Every area in all parts of the world has those area-specific Urban Legends that just refuse to die. Whether the stories are about a haunted asylum on the outskirts of the city, a creature that lives in the nearby woods, or a ghost that haunts a lonely stretch of road outside of town, there is always a common thread within the tales; no one has ever been to these places, seen the creatures, or witnessed any hauntings with their own eyes.
There are members of every generation who will proclaim that they "know someone whose brother's best friend's sister went to that haunted house with thirteen floors that used real blood and snakes and spiders and is so scary that no one has ever made it all the way through." Those same people will swear by these stories without ever being able to provide a shred of evidence or a name of someone who could provide proof of the claims simply because "everyone around here knows that it's a true story". The storytellers eventually pass the tales onto their children, who modify them just enough to keep up with changing times, and the cycle continues.
I'm as skeptical as anyone when it comes to these stories, seeing as I was like a junkie when I was younger, constantly searching for more terrifying stories about whatever area of the country I was living in at the time. I made up and spread stories about haunted pizza parlors in New York, my "cousin's" encounter with the Jersey Devil, or how my "grandfather" encountered a feral, human-like demon creature in the woods of Colorado. I even broke the one rule with these stories by putting myself in them; this took guts, in hindsight, because I had to make sure that I always told them the same way. Surprisingly, no one ever called my bluff.
I like to think that I have had some wonderful contributions to various urban legends around the Midwest and northeastern states; I moved around a lot. There was always a surge of joy whenever I would wander the halls at school and hear one of my classmates retelling my stories to another one of their friends, adding little bits here and there like a massive game of telephone. I knew, of course, that the stories were complete fiction, but I stood my ground whenever someone asked me about them; I would even manage to act a little bit, speaking with a shaky voice or looking scared when I would recount a situation that I supposedly experienced myself.
I suppose this aspect of my childhood has led to my current predicament which I will recount, in full, for the internet to take from it what they will. I have laid this little introduction out as sort of a disclaimer, aimed particularly at those who will call my story into question. I have been like the boy who cried wolf for years, but I assure you with every ounce of honesty and integrity that I have that this time, the wolf is real.
From my introduction, it is probably apparent that I moved around the country quite a bit in my middle and high school years. Neither of my parents had anything to do with any branch of the armed forces; they simply didn't tend to hang around any given place for too long. I suppose it had some sort of effect on me, but I wasn't hurt by it or anything of the sort. Growing up, I was a complete ham. I made friends very easily, was often the class clown, and because of that, was often disliked by my teachers. Again, this was never an issue, as I was usually in another state by the time the next semester rolled around.
My friendships were often fleeting, as were any positive relationships that I ever had with my teachers. Because of the events that followed, my memory of one teacher in particular is probably slightly skewed, but I will attempt to give the least biased version of our friendship that I can.
Mr. Mays was one of my social studies teachers in the early years of my high school experience. Being older now, I can understand how horrible children are to deal with around that age, and I respect him to no ends for the way that he was able to connect with his students. He seemed like one of us; he talked like us, made pop-culture references that were current, listened to cool music, and sometimes, he would even say "hell" or "damn" while he was giving a passionate lecture about Native American history or something like that. A teacher that swore, even a little bit, was the epitome of cool to a freshman in high school.
My memories of Mr. Mays mostly stem from the way that he really got into anything that he was doing. The instance that is still very vivid in my mind was, of course, around Halloween of my sophomore year. Mr. Mays had the typical teacher decorations around the classroom, smiling jack-o-lanterns and black cat cartoons, typical and boring in the minds of egotistic high-school students. However, on the 31st of October, when most other teachers were rolling their eyes at the fact that teenagers still took dressing up in costumes on Halloween seriously, Mr. Mays took the whole "cool teacher" thing to a new level.
We walked into the classroom and were surprised to find the blinds drawn, sheets over the smaller windows, candles lighting the room, and a single, frowning jack-o-lantern sitting on a stool in front of the desks. Mr. Mays sat at his desk, just watching the students come into class and take their seats. He didn't have to ask anyone to be quiet because the moment everyone walked into the room, they were either too excited to care about petty conversations, or too confused to bother with them . The students took their seats as Mr. Mays began his lecture. He spoke quietly to set the mood, and took a seat on a chair, right next to the jack-o-lantern in the center of the room.
"Today is probably my favorite day of the year, class," he said, in a monotonous voice. "Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I want to share with you exactly why I love it so much." One girl raised her hand with a concerned look on her face. "I'm pushing the due date for your papers to next Tuesday," said Mr. Mays, without bothering to look at the girl, who slowly put her hand down, looking around at the other students with a hint of embarrassment. The class erupted in quiet cheers and Mr. Mays waited for the inevitable silence. He began his story immediately after the class had calmed down.
