Craigslist was never intended to be used for disturbed and deranged individuals to fill their appetite for madness. A simplistic website that hasn’t evolved much since its incorporation in 1999, the usage of the website extends beyond buying and selling goods, even into a more insidious realm. Before Craigslist was used for these purposes, there have been internet killers. The term “Craigslist Killer” was first dubbed in 2007 and has since popped up on news bulletins periodically since. Usually stemming from a robbery or sexual interaction, killers like Philip Markoff have used the website to solicit murder by luring victims to them. There is, however, one man you have never read about. He has never been featured on the 6 o’clock news. You will not find a Wikipedia page on the man, nor will you come across a discreet reading on Cracked while you’re flipping through articles.
Until the summer of 2014 I had used Craigslist to advertise possessions I felt were less valuable than the cash I would pocket after selling them to a complete stranger. It was June when I was without a job and desperate for some money like many other of my high school’s newest alumni. Delivering fliers door to door was the first job I acquired through Craigslist. My friend and I did this together for a few weeks. Pay was dismal and the hot summer days seemed to drag on eternally. While waiting for payroll one day, I jumped back on the website to see what I could find. Maybe I would get lucky and land a chip shot of a job for a few days. That’s when I came across his advertisement. His name was Michael Farther and he was the owner/operator of an inflatable jumping castle company. Event planners would order their services: a large variety (the biggest in town, they insisted) of inflatable bounce castles, slides, climbing towers and obstacle courses, along with tenders to inflate and run the attractions. In the Denver metro area of Colorado, his company was one of the largest and most profitable among similar competitors. The ad was requesting one day temporary goons like my friend and I to stand by their jumping castles at a fair and make sure no one got hurt. The gig was for the fourth of July, a big day for the company, and Michael Farther was promising $12 an hour for ten hours of work. A quick exchange of emails, and my friend and I had orientation next Tuesday at 7 o’clock.
Blaster Bouncing Jumping Castles Inc. was in business out of a single 20,000 square foot warehouse for the better part of 15 years. It was located in the armpit of Colorado, just north of Denver in Commerce City. We made the forty minute drive that Tuesday with no indication of what were about to experience. As I navigated the unpainted and cracked, aging asphalt that ran up to the place, I examined the building. As far as warehouses go, this was your run of the mill standard model, gray and rectangular. There was a small greenbelt overgrown with brown and green native grasses between the road and the warehouse. The paved surfaces had plant life crawling up through all the unsealed cracks and potholes. Between the greenbelt and the warehouse were two rows of chain link fences. Surrounding the building and its grounds, the fences were eight feet tall and had posts for stringing up barbed wire. While there was none, one detail I couldn’t ignore was that the posts were angled in, towards the warehouse. The fences were designed to contain, not to keep out.
It was late afternoon and unseasonably cool when we pulled up to the place. There were people milling about and other cars arriving and parking. It was comforting knowing we weren’t the only two who had responded to the ad and showed up, but these people did nothing to stifle my thoughts on the fences. The whole grounds had an eerie vibe-like walking through a cemetery at night-the feeling that something is watching you, waiting to grab you from behind. I wish I would have trusted my instincts and left. We should have left. But sixty seconds later and we were also milling around, trying to find the man that invited us there, Michael Farther.
The warehouse had a pair of huge garage doors on the side of the building facing away from the road. They dominated that face of the building save for a pair of windows and a regular sized door between them, an office of sorts, we assumed. An asphalt and concrete lot existed in front of the garage doors where workers dressed in brown overalls were arranging and inflating attractions for demonstration. Past the lot was a large ditch – a long scar in the terrain overgrown with native vegetation. A thick trough of cat tails filled the bottom of the ditch were a small, mostly stagnant stream ran. The crevice was wide and the opposite side climbed a good forty feet above our own. Old rusted cars and construction equipment sat on top of the ridge, overlooking the warehouse. Many other cars and their oxidized skeletons were packed around the far end of the warehouse. The place was like a junkyard. Worse was that the warehouse was located a mile downwind from a local sewage plant.
