This story was originally posted on SomethingAwful
While the ship is in port, most of the equipment in the Reactor and Machinery Rooms is shut down and everything is aligned so that only a skeleton crew is needed to maintain the equipment. In the Machinery Rooms (which contain the propulsion machinery, distillers, and electrical generators) this consisted of one Shutdown Watch and one roving watchstander, with occasional visits from the crewman who was the overall supervisor for the plants.
The Machinery Room has three levels. The topmost level (4th Deck) is a single story high, and there is a steep staircase that descends about 30 or 40 feet into the middle level (called the Upper Level), and another that goes down another 10 feet to the lowermost level (called Lower Level).
On Upper Level was a desk, at which we spent most of our time while on Shutdown Watch. There's very little to do while overseeing a shut down engine room, so between about 10pm and 6am, the Shutdown Watch tries fighting against falling asleep, while simultaneously staving off boredom. Unless you're in #2 Main Machinery Room around 2am.
Like I pointed out, there's a long steep staircase from 4th Deck to Upper Level, and it had a "tray" along the underside made of aluminum. It was impossible to "sneak" down the steps, because the slightest vibration would start the aluminum vibrating and rumbling (think about those sheets of aluminum they used to make "thunder" sound effects).
When 2am rolled around, the sounds of footsteps and rumbling would be heard, and the tray would be seen to vibrate. Then, there would be the sound of a foot on the metal deckplate and if you were sitting at the desk, you'd then see a man in a khaki uniform stop at the bottom of the stairs, turn to his left to face you, smile and nod, then turn to his right and walk around the distiller and out of sight.
The first few times I blew it off as some watch supervisor doing his tour of the plant, and would wait at the desk to review my logs. He never came back, so I asked about it:
"Shouldn't the Watch Supervisor check my records every time he comes down?"
"He should, but he came and checked my records before you went on watch and said he wouldn't be back until morning. When did you see him?"
"Oh... If you find anything out, be sure to tell us." Nobody would tell me what that was supposed to mean.
A week later, I was on that late watch again (as the new guy, loser = me) and found myself struggling to stay awake, even with coffee and the ventilation making the place into a freezer. I was wide awake, though, when I heard the footsteps (getting caught sleeping = you are so very hosed).
Sure enough, same thing - look, smile, around the distiller. I called out to him, "Do you want to review my records?" and followed him around the distiller, but didn't see him. I picked up a phone and called to the control room to have him paged. They informed me he was not in the plant, but had asked for a 5am wakeup.
Next time, I was set to find out what was up with this guy. I thought maybe he was some clueless guy from Damage Control or Deck doing a tour of the ship and not knowing he wasn't supposed to be in a restricted area. I heard the steps, and got up from my desk. I got my first good look at the guy and realized that I couldn't make out a lot of details about him. He walked around the distiller and I went the other way to intercept him. I rounded the corner, and saw nobody.
The guys I worked with told me their experiences were the same, that nobody had ever gotten any response from the ghost but a smile and a nod, and that nobody had bee brave enough to get close enough to him to see what happened when he rounded the corner. If anyone was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, he would not show, and only rarely did he appear to both the Shutdown Watch and the roving Patrol Watch (I tried this on several occasions, and he only appeared once).
There are a series of compartments that contain the bearings for the shafts that run from the turbines in the Machinery Rooms to the propellers at the aft end of the ship. Known as Shaft Alleys, they double as auxiliary equipment / pump rooms and storage areas. Two such rooms have steam generators used to produce the cooking and heating steam for the ship. One is divided into two levels, and is accessible by a ladder running down a 7-story vertical shaft. Several hatches are spaced along the shaft.
In that room, the steam reboiler has an alarm panel. When the water level gets too high or low, an alarm sounds. The watchstander then has to turn a knob from "On" to "Standby" to silence the siren. When the water level is normal, another sound is heard, and the knob can be returned to its normal position. I had heard stories about strange workings of that panel, but it had recently been overhauled and was found to be mechanically and electrically sound.
I was working on repairing some valves on the lower level when one of the alarms came in. I stood up and walked toward the steps to the upper half of the room when the alarm silenced. I went back to work thinking that it was a spurious activation (it happened occasionally, and was expected and tolerated, to a degree). Soon, the sound of the alarm clearing came in and was silenced.
I checked the panel - all the knobs were in the normal position and everything was in spec. Back downstairs to work, and another alarm came in. I walked to the panel, checked the water level gage, and sure enough, it had risen too high, but was starting to come down. The High Water Level alarm was in "Silence" position. I was the only one in the room, and the hatch above my head was shut securely. A little nervous, I went back to work.
