This is a true short story from my newest book, Stories of the Fire House. Enjoy!
No collection of firehouse stories would be complete without at least a good ghost story. Ghost stories seem to be almost a tradition. Any station will have at least one they talk about. I can’t say that ghosts exist, but at the same time, I can’t say they don’t.
Over the years I have seen things that defy definition. Really, I think we all have. If you spend enough time dealing with death and tragedy more than likely you will see things that don’t seem to look right.
This account takes place early in my career. The beginning of the entire story begins early one Sunday morning. This was early spring, in March. The call came in around two or three in the morning. The temperature was in the mid-fifties, the road was dry. This call came in as a two-car motor vehicle accident with entrapment. There was a very seasoned police officer on the scene, he had discovered the accident.
During his normal patrol, he had come upon the accident. The scene revealed two cars from an apparent head-on type collision. A large amount of debris, and one car was on fire. In the car that was on fire was a young female. The other car was an older male. Both cars were sitting in awkward angles across the roadway. This was the main thoroughfare coming into town, however, at this time of the morning, there was no traffic.
The police officer called for rescue and EMS. He then began trying to extinguish the fire coming from the engine department. His radio transmissions showed that he was truly stressed. This officer was a Vietnam veteran having served two tours, he was not a stranger to trauma and death. This night he was pushed to his limit.
The accident scene was close to the station, so our response time was incredibly good. We arrived on the scene with one car on fire, the patient was still inside. The other car a gold-colored car was sitting a few feet from the blue car, the blue car was on fire. We usually rolled two medics on most calls, so we had enough ambulances. The beauty of our department was the fact that we had paramedics and EMTs on the fire truck. This was long before it became the normal protocol.
We were the leaders of a lot of the practices that are common today. We were also one of the first if not the first to be trained and carry the JAWS of Life on our engines, making them rescue trucks as well. We were also one of the first in the state to have these tools.
As the fire truck pulled up to the scene, the driver (engineer) set the engine up to pump. I was assigned the pump detail; the team was able to quickly extinguish the flames so that extrication could begin. After shutting down the pump detail I was able to assist in the extrication.
As I walked around the rear of the vehicle the crew had extricated the patient and placed her on the backboard. I picked up the head restraints and placed them on the backboard in place to stabilize her head. The Lieutenant removed them and continued to strap the patient down. I replaced the head’s immobilization once again.
The Lieutenant turned to me, grabbed the front of my gear. “She is gone, Ken! “He shouted at me. I then realized that she was deceased, it had never occurred to me that she was deceased. I did not realize that would be the start of chain events that would become a legend.
I was suddenly aware that the temperature had dropped, and it was snowing, yes in a matter of minutes the weather changed from a warm spring morning to a cold snowy morning. Meanwhile, the other medic and crews were working with the other patient, in the gold car.
They located that patient in the rear passenger seat, he had broken the seat on impact and was thrown to the rear seat. He still had a pulse, however, it quickly disappeared. This occurred in the presence of the medics, so CPR was started. But due to his injuries, his chest would not expand after each compression. They worked valiantly, with one person compressing down and another pushing his chest together to try and get his chest to rise.
The EMS crew transported the patient, taking the crew from the second EMS unit with them. A request was sent for the response of a third unit to transport the female patient that was pronounced dead on the scene. When the third unit arrived, the driver was in the unit by herself. I assisted with loading the body into the ambulance. The driver needed a partner to go to the Medical Examiner’s office.
I volunteered to drive the unit with the body to Medical Examiners Morgue. The rule is that all accident fatalities be transported to the Medical Examiner for an autopsy. The ride to the office was quiet and reserved, body transports were always solemn. We arrived without incident.
We backed into the loading dock, a small non-descript building with a small loading dock in the rear. Located in a mostly residential neighborhood. The front resembled any other state office. Next door was a state police troop headquarters. We rang the doorbell and waited for the nighttime attendant to come to the door.
We unloaded the body and rolled her inside to begin the check-in procedure. We moved the deceased from our cot onto the stainless-steel table. These tables were designed to hold a body with a slight angle and a drain at the end of the table to clear any fluids that may need to be evacuated. There is a lip around the entire table to keep everything on the table. There is a shelf underneath to store any documents or belongings These tables or trays as they are sometimes referred to, allow the body to be moved throughout the facility without moving the body from the tray. The doctor can perform an autopsy on the table without moving the body over.
The cold storage at this facility is a large walk-in cooler. The night clerk itemized her belongings writing the items on his form as he cataloged each item. My partner completed our run form, to give him a copy. I finished placing the items in the bag and placed the bag underneath the tray.
I rolled the tray with the girl into the cooler. While my partner and the clerk finished with the paperwork. I positioned the tray in the cooler, Locking the wheels I glanced at the body as I locked the wheels on the tray. Now, this is where this tale starts to get a little strange you could say unbelievable. I understand if you don’t believe what I am about to tell you next.
As I locked the wheels on the tray, I glanced at the body lying on the tray. Her head was turned towards me, and there was a smile on her face. Her eyes were open, there was no life there, her eyes were open however they lacked any luster. The cold of the room seemed to increase. I stood quietly for a moment. Bowed my head and silently asked for her to find peace.