I will attempt to recreate the amazing story that Mr. Mays told the class that day. The way in which he told this story rendered the horror-junkies speechless and the rest of the class terrified. The same girl that had raised her hand to ask about the paper was holding her knees to her chest by the end of it, a look of terror on her face.
The important thing to know was what the story was about, the specifics slip my mind now and aren't too relevant. I'll try to recount the parts of the story that matter the most, but don't hold me to it. Basically, Mr. Mays and his friends set out on a road trip around the country after graduating from college. They took a truck, loaded it with camping gear, and set out to sight-see for the entire summer. The group went from the Poconos in New Jersey, down to the coasts of Florida, New Orleans to California and up to Washington. From there, they went to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and then back home to New York. This concept of the freedom to travel anywhere had the entire class hooked in an instant; Mr. Mays was the coolest teacher ever, in my eyes.
Being adventurous college kids, the group didn't bring a map. There were no time constraints, so they just kind of drove in the general direction that they wanted to go and eventually found a town to stay in or someplace that looked interesting. He told us that after spending a week in Colorado, he and his friends had to travel through miles and miles of corn, plains, and more corn. He assumed that they were in either Nebraska or Kansas when they decided to pool their extra cash and stay in a hotel for a night. They settled into a motel in some town that Mr. Mays could barely remember the name of when one of his friends realized that they were somewhere near his grandfather's farm. He wasn't entirely sure where it was, but being adventurous college kids, they decided to get a quick refund from the motel and try to contact the friend's grandpa.
They were unable to get ahold of the grandpa on the phone, so the group figured it would be fun to just show up. Mr. Mays' friend was adamant that his grandparents would take them in and feed them without a moment of hesitation. So, the group set out with an hour of sunlight, seeking the salvation of a comfortable house to stay in.
In Kansas, or Nebraska, wherever it may have been, there aren't a whole lot of natural markers that could guide lost travelers; any directions given to someone who didn't live around the area basically amounted to "go up a couple of miles to the corn, take a right and go down a dirt road to the other corn; there should be some wheat on your right." So, as is the case in most scary stories, the group got lost. Never wanting to admit defeat, they drove into the night, making wrong turns every five minutes until they found themselves on a wooded road that Mr. May's friend was certain that his grandparents lived off of.
Mr. Mays described the road as basically a dark path to hell. I wasn't entirely sure how true this was, because he got very excited and a bit ridiculous with his explanations of the "trees that almost tried to grab the car," and "the red eyes of countless animals looking at them from the darkness." Regardless, the typical horror tropes worked on most of the class; everyone was terrified.
So the group of guys drove on this dark road for about fifteen minutes before they came to a clearing and a small building with lights in it, and what seemed to be a silo. They figured that, at the very least, the people who lived here would be able to help them find where the guy's grandparents lived; the whole idea of "everyone knows everyone in these hick parts of the country," fueled this hope. They pulled the car up near the building, realizing when they were out of the car that it appeared to be like the kind of places where one would store a whole bunch of chickens, not a home. Still, the lights were on, so they figured they would give it a try.
They approached the building as a group, looking in the semi-open sliding door to find a big, empty room. Hanging, florescent lights lit the room like it was daytime, and they couldn't see a soul. There were no cars, but one of Mr. Mays' friends was convinced he'd seen someone as they pulled up, so they decided to go inside and see if there was an office or something where someone might still be working. Why else would they have this huge place lit up like that?
There were no doors on the inside of the building; again, it was just a giant, empty hall. So, the group roamed around the property and over towards the silo. As they got closer, they noticed what appeared to be a cellar door. At this point, I remember Mr. Mays telling the entire class to learn from his idiocy. He told us that he hadn't seen many horror movies before that time, and didn't think twice about approaching a creepy cellar door in the middle of a dark, scary, foreign place. He said that approaching that door was one of his biggest regrets.
Mr. Mays let the whole class know that he was going to tell us as much as he deemed appropriate about the experience. He felt that we were mature enough to handle it, but advised anyone that was squeamish to leave class early. Several students quietly gathered their things and walked out the door, a couple of them being stoners who saw this as an opportunity to smoke behind the school before their next class. I didn't even give the announcement a second thought. Like I said, I was and am a sucker for this kind of stuff, and Mr. Mays was telling a story better than anything I had ever conjured up. I wanted to learn from this guy, even though I didn't believe much of the story.
After the class had thinned a bit, Mr. Mays continued with the story. He told the remaining few that he and his friends opened that cellar door, releasing a smell that he only described as "the most putrid thing my senses have ever experienced." The group was no longer concerned with finding the owners of the property, but was now set on finding the source of that smell. They went down the steps into the cellar, which was lit by single bulbs spaced sporadically along the ceiling of a long hallway. No one spoke, things had gotten too strange. The walls were lined with metal sheeting, similar to the roofing on farms. The hallway itself was crooked and the ceilings constantly lowered and rose, like a tunnel that was hastily dug and then never touched up. There were sections where the boys had to almost crouch in order to pass.