The alarm cleared, and on inspection, the switch was back in its normal position again. This continued for a few more cycles, and each time I investigated, the switches were alternately in normal and standby positions. Getting very freaked out, I turned the switch that cuts the sound of the alarms out and tried to forget the weirdness going on above. Fifteen minutes later, i nearly pissed myself when an alarm sounded. Sure enough, when i got there, it was in standby and the cutour switch for the audible alarms was back to normal position.
I had heard some stories about other goings on in that space, such as hoses coming off their racks and falling to the floor next to a pocket under the floor that needed to be pumped out, or ropes and hoses moving back and forth while the ship was still, and then experienced the one that I'd been told about most frequently.
Above me, I heard footsteps on the metal deckplates. A quick inspection of the hatch showed it was still shut. i figured someone had been hiding and was loving with me all along, so I went upstairs to see who was making the noise. Nobody there. I heard the footsteps downstairs and ducked to look (there are only two ways to get from the upper to lower deck, and they're only 30 feet apart). Nobody. I went back downstairs to pick up my things and heard the footsteps above.
I shouted out, "I don't believe in you, bitch," and heard a few quick steps on the floor moving toward me followed by a slap against my wrist that sent my pen flying across the room. I was through the hatch and up the shaft in record time, shutting and securing every hatch on the way. I refused to go back down there for weeks, and after that, did not go alone. We went out to dinner and tried to forget about this.
Three. In another Shaft Alley was a cage with a lot of old equipment. People used to hang out there to smoke and BS, because, although it was against the regulations, it was more convenient than going to the designated areas and nobody ever came down to check out the room. Even so, there was always an uneasy feeling there, and nobody stayed down there for more than 20 minutes or so, claiming that they started feeling "bad vibes". A few times, people who spent time there (myself included) claimed to feel a malevolent presence staring at them from the shadows inside the cage.
INVESTIGATIONS One friend of mine had his wife send him a Ouija Board and offered to let us use it. We snuck it into the various spaces we felt were "haunted" and tried to contact whatever spirits were responsible for the odd behavior in the rooms. We got minimal response in the Machinery Room, and I was not present for the attempts in the Reboiler room, but was told that didn't get much response there, either. So, into the "creepy" room we went.
We managed to contact somewhere between four and six separate entities, but we suspect that it was two, plus one that answered by several names to deceive us. Nobody else was knowledgeable with religious esoterica, numerology, or Qabalah, so I asked questions on those topics as a test of the spirits (and to be sure nobody was "fudging" the board) with very positive results.
The spirit in the Machinery Room was the first attempt. After determining that it wasn't someone else pushing the pointer, I asked it, "Who are you?"
(K - H - A - K - I)
"That's what WE call you, but what is your name?"
(No. K-H-A-K-I. M-y n-a-m-e i-s K-H-A-K-I.)
"Is that because that's the name WE gave you? Or because you don't want to tell us your REAL name?"
We could get no further with its name, after several attempts.
"Why do you walk down the stairs? Where do you go after you walk behind the distiller?"
(N-o-t S-l-e-e-p-i-n-g. H-e-a-r l-a-d-d-e-r n-o-t s-l-e-e-p-i-n-g.)
"What happened to you? Were you sleeping?"
(F-i-r-e. S-l-e-e-p-i-n-g. F-i-r-e.)
"And you want to make sure WE'RE not sleeping?"
"Khaki" didn't tell us much else, and gave vague and contradictory answers about the fire in question. We asked around, but nobody knew of a fire in that machinery room, although it is very possible one did occur. We were unable to find any records of a fire, and when I left the ship, the "walkthroughs" were still going on.
Contact with the thing from the Reboiler was tougher, and at times we were not sure we were always talking to the same entity, so we would test it to be certain. In the end, we were fairly sure that the entity was confused and had a "short attention span". Conversations were very short and it often strayed from the topic at hand, or asked us to sing a song before it would talk. Some of the others tried contacting it under varying circumstances, and told me the only information they got that seemed consistent was that the ghost, who they called Patrick (although it usually referred to itself as 'Me' or 'the Captain') seemed to be that of a young boy who loved ships and who had visited the Vinson and was shown the "machine with the red lights and the siren". It seemed implausible, since civilians were not allowed in the space, and certainly not a small boy. However, the stories, checked by independent testers, came up the same each time. Over a few weeks, he became more talkative, but did not answer many ship-related questions, instead asking us about places we'd visited on the ship.
We tried to speak to the "thing in the cage" and met with a lot of resistance. Either the board would not work, or it would spew forth random letters or obscene words, or it would behave in a very difficult or contrary manner.
We suspected that most of the entities, as mentioned above, were this single ghost "playing tricks". It claimed to be a woman who died in the 1920s (long before the ship was built), a mechanic who died on the ship, and "the devil". When using the board to speak to it, the malevolent feelings grew and people using the board began to feel very paranoid and uncomfortable.