Sometimes people who experience severe trauma and die will have involuntary muscle contractions after death. The body is a strange piece of work. A lot of things can happen after the moment of death. I told myself that this was probably what had happened. However, the incident stayed on my mind.
I went back out to the entrance room. My partner looked at me and asked what was wrong with me. She had quite a concerned look on her face as she asked if I felt ok. I was apparently a little pale. I told her that I was ok. I asked if we were done. She said all we needed to do was make the cot up for the next patient. I told her we could do it at the station out of the cold.
We loaded up and began the drive back to the station. We decided a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich was in order. We found a drive-thru on the way. We placed our order and pulled forward. She asked again what’s up? I told her she wouldn’t believe me, that it was just too crazy.
We took our order from the friendly girl at the window and ate as we drove. Remember this was back in the good ole days, we could do all sorts of things in the front of an ambulance that would send people screaming into the night if we did some of those things today. At one time you could even smoke in the front of the unit.
As we ate our sandwiches, I maneuvered through the light morning traffic. I told her the entire story, her eyes getting wide as I recanted the tale. I explained about the involuntary muscle contractions. I thought that might have been what it was. We both decided to keep the incident to ourselves until years later the story got out.
When we arrived back at the station most of the volunteers were still at the station. It was not uncommon for everyone to hang out after a fatality call. Unbeknown to us it was one of the earliest call debriefing mechanisms. We were a tight nit group, and we could always talk to each other.
As daylight broke, we were still talking and discussing the call, I received my fair share of ribbing over the head immobilization incident. We all were laughing about that when the officer that discovered the call came into the day room. His face was ashen, and he was concerned.
At first, he wanted to speak to the fire officers that had been on the scene, then asked if anyone had found a purse and forgotten to turn it in., we had identified the wrong person as the fatality. When the officer had gone to make death notifications, the person we had identified answered the door. His concern was that we had not turned the second purse in, maybe one of us had put the purse aside and forgotten to give it to the police on the scene.
No one remembered seeing a second purse, so just to be sure we made a second trip to the accident scene and searched for the purse. We were unable to locate the second purse, turned out the older sister had loaned the younger sister her Identification because she wasn’t old enough to get into bars. The two sisters looked remarkably similar.
This was a terrible accident, two people were killed, and unfortunately, both had alcohol in their system. The family was devastated, the other driver had been involved with the fire department years earlier. The accident left scars on a lot of people. The family of the girl buried their daughter in the town cemetery, they created a beautiful tribute to her at her gravesite. This gravesite overlooks the town below.
Little did we know that this one accident would begin a legend, that is still probably talked about today. There were many aftereffects from this incident. These strange and unusual occurrences lasted for many years. I am not sure they may still happen today. I haven’t been there for quite a while.
One of the strangest occurrences involves the ambulance that the young lady was transported to the medical examiner’s office. The crews reported strange things that would happen in this ambulance. I, myself experienced one of these incidents.
The ambulances provided emergency services and non-emergency services. During one of these non-emergency transports, my partner and I both experienced a strange incident. While transporting a patient my partner, who was in the back with the patient, came to the craw space, an opening between the rear of the ambulance and the front seat. Most van-type ambulances had these opening.
He was shivering, asked me if I could turn the air conditioner off. Not an unusual request, the back can get cold. I asked if he turned the air off in the rear, to which he replied that it was completely off. It was at this point I looked at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. I could see his breath, small clouds of vapor as he spoke. I double-checked the air conditioner; however, it was not turned on. He looked at me again, as he looked at the air conditioner control.
I offered to roll the windows down to warm up the rear of the unit. The weather was warm outside. Before I could do anything the rear of the unit began to warm up. The rest of the transport was uneventful.
This unit was written up several times air conditioning malfunction, getting too cold in the rear. There were also reports of seeing a woman in the back of the unit. No one was ever found. Eventually, the unit was sidelined, parked over to the side for parts for the other units. The last time I was around this unit, it was parked beside the station, I believe it was being sold, it was a hot summer day. The windows were cold to the touch from the outside sitting in the sun. I can’t say this unit was haunted but I can say there some weird things that happened with this unit. Of course, the strange occurrences weren’t confined to the ambulance.
Another strange string of events involved the medic station itself. The medics were moved to an old apartment building that was set next to the station. This was a three-unit apartment building with business space and an old garage downstairs. In the hallway upstairs the medics were housed in an apartment. This apartment was closest to the stairs.
This station became known as the haunted station. Crews would report noises and shadows inside the station. On one occasion I had a new partner, I was working as a medic in that station. My new partner had his own room which was next door to my room. I was awakened by my partner standing over me, with his sleeping bag in his hand. He was glaring at me.
I sat up in the bed, looking bewildered. I asked if I had missed a call, thinking I had slept through the pager. He looked at me in disbelief. “You didn’t come in my room and pull my sleeping bag off of me?” He asked suddenly looking around as if he was looking for someone else to blame. I told him no, I was asleep. I asked him what happened.