The worst part, Mr. Mays told us, was that the light bulbs continuously flickered, sometimes acting like a strobe light and making it very difficult to move through the winding and unstable hallways. In hindsight, he was certain that his mind was playing tricks on him, but he remembered seeing flashes of things that couldn't be there. He said that when you are that focused on sometime, or if you are that nervous, your mind can do that to you; it can simply revolt, showing you things or people that aren't there. He continued to describe the hallway, and I was on the edge of my seat. The halls were windy and seemed to go on forever; Mr. Mays guessed that they were somewhere under the creepy forest they had driven through when they found a door, but he couldn't be sure.
He said that they came upon a door after walking for what felt like a mile. It was simple and wooden, but it looked like it belonged outside of a suburban home. It had a nice design, seemed to be freshly painted red, and had a very nice knob and knocker on it. It was a door that belongs at the entrance to a nice house, not one that would be sitting in a dirt tunnel in the middle of nowhere. His friend walked towards the door, moving carefully because of the flashing light bulb and increasingly uncertainty about the stability of the surrounding "walls". He turned to the group, the rest of which were nervous at the very least, and attempted to lighten the mood with a laugh before he said "I should probably knock first."
Mr. Mays' friend grabbed the steel knocker and hit it against the door several times, mockingly, but quietly uttering, "is anyone home?" The group waited about thirty seconds before their tension broke. The guy next to the door shrugged his shoulders and went to walk back to his friends, but as he did, the light bulb between them surged and exploded. The boys shielded their eyes and looked back to their lone friend by the door. As he lowered his hands, one of the metal sheets of the makeshift roof dropped. The edge of the sheet fell directly on the boy's forehead, slicing it open, and sending a wave of blood down his face. The impact apparently knocked him out, and he fell back against the door, knocking it open in the process.
The entirety of the group rushed through the dim light to their friend, barely noticing the seemingly pitch black room that now lay before them. Mr. Mays was the first to make it to his friend's side. He lifted the guy's head into his arms, immediately taking off his jacket and putting it over his forehead to attempt to stop the bleeding. Once the group had calmed down, Mr. Mays noticed that the arm that had been bracing his friend's head was soaking wet. He was confused about this, and was attempting to sort it out when one of his friends started talking. He said something along the lines of "the lights; we have to go," when Mr. Mays took notice.
"You know when you turn off a light," he told the class, "and everything is almost pitch-black, except the light of the bulb dying out or cooling down? It was like that, but there were so many of them. At least twenty light bulbs had lit the room seconds ago, and now only looked like little stars in the darkness. That was definitely terrifying, but that wasn't the scariest thing."
There was still a very dim light coming from the hallway behind them, and though it was weak, it lit the room up just enough to see the shape of tens of people standing less than ten feet in front of them. Mr. Mays' friend went to say something else as one of the bulbs to their right flickered to life.
Let me interrupt at this point and say that Mr. Mays was a generally playful guy. He had that tone of voice that makes you want to respond. Basically, he could say "let's go jump off of a cliff, guys," and you would want to respond with "alright Mr. Mays, show us the way!" That is a ridiculous statement, but it gets the point across. He was a charismatic guy. The whole story up to this point had been told like a campfire story. He had the voice inflections of someone attempting to be mysterious and scary, which worked, but was noticeable. At this point in his tale, I recall that changing completely. He was no longer attempting to spook anyone; I could tell that this section was difficult for him. Either he was a very good actor, or it was really a terrifying memory for him to relive.
He told us that the light bulb came to life, and illuminated the group of people in front of him. In the dim light, he could see children, at least twenty of them in just the visible light. They were all dressed in nightgowns that looked to be tattered and torn, stained dark with something. Their hair was long; every single one of them looked like they had not had a haircut since birth. Some of the children were almost completely obscured by the length of it; every single one of them didn't appear to have seen a shower or nice bath in their entire life.
Mr. Mays told us that the most terrifying part of the whole thing was that none of the children were moving. They were all standing, staring, most of them only visible from the faint light reflecting off of their eyes. His whole group was paralyzed with fear for several seconds, when they heard what sounded like an animal in the distance yelping. The way it was described was like the sound of a dog crying, multiplied by ten. This spurred the group to life, just as the children began to step forward. His friends grabbed the injured one and lifted him out of the room and into the hallway in an instant. Mr. Mays took another second to move, and had difficulty finding his bearings. He reached to his left in an attempt to find a wall to lean against, and ended up finding a handle, then pulled hard, never losing his vision on the children.
He bolted for the door right as he noticed what he had grabbed on to. A showerhead protruded from a cement wall, reaching maybe a foot into the room. There was something leaking from it, but it was too dim to tell what it was. He realized that it had been leaking onto him, but he didn't care. There were now children stammering towards him as an animal cried in the distance and his friend was seriously injured. As he left the room, he made a point to emphasize that he could make out several more shower heads on the wall near the single, dim light bulb.