Following the other people who had showed up, we entered the office portion of the warehouse. The door was left open, for our convenience. Bright orange sunlight streamed in through the open blinds in the windows. Shortly after entering the room, we met the guy. Michael Farther was shorter than me, about 5’7”. He looked to be in his forties and his skin showed signs of a life spent working outdoors. He wore a white t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and denim shorts. Moving quickly and calmly, he conversed with everyone and issued instructions. I examined every detail of the man; from his patchy, short facial hair to the steel toe work boots he wore. He appeared entirely regular. When he spoke to us, we didn’t feel threatened or uncomfortable-the opposite, in fact. Something that immediately caught both our attention was that he didn’t seem to blink. His eyes were wide and extremely dark brown, almost camouflaging his pupils. I didn’t feel uncomfortable until he shook my hand. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and a cold feeling washed over me. When he asked, we reluctantly handed over our social security cards and photo ID’s in exchange for blank W-4’s and a packet for the orientation. He smiled, instructing my friend and me to have a seat in the main room of the warehouse. As we turned to leave the office, I knew he was watching. I couldn’t just sense it, I could feel it. Like two points touching the back of my head.
We made our way to the open garage doors and inside where folding metal chairs were arranged in the center of the room. Inside, it smelled of rubber and vinyl and there were colorful inflatables neatly folded and arranged on shelves that reached to the ceiling. The metal ceiling had round ventilation ports in a grid pattern, each mounted with a fan to create a draft. The blue sky tinged with oranges and yellows was visible through the circular holes. A small cart with a projector illuminated the company logo onto a white canvas screen that faced the audience of folding chairs. After the attendees had taken their seats, Michael Farther and his employees filed in. As Mr. Farther approached the projector cart and began addressing everyone in the room, we could hear footsteps on the roof. There were two sets of them, and they moved deliberately. It was almost as if they were purposely synchronizing their steps. Every so often I would look up to see a figure eclipse the sky and fading sunlight through the whirling ventilation fans.
Following a short concise speech thanking everyone for showing up, Michael Farther motioned for one of his workers to start the presentation. As the young man discussed high wind speed and its adverse effects on inflatable vinyl slides, I noticed Michael Farther standing in the corner, looking at the group in their chairs. He was completely dark over there, the whites of his eyes barely visible as they scanned and catalogued every individual in the room. Whether it was the overwhelming smell of vinyl, or the lackluster over-informative presentation, ten minutes in, I began to feel nauseous. I gestured to my friend as I stood up and made my way towards the worker standing by the now closed garage doors. I asked where the restrooms were and, to my relief, his answer was outside. He took us through a door by the corner Michael Farther was standing in. Mr. Farther just stood there, his hands clasped behind his back, smiling and watching the presentation. It was as if he was thoroughly enjoying himself. We turned down a small hallway and came across the same office room we were in earlier. The worker took us outside to the lot and pointed at a lone port-o-potty in the corner, chuckling. I didn’t care. I needed the fresh air.
After a short discussion, we decided to leave. It wasn’t until we were twenty minutes down the road that we realized we had left our IDs and social security cards at the warehouse. I can never know what actually happened while we were absent from the room, but what we saw when we returned will always haunt me.
When we returned, every car that was parked outside the building from before was now gone. We assumed the orientation must have been over. The gate that had been open to let vehicles in was now closed with a padlock and chain. A few white pickup trucks plastered with the colorful Blaster Bouncing logo remained in the lot alongside three other cars we figured belonged to the employees. Navigating around the warehouse on foot, we wedged ourselves through a gap between the gate and the double row of fences and found the office door. It was colder now and the sun had sunk below the ridge littered with rusted vehicles. The sky was the blue-ish hue of dusk. A strange smell faintly drifted around the building-like chemicals and old meat. The shades were drawn in the office windows now. The door was still open, however. We entered the warehouse again, where we had first met Michael Farther. The smell from outside was stronger inside. The air felt damp and heavy. We recognized the short hall that took a right turn from before, where the worker had led us outside. Only the emergency lights illuminated the inside now. There were two locked doors that had been open before, Michael Farther’s name stenciled on the glass of one of them. We rifled through a stack of manila folders sitting on a small table in the room. Nothing. Not like we expected to find our social security cards conveniently inside one of them, but it was worth a shot. It was dead silent for a moment. We both felt our search was fruitless. Mr. Farther never gave either of us a personal contact number, go figure, I thought to myself.