After one "argument" with it about my intentions when contacting it (I h-a-t-e y-o-u. F-u-c-k y-o-u-r n-u-m-b-e-r-s a-n-d q-u-e-s-t-i-o-n-s. W-e h-a-t-e y-o-u.), I did not try to speak to it again. In time, it / they began to ask for specific people to use the board, and would not talk until they were brought to the room.
Six of us held a conference and decided that we didn't want to pursue it any further, as some of the guys were really shook up over the incidents and those seemed to be the ones it most often requested. Our investigations stopped shortly thereafter and my friend took the board off the ship after several of the newbies who had "heard about the ghosts" continued to pester him about borrowing it.
Well, I have one to share and although it involves my friend more than me I did get caught up in this whole affair pretty badly.
My friend, let's call her Kiran, belongs to a pretty strict family, rife with rivalry with their relatives who live in India. Many years ago before Kiran's birth there was a huge argument between the family, which led to one of the relatives (who was believed to dabble in black magic) putting a curse onto Kiran's immediate family. The curse was that the whole family should be destroyed in some way or another.
From that day a ghost of a young boy came to the family and actually tried to kill them all. First he attacked the mother and killed her first baby, he then attempted to kill the father by causing a severe heart attack (twice) and then during the birth of Kiran he attempted to kill the mother and Kiran, but he failed.
The ghost vanished for a short period of time.
Soon they discovered strange things happening in the house, a room in the house where the father suffered a heart attack suddenly became a mass of paranormal activity. For instance, blood or some sort of blood-like fluid would seep up through the floorboards and the ghost of a boy could be seen in the house trying to lead the children away.
Eventually they had this ghost exorcised and they moved house, thinking it was all over, but it got much, much worse.
Coming up to the present day there has been what Kiran describes as a 'demon' following the family, Kiran in particular. I suspected it followed her because she is the child that SHOULD'VE been murdered, and she lived. The demon watches over her every night at her window, it is a pure vortex of evil and blackness. I didn't believe her at first when she told me but then when I realized how pretty drat scared she was by this thing haunting her I decided to try and help.
Since I had recently been 'practicing' Astral Projection/ induced lucid dreaming I thought that I could perhaps find out what this demon was. I was pretty ill at the time and because of my inability to sleep I found it much easier to project or enter a state of lucidity. Somehow I entered a state of concentration, purely by accident, where I could 'see' outside of Kiran's house, and I attempted to call the demon out to me instead to see if this whole thing was real.
Then the most terrifying thing I have EVER witnessed happened. I saw a shadow move across the top of my window. It startled me at first, but then the shadow approached right next to my window, and I could see its exact form. For some reason it couldn't get into my house (Kiran also said it couldn't get into her house either.) But God it tried, all the windows began rattling, there was tapping on the glass and horrific noises.
I was pretty scared for my parents rather than my own personal safety. So taking advantage of the situation I decided to see if I could contact this demon type shadow. I found out that it was a spirit of a teenage boy, perhaps around 16 or so, utterly consumed in hate. He was looking for his mother or just a companion, maybe he thought killing someone would give him companionship, who knows.
Because I know that it's a good idea not to hold burdens against otherworldly creatures I gave it a wish that it would find what it was looking for and that it should be taken away so that he could learn not to hate.
The scary thing is the demon left Kiran... for about a week.
The day before it returned I had the worst dream I've probably ever had, it went like this:
I was in Kiran's house and she was making me look at something out of the window. I looked and I saw a horrendous black shadow moving along the sky, it's weird because I never feel emotions in dreams but this time it felt real and I was VERY scared. It's hard to describe what the demon looked like.. if you imagine the blackest black, and a silk-like substance with such graceful movement making it hard to believe it's made of pure hate, then you're close. Perhaps the closest thing I can think of is Madonnas dress in the 'Frozen' video.. crappy comparison but hey, it's the best I can do.
I managed to see the demon up close and it was pretty gruesome, a grey mangled figure of a boy, black veins writhing over him and feeding on him, and he was reaching out for help, which was pretty sad.
There was a message in the dream which was a form the demon conveyed to me, it was the form of the grim reaper. I woke up and phoned Kiran urgently as I felt I had to tell her what the message in the dream was for her own safety, and she told me she'd had a tarot reading the day before, and the grim reaper card kept coming up.
So the demon came back on that night.. it's practically been there ever since, we just think it's going to remain there with her until she lives her life out and there's no escaping it really. But I admire her a lot for being able to cope with it, the only thing is that I'm really really self-conscious about the drat thing following me about now, but I guess it was my own fault for trying to help.