"This is why I call them ‘The Showers’," Mr. Mays told the class. I was transfixed, sitting as far forward as my desk would allow, bracing for more.
"I slammed the red door behind me," he said, "and ran through that hallway faster than I have ever run before or since. I made it back to the car, and we drove out of there like a bat out of hell." (A couple of students snickered at his use of the word "hell".) "So, when you're out trick r' treating tonight, make sure that you know exactly where you are headed, and don't go out to any abandoned farmhouses. I mean, there aren't many around here, but you're all smart kids, except Jerry." The class laughed and the mood lightened as the bell rang for passing period.
Mr. Mays turned the light on and thanked everyone for listening, reminded them about the paper due next week, and told us to have a safe and Happy Halloween. Students all around me were abuzz with theories about the story they had just heard.
"I bet it was some sort of crazy Nazi hideout," said one girl.
"I think they were all ghost babies that were killed by a dog," said another.
I couldn't theorize in the slightest; I was still caught up in the moment. The way that Mr. Mays had told that story and the detail that he included in it, left me feeling like we didn't get the whole story.
A couple days later, I stayed after class and asked him about how it really ended and what happened to his friend. He laughed and said that his friend was fine and that it was honestly (he whispered this part), "probably due to some of the drugs they were on at the time." Mr. Mays winked at me as if to say, "don't tell anyone about the drugs bit, kid," and I smiled and left.
I lived in that town for another couple months and then was rapidly moved halfway across the country to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
I twisted the story around and told it around campfires as I got older, and it was always a hit, but I always changed the ending, letting the friend die of blood loss or from being dragged away by the children.
It wasn't until college that I got a chance to talk to Mr. Mays again.
I went to college in northern New York, not for any reasons associated with this story. College was a fun time for me; I continued being the same ham that I had always been. It wasn't until sometime around my junior year that I ran into Mr. Mays at a bar that I frequented.
Initially, I couldn't be sure that the person I saw laying with his head buried in his arm at the bar was Mr. Mays. The only trait that grabbed my attention was a sweater that he used to wear on his birthday during class. The shirt simply read: "I'm the birthday boy!"
I told my group of friends to grab a table and that I would join them in a second, then walked over to the man at the bar. "Mr. Mays?" I said, and the man looked up.
The man took a second too look at my face before he smiled, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "hey there, son! How have you been?" I could smell some strong whiskey on his breath, and his cheeks were flushed. The look in his eyes told me that he was three sheets to the wind and probably had no idea who I was.
"Mr. Mays, it's Jack. I was a student of yours for a couple semesters about six or so years ago." His face changed a bit, and a genuine look of recognition set in.
He took a calmer tone, smiled, and said, "How've you been, Jack?"
We talked for a solid twenty minutes. I told him what I had been doing for the last several years, and he told me. Apparently he was still teaching at the same school doing "the same old shtick," as he called it. I asked if everything was alright, and he said that they were as good as they ever have been or were ever going to get.
It took me a while to realize that I was an adult that was having a conversation with another adult.
Every time I had spoken to Mr. Mays previously, I had been in the student/teacher relationship; but now, I was just a guy having a drink with a friend at the bar.
My friends eventually left, and I continued to drink with Mr. Mays. He told me all about his divorce and his kids, things that I never would have asked or cared about previously. But now, I cared; he was a real person to me, not just an idol anymore. This was a guy who had real problems, not the infallible teacher that I once thought he was.
It had been several hours before I even brought up his story about "The Showers". I told him all about my history with urban legends and scary stories, and he just laughed. When I mentioned the story that he had told us years ago, he almost seemed uncomfortable. He finished his whiskey, signaled for another, and then turned to me and got very serious.
"Listen Jack, I don't know why I kept telling that story, year after year." His words were slurred, or my hearing was messed up; we were both sufficiently blitzed at this point. "That was what my therapist told me to do when I was younger. I had to tell people it, to come to grips with it, or some shit." He took a big swig of his drink.
"Wait, your therapist?" I said.
Mr. Mays laughed heartily and looked at me. "Of course, Jack. You think that something like that wouldn't fuck a person up?"
I was confused, but smiled nonetheless. Things had just gotten very strange.
"But, I mean, you said you were all on drugs or something, right? No one was too terribly hurt. You were all okay, right?"
He got almost cartoonish with his sadness in the next several seconds. "Of course we didn't, Jack. Why do you think I'm here right now?"
I was puzzled, quickly filled with a thousand questions that I wanted to ask him, but I let him carry on.
"Tim fuckin', he didn't make it, Jack," he laughed; his laugh turned suddenly to tears. "Fucking took him, they did. I don't even know. Cops told us we were just drunk, that he wandered off and got taken by the wildlife. He didn't know. He didn't see it, Jack."
