THE ON-AGAIN, off-again hum of the air conditioner kept me in a light sleep. The roar of jets taking off and landing at Boston’s Logan International had subsided for the evening. The hotel, a main gateway for those traveling in and out of this eastern seaport, wasn’t overbooked. The rooms on either side of me were quiet, and most likely empty.
The curtains swayed from the breeze of the AC unit, and lights from the parking garage next door leaked through the black-out curtain, which wasn’t fully closed. I tried my left side, then my right. I tried every pillow on both beds. Finally, the sandman found me after 1 a.m.
At 1:52 a.m. I heard a gentle knock on the door. Assuming it was someone at the wrong room, I rolled over and pulled the sheets over my head. There was a second knock. This one was a little louder, but still gentle. I rolled onto my back and tried to stay quiet, listening intently for the person outside my door to go away, realizing their error in the middle of the night.
I listened harder, willing my ears to hear footsteps walking away, or laughter from a drunken couple on the wrong floor.
Instead, I heard a whisper.
“Please let me in.”
What the hell? Did I just really hear that?
Sitting up in bed, I leaned toward the door, as if the pure act of leaning would heighten my senses. The AC unit kicked on again, pushing more white noise into the void.
A gentle knock again. And then the whispered words, “I know you’re in there. Please let me in.”
Surely this was someone confused. Right door, wrong floor. Or wrong door, wrong floor. Or just wrong all the way around.
There was the knock again. It sounded like the tips of an index and middle finger, with some nails for a sharper effect.
Tap tap tap.
Tap tap tap.
“Please. Please let me in.”
Swinging the sheets to my right and kicking my legs from underneath, I stepped onto the carpet between the two queen beds and instinctively grabbed my phone from the nightstand. I walked toward the end of the bed and turned right, heading toward the door. My plan was to silently look through the peep hole to assess the situation.
Tap tap tap.
The quiet knock startled me. I looked at the door, which was locked. Light from the hallway spilled under the the threshold, providing a soft glow. I bent down to look under the door, expecting to see someone’s feet. I saw nothing. Moving closer, I noticed the light spilling from the parking garage cast an eery glow onto the door.
Tap tap tap.
“Please hurry.” Still a whisper, but a sense of urgency this time.
Maybe someone’s in trouble. A voice, someone knocking. No feet. They must be standing off to the side.
I tried to make sense of it as I tip-toed toward the door. I moved my right eye near the peep hole and looked out. With its fisheye effect, I could see two doors across the hall, a sconce, and parts of the carpet in front of my door.
What I didn’t see was a person
The quick, loud raps on the door made me jump. The sound happened at the same moment I was looking through the peep hole. There was no one there. Turning the bolt to the right, I left the bar lock secured and opened the door. The hallway was empty.
“Hello?” I whispered into the hallway, expecting a voice to return my query. A second time, I offered “Hello?”
Perhaps it was kids playing a prank, and they ran away. Something I would have done years ago. I smiled at the memory and closed the door, turning the bolt again for security. Walking back toward the bed — and hopefully a more restful sleep — I jumped at the sound of a finger nails scraping down the outside of the door. A scratchy, spine-tingling, awful sound. Then, a women’s voice yelled.
“It's too late!”
I bolted toward the door, unlocking it quickly and pulled it open. I stepped into the hallway and looked left.
Quickly I shifted to the right. Empty.
There’s no way someone could have sprinted the length of the hallway without me hearing or seeing them. They must be in one of the adjacent rooms. Surely this is a prank.
Dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, with no socks or shoes on, I walked on the balls of my feet toward the door closest to mine. I leaned in and listened. Nothing.
Same thing with the two doors across the hall. Leaning in, holding my breath to be as quiet as possible. Nothing.
As I turned back toward my door, I had a sinking feeling. When I ran out into the hall, the door closed behind me. I didn’t have a key. Damn it.
Before going to the front desk for a new key and a dose of late-night embarrassment, I decided to check the door on the other side of my room. Leaning in, holding my breath, I listened. Nothing.
Then, suddenly, a rush of cold air hit my feet. It came from under the door.
What’s happening? If that room is empty, where did that breeze come from?
Fully awake now from this bizarre experience, I started walking down the hallway toward the elevators. My eyes were still adjusting from the darkness of my room. A soft fluorescence reflecting off the white walls created a hazy aura. That's not weird.
Nearing the elevator, I noticed a house phone on the wall. I continued walking, and pressed the down arrow. As the elevator car stopped on my floor, a bell dinged and the doors slid open. Pausing for a moment, I looked inside, then took three steps before turning around and pressing “L” for the lobby. Out of habit, I then hit the button twice to close the doors, and they slid shut.
The bell rang each time the elevator car passed a floor.
Ding! Third floor.
Ding! Second floor.
The car suddenly stopped. The doors slid open at the second floor, which is conference space in this hotel and offers a skybridge to Terminal A. Nobody was standing outside. The doors began to close when I heard the voice again.
“This way!” the woman said, in a still-hushed but louder tone. Instinctively I threw my right hand into the left-side door as it was closing, halting its progress. The doors opened again, and I stepped out of the elevator and did a 360-degree spin, looking for the hushed voice.
The second floor was dimly lit. The elevator doors closed behind me, and I could hear the car lowering itself to the lobby.
Moving away from the elevators I looked around. A table with a lamp, which was turned on. Chairs with durable fabric sat empty. Another house phone hung from the wall.
To my right, the skybridge to the airport terminal. To my left, a half-lit hallway led to several conference rooms named after east coast colleges. I walked this way, into the darkness, listening for the voice and watching for ... anything.
Half way down the hall was an office. The smoked glass revealed shadows from inside. A desk, perhaps. The red glow of an exit sign.
Turning around, I walked back toward the elevators. I noticed a small seating area to my right with a large, black piano. A dust cover sat on top, but the piano keys were exposed. The ivory absorbed light from the lobby, reflecting a soft, warm white against the glossy black surface.
Stepping away from the piano, I turned around and saw another smoked glass window. Hearing a sound, I moved closer. And that’s when I saw it. It was a shadow at first. And then a hand appeared. Palm open and fingers extended, it touched the glass. I could see detail in the skin – the lines of the palm and creases in the fingers. Moving closer, I reached out with my right hand, leading with my palm open. As I got closer, preparing to press my palm against hers, she pulled her hand away. I could see a shadow moving backward, away from the smoked glass. The hand disappeared. I sprinted to my right, expecting to find a door into the room where this person was.
There was no door.
Running toward the elevator, intent on getting to the lobby and some sanity — and hopefully some answers — the unmistakable sound of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 echoed from the ivory keys of the glossy black piano. On cue, an orchestra accompanied from the speakers in the ceiling. Stopping quickly, I peaked around the corner and saw the keys bobbing up and down madly, with frantic pace and purpose.
The bench in front of the piano was empty.
Quickly I reached for the elevator button and slammed my fingers into the down arrow three times. Bambambam!
Within seconds the doors slid open. I stepped inside, and as they closed behind me, I felt a cold rush of air over my bare feet. I reached for the "L" button and pushed it. On contact, the lights inside the elevator went out immediately. Standing still, I listened.
With my left hand, I reached into the darkness, feeling for something ... anything. Goose bumps ran across my skin as I felt a gentle rush of warm air past my ear. I started to panic. And then she whispered once more.
(Editor's note: This story is a work of fiction. The images are real, taken during some downtime from the same hotel that's written about here. No ghosts were harmed in the creation of this story. If you recognize the hotel, as far as we know, it's not haunted. Happy Halloween!)