MTV cartoon.

But this was my first October since 1999 where I wasn’t working Knott’s Halloween Haunt and I was going through serious monster withdrawal. So our motley crew of a half dozen headed down mostly deserted Lambert Road in Brea at an hour till midnight. The Olen Business Park that houses our office is clean and well lit—not really conducive to a ghost-hunting atmosphere. Though opening the door I got the thrill I still get, the “ohymygawd I’m a small business owner!” excitement/nervous combination.

We decided to leave the lights off and use our phones to navigate. After wandering the property for a bit and scaring each other, we sat in the warehouse for a séance that had far too much giggling and grade school humor (we’d been celebrating a birthday at the Yard House earlier and most of the group was tipsy.) I was sober, but distracted by the blue tape on the wall which mapped out the colonial houses of our Louisiana Bayou setting. I still couldn’t believe my ghost story was coming to life.

On the way out I was walking next to Daria the medium. “So,” I said to her in a mock-serious whisper, “is our building ‘clean’?” She frowned for a moment (she was probably the least sober of the bunch) and looked at #108 over her shoulder, before shaking her head and whispering back, “No, it’s…busy.”

Believer or no, that’s going to give anyone chills when standing in a dark parking lot at midnight before Halloween. It also made me view the odd events that were happening at the property in a new light. So, I’ve decided to list these occurrences in an abbreviated journal, along with possible rational explanations for the skeptics out there like me.

June 16, 2016
We sign a lease for 471 West Lambert, Suite 108, Brea, CA. There is much rejoicing.

September 5, 2016
An electrician comes to inspect the office, and judge the feasibility of our (quite grandiose) technical plans. When he moves some ceiling tiles he finds a huge nest of cables that snakes through all the ceilings and most of the walls. He guesses the previous tenants were some sort of call center, but he’s never seen anything like it.

September 18, 2016
I stop by to do some measurements and to make sketches of potential room layouts. Roofer’s had been making repairs on all the buildings in our complex for over a week and I’d become accustomed to the sound of their footsteps overhead. I don’t think anything of infrequent scrapes and creaking I hear. It’s only when I walk through the nearly empty parking lot to my car that I remember it’s Sunday. (However I didn’t check around back. It’s possible there was a roofing truck parked back there.)

September 24, 2016
At the office sketching again. I hear a phone ring—classic land line ring tone. I search around but can’t find a phone. It’s possible the sound came from the office next door as we sometimes hear their equipment running in the morning. Note: This was a Saturday.

October 3, 2016
At the office working out the details to some clue chains (I find it’s easier to design when I’m sitting in the actual location). I make a stop at the restroom, and I’m washing my hands at the sink, when I faintly hear The Chordettes Mr. Sandman playing. I trace the sound to our reception where I find my phone playing a 50s Pandora station. It’s not the first time that my phone has randomly opened an application, but it’s the first time it’s played music.

October 5, 2016
A whole day of designing at the office. I’m mapping out the swamp for the bayou half of the escape room and I’m really in the creative zone—you know, where you skip lunch and forget that you have to pee? When I finally decide to take a break I smell a pungent, sickly-sweet scent, but it’s faint and it fades quickly. I realize I’d probably been smelling it when I was sketching the swamp but was too “in the zone” to notice.

October 8, 2016
I hear the “roofers” again on a weekend when the lot is empty. This time I go around back to check for a truck. Don’t see one. But the roofs of the offices are connected and it’s possible they parked down the row.

October 16, 2016
I hear that 80’s phone ring tone again. This time I trace the sound to the upstairs left (stage left) office. This office doesn’t adjoin our dental-equipment-construction neighbors. But contractors had been out all week for bids. It’s possible someone left a phone in the ceiling or something.

October 29, 2016
The night of the “séance” described above. I see events of the previous weeks in a new light and decide to stop coming to the office by myself.

November 2016
The weather cools off, giving us a chance to test the thermostats. The warehouse and most of the offices warm up nicely, except for the top left office. It stubbornly stays at 66 degrees. Could be bad insulation.

November 11, 2016
My brother asks if I left my phone at the office, because he heard a classic ring tone when he stopped by to drop off supplies.

December 24, 2016
Work slows in late November/early December as our contractors have previous holiday build commitments. I’m in the neighborhood and stop by to make sure the alarm’s on and the heater is off. The blinds are raised in the upstairs left office, though I’m pretty sure everything was shut up tight when I locked up the week before.

January 11, 2017
I’m working on a (now tabled) magician room design. The day before I’d brought my Charlie McCarthy ventriloquist dummy to the office, but it’s not where I left it (in the lobby). I finally find him in the upstairs left office:
Charlie McCarthy Hanging Out

I ask a few construction people if anyone moved him. They say no, but I didn’t get a chance to ask everyone (some were out to lunch). I end up working on other projects.

January 12, 2017
I return to the office to find Charlie like this:

Charlie McCarthy Later...

I haven’t heard the “roofers” again, or smelled any weird smells, but two construction workers have heard that phone ringing. We’re making bets on who can find the darn phone first, and on what will happen when we finally answer it.

Hopefully we’ll get that solved before we open for business.

-Roy Davis, Creative Director, Red Lantern Escape Rooms

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