I was absolutely stone-faced at this point. Mr. Mays was carrying along like I knew the actual story, but I didn't. His friend disappeared. I didn't know.
"I wish they'd have found the body, though. Then we could have shown them," he sighed. "That's a bad place, Jack. I don't know anything else to say. It's a bad place."
He carried on for a couple minutes more about his friend and the fun that they had before they went on that trip, and I let him talk. It was only a few minutes later that his phone rang.
"Hello, sweetheart," he whispered into the phone. "I'll be out in a second. I l-" he gagged. "-ove you, baby." The person on the other end hung up the phone, and Mr. Mays got up to leave.
"It's been nice seeing you, Jackie. You've gotta good head on your shoulders, boy. Make sure you use it." He began to walk out of the bar.
"Mr. Mays!" I yelled after him.
"Yeah, Jack?" he turned back towards me.
"Where'd you say all that showers business took place?"
"Where? Hell, didn't I mention it? It's somewhere outside Broken Bow, Nebraska. Fucking Hell on Earth, if you ask me."
Mr. Mays walked out of the bar after waving to me, running into the wall before eventually finding the door.
That was the last time I would see him. I'd never be able to tell him the impact that he had on my life, or rather, the impact that his story had on me. He'd never know about the trip we took after graduation, almost mimicking the one he and his friends had made. He would never know that the things he saw at that place were real. Why? Well, he died about a month later. His liver failed on him. It's alright though, because his family was with him in the hospital room. He got to die around people that cared about him, and that is all I can ask for a man like that.
I experienced that place too, several years later. That is where my story turns. The following is the story of how I came to find "The Showers," and why I will never, ever go anywhere near Nebraska ever again. I'll finish this story when I'm sober. The memory is clear enough.
I'm awake now, semi-sober, and ready to finish this for you guys, the internet, and whoever cares to hear it.
I didn't find out that Mr. Mays had passed away until a couple months after the funeral service. Initially, I was going to seek out his family in order to send my condolences, but it wasn't as if Mr. Mays and I were best friends or anything like that; so, I refrained. I continued through my college career and graduated a year or so after our bar meeting.
Graduating with English as my major wasn't a mistake, but it wasn't exactly something that landed me any sort of immediate jobs after college. Now, I had saved a pretty solid amount of money while I was in school and decided that I deserved a bit of a vacation, if you will. I took my spare cash, got together with my college buddy Steve, packed up and hit the road, aiming for somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. I had lived near Littleton, Colorado when I was younger and remembered loving the area, so this destination was as good as any.
The trip was a success. We made it somewhere around Estes Park, Colorado and found a cheap cabin that we rented for about a month. The days were filled with lounging, hiking, and generally things that involved little-to-no work on our parts. After our rental was through, we packed up again and headed on our way back east.
Sometime during this trip, we had met up with a couple Estes Park natives in one of the local bars. We never typically "hung out" with them or anything like that; we just had conversations now and then over drinks and food. One night, these guys were paying their tab and packing up to leave awfully early; they were usually there until the wee hours of the morning. When we questioned them about it, they told us that they were headed to a little get-together with some friends of theirs, and they invited us. Having nothing else to do, we hopped in the car and followed them to the party.
The party itself was very low-key, and ultimately inconsequential to this story; however, the important thing about it was that at some point in the night, we were all sitting around the fire and swapping ghost stories. At this point in my life, I wasn't as much of a ham as I was in my younger years. But, with a little bit of encouragement, I started on a couple of stories that I remembered telling in my youth. Eventually, I made it to Mr. Mays' story about "The Showers". Every time that I had told it after hearing it from Mr. Mays, I had spiced it up a little bit. But, out of some sort of subconscious respect for my former teacher, I went straight into the version that he told my class in my sophomore year of high school.
The group enjoyed my stories for the most part, "The Showers" being the mutual favorite among the partygoers. Steve and I left for the cabin at around five in the morning, and he asked me about that story on the drive home. I told him all about Mr. Mays, that class, my love for everything horror-related and whatnot, and he suggested that we tried to find the place on our return trip to New York. Initially I was reluctant simply because I didn't feel like aimlessly wandering through Nebraska for days, looking for some old farm building that was probably demolished at this point. But, a couple of days before we left Colorado, I told Steve that it sounded like fun. We weren't going to be able to do another trip like this for a long time, so I figured that we might as well make the best of it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought of it as a little tribute to Mr. Mays, a guy that, in retrospect, helped me realize that I wanted to be a writer.
Anyway, we left Colorado and made the long, boring, and barren drive to Broken Bow, Nebraska, or "Hell on Earth" as Mr. Mays had put it. We found a motel in town and hung around for a couple of days, venturing out a hundred miles or so in any given direction each day after that. I had remembered Mr. Mays telling us that it was somewhere outside of Broken Bow, but I don't think he got any more specific than that.