He sat on the edge of the bed; his head bent down. “I heard this station was haunted, I didn’t believe in ghosts.” He said as he surveyed the floor. “I was sleeping in my bed; my sleeping bag was over the top of me. I felt my sleeping bag pulled away from me, I mean hard. It was on the floor when I woke up.” He said looking at me suspiciously. “I thought you were messing with me, but I can see you were asleep as well.” He said getting up from the bed.
I got up and asked if he would like something to drink. Neither of us could really sleep anymore that night. I fixed some coffee and we walked out to the landing at the top of metal stairs on the side of the building. I told him the story, explained what happened that night. He knew the family they were from the same area. He was still unnerved, but the rest of the night was peaceful.
On another occasion at this station, my same partner and I along with a couple of other firemen experienced an encounter. The building had three apartments at the end of the hallway, there were two doors. The doors formed narrow points, each opening into a different apartment. Construction was still underway in both apartments. The two apartments one on the left and one on the right. The apartment on the right was currently undergoing active construction, workers had tools and other supplies.
This night we had the medics door open, we began to hear noises coming from the apartment under construction. With everyone being a manly man, we decided to investigate the noises. These apartments were older, the doors still had the old-fashioned keyhole locks. These are the keyholes that a person can look through. There was a light on in the foyer area, looking through the keyhole we could see movement beyond the room. The light was bright and was the only light on in the apartment. We knocked on the door and yelled. There was no answer, only silence. We could still see movement beyond the foyer.
We pulled back, called for police backup. The officer arrived, who we all knew well. One of the benefits of working in a small town and a small department is the fact that you have relationships with just about everyone.
We explained the situation, the officer attempted to make contact as well. There was no answer, yet movement was still detected. The police backup arrived and monitored the side windows. We breached the door; the officer had his gun drawn. As we opened the door, the light went dark. Everyone instinctively hunkered down moving forward with the officer.
A thorough search of the apartment came up empty. The rooms were all empty. We were able to turn the rest of the lights on in the apartment. We couldn’t turn the light on in the foyer, however. There was no lightbulb in the socket. The very light, the only light that had been on, had no bulb in it.
This incident caused a memo to come down the line. It was strongly discouraged that any talk of ghosts was to be avoided. The memo blamed the fear the rumors were causing about the station. In short, be quiet, don’t talk about it.
With that memo out about the incident, it was only talked about in hushed tones, and never where someone may overhear the conversation. However, these incidents weren’t the only things going on there. Other incidents weren’t reported.
One such incident involved seeing the ghost in a window. Under the station had been an old garage. This business had a large window in the door. If we were dispatched for a car crash or a house fire that had a fatality involved, it was said she could be seen in this window. I must admit I saw her, or something a couple of times.
I experienced seeing her a few times. I was going through a divorce, a lot of stress. I am not sure how much the stress played into what I was experiencing. I would awaken in the middle of the night and the apparition of the young lady would be sitting Indian style beside the bed.
I confided in my friend. I told him about my issue. He had an out-of-the-ordinary suggestion. On the night of the call, there were two medics, one medic checked on the young lady in the car and pronounced her dead. She figured that the patient with a pulse took priority. This is classic triage and she was following protocol. However, she left the young girl and went to what she felt was a more viable patient. Again, this is perfectly ok. Sometimes with situations such as this, you must make split-second, life and death decisions. That comes with the job and you must follow through. It’s not pleasant, however, it is necessary.
My friend simply told me: “Next time you see her, just tell her that *Deleted Name* pronounced her. Tell her you didn’t have anything to with it.”
I followed his advice. I told the apparition this very sentence. The medic I named had moved on to another career. This was some time after the initial incident. That medic suddenly and unexpectedly checked into a mental health program. She admitted herself to the program.
I don’t know if anything I experienced was related in any way to this medic checking herself into a psychiatric facility. I do know that after I uttered those words, I was never awakened again by this apparition. However, she did keep in touch.
I worked in that station when I wrote my first book, The Crew. I initially wanted to dedicate that book to her. I felt like she had earned some recognition. I wrote that book on an older computer. We had a 3.5-inch disk drive. I would save it to the computer and the disk drive. The funny part is sometimes the disk would be scrambled, sometimes it was the copy on the computer. After I finally changed my dedication to my dad, the problems seemed to disappear. No longer did I have those issues when saving or retrieving the files.
I have since heard of rumors of things going on at that station. Over the years, the ambulances were bought out by the county. That station was used for a while, however, the station was closed and returned to the fire department. It is rumored that they had trouble staffing the station due to strange occurrences there.
Years later I returned to that town, I lived a few blocks from the station. I volunteered with the fire department. My new wife and I had an apartment a couple of blocks from the fire station. We had strange experiences while we lived there. My new wife was poked and shoved; I received a bite mark on my shoulder. We would feel someone sitting on the end of the bed. I am not sure she had anything to do with these things, however, they ceased after we moved away.
This story is one that will make you wonder. Are there ghosts, spirits, or demons? I will leave that to the reader to decide. I am still not convinced of exactly what I have experienced. One day we may be able to find out. In the meantime, we have a great story to tell around the campfire.