In 1998 I got a new teaching job in a new town. To save money I moved into a small house that was for rent. My roommate, Claire, was nice enough and the two of us got along easily. I moved in and found my room. While unpacking I came across an old framed photograph. Three men dressed as hospital orderlies were sitting together in the living room of the house. These three men had once lived in the house I was now renting with Claire. I didn’t want to throw away the photograph, it didn’t seem right. But I didn’t want to keep it, either. I chose to hang the picture up in the living room as decoration and a reminder of the friendship that once bloomed in the house.
On the first night I was awakened by Claire stumbling around in the dark in my bedroom. Flipping on the lights I saw Claire and realized that she was sleep walking. I called her name and finally woke Claire up and she, confused by what had happened, apologized and told me that she had never slept walked before.
Claire was shaking, she then went on to explain that she was having a vivid and bizarre dream. In her dream she was in a hospital and a woman, a patient, was holding her hand and leading her down the hallway as if the woman wanted Claire to see something.
The next morning I went for a jog and spied an abandoned building a few blocks away from my house. The building was massive, the windows broken and the doors chained. There were no signs on the outside of the building but by all outward appearances it looked like a hospital. I was staring at the building as if in a trance when I noticed that there was something, or someone looking back at me from the fifth floor window. As soon as I made eye contact it disappeared.
The whole area, the building and the quiet creeped me out. I ran for home.
That night Claire and I sat down together to watch a movie, drink some wine and talk. When I brought up my crazy ex-boyfriend Claire laughed a little. She remarked that my ex sounded like her during her wilder days. She went on to tell me that she had a mental break down a few years ago and that she was on medication, but she was better now and it was all behind her. Her story sent a chill up my spine. I barely knew her and I now I learn about this.
Later when I went to bed a heard a crash outside my window. I threw back the curtain and saw Claire walking off the porch, breaking a flower pot as she moved. I opened my window and yelled her name but she didn’t respond. Claire was walking down the street toward the abandoned hospital, sleep walking, her hand out stretched as if she was being guided by some unseen force.
I threw on some clothes and ran outside the house still calling Claire’s name. By the time I caught up to her she was stepping inside the hospital doors. Someone had unchained the doors.
I was too afraid to walk inside the hospital after her, I hesitated and I regret it to this day.
When I finally worked up the nerve to walk inside I was greeted by an elderly homeless woman. I asked her if she had seen anyone come into the hospital just now and all she did was smile at me and turn away. I panicked and stepped back outside, the foreboding feeling was overwhelming.
I looked up at the hospital and saw Claire hanging out a window on the fifth floor. I yelled her name but I couldn’t get her attention. I’ll never forget the look on her face: pure terror. Clair kept leaning out the window and looking back into the hospital as if she was afraid of someone or something. Sometimes she’d look down, seemingly straight at me, but she still never saw me.
I called her name desperately as I watched her climb out through the window and jump. She died in front of me.
The police arrived and I told them everything about Claire’s sleep walking. But when they learned about her history of mental illness they quickly chalked it up to a suicide and that was the end of her story.
A week later I read her obituary in the newspaper and in the article they confirmed that the abandoned hospital was in fact a hospital. A mental hospital.
I fell asleep that night I had a very strange dream. I was walking down the hall of a hospital, a woman in a hospital gown holding my hand. She was guiding me somewhere and she kept looking back to make sure I was still following.
The snapping of fingers and a man’s voice startled me awake. I had been dreaming. I had been sleep walking. I had walked the four blocks from my house to the street of the abandoned hospital. A man had almost hit me with his car. If he hadn’t of woken me up I’m not sure what wouldn’t happened.
The idea of sleep was now terrifying. So much had happened in such little time I tried to keep awake for as long as possible. But eventually, as it often does, sleep overtook me. The dream, the same dream about being in the hospital, repeated. This time when I woke up however I wasn’t in my bed or standing in the street. I was laying the bedframe of an old cot inside the hospital.
Scared I walked through the halls trying to find the stairs and get out, but I found nothing. I heard muffled voices and screams coming from all the empty rooms that lined the halls. I rounded a corner and came face to face with three people all dressed as patients. One patient was the woman from my dream. I backed away and told myself they weren’t real, if I ignored them they’d go away.
I kept searching for the exit and heard another screaming voice from behind a door. There was an orange glow creeping out from under the door and through the small window on the door. I peeked inside and a man’s face peeked back. His face was burned, horribly burned! He begged me to let him out but I couldn’t bring myself to touch the door. I turned and saw the same three patients as I had before.
One by one the three patients approached the window and jumped out. I looked out the window but I didn’t see them, I saw three orderlies running from the building in a panic. I yelled for them but they didn’t stop. That’s when I smelled the smoke.
I turned and saw the orange flames stretching out from under the door and smoke filling every hallway. I had no choice. I had to jump.
I approached the window and prepared to leap out when I felt a hand on my arm. I looked over and saw the homeless woman pulling me away from the window. She led me out of the hospital and I ran for my life.
The rest of the night I stayed awake and did some research on the hospital.
It was abandoned twenty years ago after a fire ravaged the hospital. The orderlies all fled from the building and left their patients behind, to burn alive.
I moved out of the house the next morning and back in with my parents. I haven’t sleep walked since.