We tried asking the townsfolk if they had any information about The Showers, but we were usually met with blank stares or eye-rolling when we told them what exactly this place was. The only person who seemed to know anything about it was an older lady that worked at a gas station on the outskirts of town. I don't recall her name, but this woman was just one of those cheerful old people, very helpful and generally interested in what anyone had to say to her. Steve had started talking to her at checkout and she asked about our license plate, commenting about the fact that we were very far from home. We had nowhere in particular to be, so Steve and I ended up talking to this woman for about fifteen minutes, at which point we brought up our hunt for the place known as "The Showers".
Initially, the name didn't ring any bells with the woman which made sense, seeing as Mr. Mays had just given it the name after his experience there. But, when I began to describe the details that I remembered from his story, the friendly old woman interrupted me. Her tone was not scornful or mean in any way, but she became very terse and deliberate with her words from that point on.
"People don't deal with anything relating to that sort of business around here anymore," she told us. "That was all a long time ago." Following her statements, she attempted to be cheerful again, excusing herself to the restroom and wishing us the best on our return trip to New York.
Steve and I returned to the car without a word. Both of us were thinking about what the lady had said. Again, she didn't seem to be angry at all, she just didn't want to hear another word about it. We were driving back to the hotel before Steve said something. "I mean, if I had to live in a place associated with an urban legend or something like that, I would totally mess with anyone who asked about it," he said. "I mean, eventually you'd just get tired of people asking about it and so you'd just try to scare them to get them to shut up, wouldn't you?"
I agreed with Steve and kept driving, but the whole experience wasn't sitting right with me. If this was some sort of well-known legend in the area, why did no one else in the town seem to know anything about it? But, I managed to shrug it off. Mind you, neither of us was scared of finding The Showers; this little excursion on our road trip was more like a scavenger hunt, a cap-off to an overall relaxing vacation. Steve and I were basically like tourists, hunting for the site at which a famous movie was filmed or something like that. We went into the whole situation with little to no expectations and a fleeting hope that we would be able to find this place.
We spent another day in Broken Bow before we took our next trip out to try to find The Showers. Nebraska isn't as terrible of a place as people make it out to be, but it really isn't all that exciting. We found a bar and spent some time there, and that was just about the extent of our activity on our "day off".
When we did get back on the road, we decided that we would attempt to stay off of main roads for as much of the day as we could. I knew that there was no way that this place was going to be off of the highway and I remembered some detail about a dirt road in Mr. Mays' story, so we went looking for those. This was a fairly futile effort; most of Nebraska is dirt roads.
It was seven in the evening when we came upon a small, but thick forest. I use the term lightly, but for Nebraska, this place was like an oasis. The trees were full and thick, shrouding most of its insides in darkness. The sun was setting and even though we had run into a few of these random crops of trees, we agreed that this one showed more promise than any of the others. There wasn't really a road, but there looked to be a path where a dirt road might have been at some point, so we drove along that. If the car was able to handle the Rocky Mountains, a dirt path in Nebraska would give us no trouble.
We moved slowly and carefully along this trail, making sure to clear any fallen trees in the road or rocks that would render the car useless, when the sun finished setting. It was pretty dark in this place during the day, but when night came, it was something else entirely. I had an inkling at this point that we had found the right place, but I didn't want to jinx it, so we continued onward. I didn't realize it at the time, but the little bits of light that managed to penetrate the canopy in this miniature forest actually did make it look as if the tree branches were trying to grab the car, just like Mr. Mays had mentioned in the story. I'm still convinced that he made up the part about the animal eyes, though; the most aggressive creature we saw in the woods was a dead rabbit on the side of the trail. It didn't have any obvious signs of death; it just looked like it had simply lay down and never bothered to get up.
We drove around in the darkness for quite a while before we found a clearing. We had to move several smaller clusters of branches out of the way before, but right in front of our exit was a giant, dead, monster of a tree. There was no way we were moving this one, so we got out and turned on the bright headlights in the hopes that it would illuminate the area in front of us. There was a feeling of excitement mixed strangely with fear when I saw what lay fifty feet beyond the clearing.
There, lit partially by the headlights from the car and the little bit of light from the crescent moon, was what appeared to be an old barn house. This wasn't a typical farmhouse, it was larger than the barns that I had seen in films and didn't have any sort of crest. It basically looked like a small warehouse. I wasn't entirely sure at this point if this was the place we were looking for, but this was definitely the closest we had come.
I moved through the brush until I was roughly twenty feet from the entrance, at which point all of the growth seem to stop. I don't know if the owners had done something to the soil, but the whole structure had a border around it that was clear of any sort of plant life. I approached the entrance to the building, a large sliding door, as Steve came up behind me with two flashlights in hand.
"So you were just going to run off into that place in the dark?" he laughed.