Just as we were about to leave, something broke the silence. A door opened. Down the hall where it turned right. The break in silence made us jump, but after there was nothing. No voices, no footsteps. Without a word we moved down the hall. As we came closer to the turn, we heard the door shut. The audible latch and doorknob turning were the only sounds in the entire building. We walked to the end of the hall and found ourselves facing the door. The white walls and white laminate flooring matched the door; its paint chipped revealing bright green underneath. The door had a single rectangular window. As we approached, one of the fluorescent emergency lights above started to flicker and dim. It was as if we were in the middle of a cliché horror film. The hall was cast in an eerie, sickly colored light. The warehouse remained silent save for our footsteps that we took care to make as quiet as possible. As we approached the door my heart began to race. For whatever reason, I was anxious about what was on the other side; whatever had opened and closed the door silently only minutes before. We edged towards it and positioned ourselves on either side of the window. My friend gave a look, I nodded, and simultaneously we peered inside.
Instantly every hair on my body stood straight up, my skin prickled. All of the people from before were still inside, standing in front of their chairs. Each had a black sack pulled over their head. They were standing where we had been only a little while before. I noticed the workers in their brown overalls had joined them, all blindly facing the canvas screen. In front of the screen, facing the group was another man. He too had a black sack over his head. I recognized his outfit: denim shorts and a white t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. His skin was beat red. The only light came from the projector throwing long shadows onto the floor and walls of the spacious warehouse. It was just enough to see that everyone else in the room matched Michael’s skin tone. They stood there, motionless as we watched them. Then, I could feel it again. The two points, focused on my face. I quickly looked back to Michael Farther. He was looking at me. Slowly, he reached up and removed the black sack. My skin prickled from the sight of what he had underneath. It was as if he caked his face with white makeup. The rest of his skin looked badly sunburned, even up to his neck. But his face was pure white. His mouth was slightly open, almost smiling. Small trails of blood leaked from his eyes and ears, staining the powder white skin. As we looked at Michael Farther, everyone else in the room slowly turned their heads to face us. There was silence. Then several of them collapsed violently. Their legs crumpled horrifically and un-naturally. Bones snapping and crunching echoed through the warehouse, reverberating off the brightly colored jumping castles and blower fans used to inflate them. Without hesitation, we ran. Before turning down the hall I slowed and looked back at the door. I jumped and nearly screamed as I realized Michael Farther was standing in the window. His white face was expressionless but he appeared to be laughing hysterically, almost painfully, more blood streaming from his eye sockets. My legs felt weak. We sprinted out of that place and never looked back again. As we ran across the lot to my care, I noticed the fences were now armed with barbed wire. Wedging ourselves through the gate again, we escaped to my car and took off towards the highway.
I cannot justify the actuality of any of these events as no police report was ever filed. After we left and were already on the road, we called 911. We weren’t about to sit at that place and wait for the police to arrive. We later learned that the warehouse had been burned down and no evidence of human remains was found in the rubble. The building was determined vacant at the time of the fire and all 37 victims were never spoken of. They were never listed as missing, murdered, or abducted. My friend and I were never even questioned about the people we claimed died there, only our involvement in the fire and what they called the ‘misleading’ 911 call we placed. Our accounts of the events didn’t hold up long. We had absolutely no evidence to prove any of it ever happened. No one will ever know what truly happened to Blaster Bouncing Jumping Castles Inc. and its shady owner, Mr. Michael Farther. I speculated it was a practice of the occult, but who knows?