I gave a half-hearted chuckle and grabbed one of the lights from his hand. Mine was a little, but pretty bright flashlight; it was the kind that hikers would most likely fasten to their backpacks, just in case they were stranded at night. It worked well enough. I grabbed the metal door with both hands, holding the flashlight with my mouth, and gave it a tug. It moved slightly, creaked a little bit, but there was no way I was doing this by myself. Steve came up from behind, set his flashlight on the ground, grabbed the door, and said "one, two...three!"
We pulled at the door with all that we could muster. Once we had managed to move it a couple of inches, it must have latched back onto its track because it slid very easily, stopping hard with a loud and echoing thud when it was completely open. Steve picked up his flashlight and walked behind me; I had already moved inside.
The inside of the structure was exceptionally bare, almost troublingly so. I wasn't entirely sure how far we were from the nearest home or small town, but there wasn't even the slightest bit of evidence that anyone had been in this building for years. There were no broken beer bottles or empty bags of chips; there weren't even any animal droppings or eager plants that managed to grow here. The room was expansive, larger than your average farm, but not the warehouse-sized monstrosity that I believed Mr. Mays had described in his story. I was sure that it was simply a holding area for farming equipment or something similar at some point.
Disappointed, I wandered near the entrance while Steve ventured into the expanse of darkness. As I was running over the details of the story in my mind, something struck me like a sack of bricks; in Mr. Mays' story, there was a silo near the barn. I ran outside, my eyes adjusting easily because at the very least it was brighter outside. I looked in all directions, running around the perimeter of the building. Surely, if there was ever a silo near this place, there would be some evidence of it somewhere. But, despite my hopes, there was nothing but a cluster of thick bushes on one side, brush and dirt everywhere, and the forest that we had come from.
I walked back into the building, frustrated and tired. Steve was still excited, eagerly running around the inside of the building. "Even if I could just find a showerhead or a pipe," he said. "Then we'd know it was true. Just keep looking with me." I didn't want to ruin his excitement; I had told Steve the story several times, but obviously he didn't realize that this just wasn't the place. The building was weird, yes. It was out of place and oddly pristine, but it wasn't the location of The Showers. I let him explore for a little bit before I called him over.
"This was probably as close as we are going to get, man," I said. "But this isn't it. Remember the silo?" His face went from excitement to disappointment in an instant, much like a young child who didn't get the presents he wanted on his birthday. I patted him on the shoulder. "This is still pretty cool, though. I mean, we could still tell people that we found it." I was reverting back to my old habits quickly.
Steve laughed. "Yeah, man, I guess we could. It is definitely creepy enough. We should get some pictures as 'proof', you know?" I agreed with him. "I'm gonna go grab the camera really quick," he said as he bolted out the entrance of the building. I was left alone in the building.
It was very quiet when I was alone in there. I could hear the faint sound of Steve running through the brush and to the car, but once he was far enough away, everything was quiet. I remember not even hearing wind or the chirping of crickets as I walked deeper into the dark, flashlight in hand. I was convinced that there had to be something. As I approached the far corner of the room, the sound of my feet scratching against the dirt was interrupted by a soft, hollow thud. I stopped, trying to figure out what it was. I put my foot down hard against the ground and heard it again. I stomped one more time, realizing that the floor that I was standing on was covering something hollow.
I walked to the wall of the room, looking carefully at the floor to try to spot any holes or gaps. As far as I had known, it was solid ground that this thing sat atop, so I was convinced that I had found a hatch or a basement or something. I heard Steve coming back through the brush as I shouted, "Steve! Come over here, it's hol-" As I went to say the word "hollow," I hopped a little bit, hoping to recreate the sound so that he would be able to hear it upon entering the door. The second that my feet made contact with the floor, I felt it give out beneath me.
The memory of the fall is fuzzy, but I do recall hearing wood splinter. I remember seeing the light from Steve's flashlight falling away into complete darkness. It wasn't a long fall, but I must have fallen in a terrible position because I know that I lost consciousness for several seconds at least.
When I woke up I was staring at a bright light. For an instant I had thoughts about approaching the fabled "light at the end of the tunnel." I was angry at myself. "You died in Nebraska, Jack? Wow, you do know how to fuck up." My self-deprecation in the afterlife was interrupted by what sounded like Steve's voice.
"Jesus, Jack! Jack, can you hear me? Dude, wake up. Please, wake up," he screamed.
I managed to lift my head up off of the floor just enough for him to celebrate. The pain in my head was immense, but it was outweighed by the pain shooting through my knee. I knew I had a concussion, but the pain in my knee was just so much more pressing. I looked around until I found my tiny flashlight, then sat up and reassured Steve. "I'm okay, I just hurt my knee; I bumped my head too, really hard."
"Thank fuck, man. I thought you were dead. Imagine that, though, dying in fucking Nebraska. It'd be awful." His words made me laugh a little bit, but I stopped myself; the slightest shaking hurt my head and made me incredibly dizzy. "I guess, a rope?" said Steve.
"What?" I asked, quietly.
"Should I go get a rope to get you out of here, or do you see a ladder?" I looked around the walls that sat in front of me; they were smooth cement. There was no way that I was climbing out of here. "Yeah, get the rope," I told him. "It's buried under all of our stuff. I think it might be in my red climbing bag, but I'm not sure." Steve nodded, telling me to hang in there and that he would be back in a little bit, and then he ran off.
The silence that followed was uncomfortable. After the sound of Steve's feet scraping the floor above me faded away, I was only able to hear that buzzing that occurs in total silence intertwined with the pulsing in my head. I pushed myself over to the nearest cement wall and braced myself against it, resting and breathing deep in an attempt to calm myself. The cement was unnaturally cold against my back. It was summer, so I only had a t-shirt on, but it felt like ice even through that. Again, this observation was primarily made after the fact. In the moment, it just felt good to lean against something.
I sat there, waiting for Steve in this underground basement, and I began to feel uneasy. I felt like an idiot for falling down here; I felt pain from my injuries as well. That all seemed to fade into one emotion in an instant when I heard what I could only identify as breathing, somewhere to my left. I convinced myself that it was my injured mind playing tricks on me for a few moments until my mind decided to rapidly replay Mr. Mays' story. When I had first heard it in that classroom years before, I was more impressed than I was scared. But now, sitting in a dark basement in the middle of Nebraska, I felt something that I hadn't felt in a long time; it couldn't even be summed up in the word "fear". As I sat there, I felt all-encompassing dread.
I pointed my flashlight to my left, the direction from which I thought I heard the sound. The light didn't reach the other wall; it was too far away. But, I was comforted to see absolutely nothing there. I breathed deeply for a couple more seconds before I heard another noise in the darkness. It was very quick, and I cannot be sure that it wasn't my own body moving around without my noticing; but I thought that I heard a scraping sound not ten feet in front of me. It sounded like the noise your feet make when you are walking across a dirt-covered floor. Before I could react, I heard the breathing to my left again, closer this time. There was no way this was real. I hadn't seen so much as a spider web in this building and now I was convincing myself that something next to me was breathing?
I was angry at myself for getting so worked up. I told myself that the human brain is constantly hallucinating. I told myself that while in silence or darkness, the brain will make sounds to fill the gap, or make you think you see things that aren't there. I channeled my inner-skeptic in order to calm myself; it worked. It worked until I saw a flash of something in front of me. I can't be entirely sure what it was, but I heard the accompanying sounds of feet scraping against the floor and I began to swell with dread. I decided that the best course of action at this point was to turn off my flashlight, assuming that if they couldn't see me, they couldn't get to me, whatever "they" might be.
I turned off my flashlight and was left in complete and total darkness. The bulb of the flashlight faded as it cooled and I put it into my pocket, simultaneously pushing back against the cold cement wall in an attempt to stand. I managed to get up on my feet, well, foot, and found that I couldn't stand to put any pressure on my injured knee. I limped to the corner, humming to myself, trying to break the deafening silence. I called for Steve, as loud as I could manage, but heard no response. He was probably in the back of the car, still hunting for the rope. There had to be a ladder or something, somewhere.
I continued to hum and my heartbeat, which had been beating almost out of my chest, slowed to a manageable rate. I moved along the cement wall, keeping my whole body against it and the weight off of my injured knee. I had traveled what I guessed to be about ten feet when my head made contact with something in front of me. I tumbled to the ground. My concussion must have amplified the pain, because it was blinding. I reached both hands to my forehead when I felt something warm and wet with my fingers. I searched for a cut anywhere on my forehead, but couldn’t find one. I desperately searched for my flashlight as I sat up and tried to get back against the wall.
I grabbed the light in my right hand, bracing against the wall with the other. I turned it on and pointed it into the darkness where I was just lying. The floor was wet, but the dirt had muddled the color of whatever the liquid was. I tried to get my eyes to focus on the puddle, tried to convince myself that it was my blood when I saw another drop fall into the puddle.
Words lack the ability to describe the way I felt when I heard the "drip" noise again, and saw yet another tiny ball of liquid fall into the puddle. I think I knew, even then, exactly what the source was, but I was endlessly trying to convince myself that I was wrong. I lifted the flashlight up and pointed it at the source of the liquid. What stared back at me was a pipe that protruded at least a foot out from the cement wall. The metal was rusted and cracked; little bits of the liquid began to seep from them. At the end of the pipe was a simple showerhead, aimed down towards the ground.
You know that feeling when your stomach drops? In this case, I think mine literally did, because I vomited immediately. It got all over my shoe, but that wasn't the least bit important at the time. I ignored the pain in my knee and shuffled along the wall as fast as I possibly could. I heard noises, but I can't be sure if it was just the sounds of my own movement or something around me. I managed to duck under the next showerhead. This one was higher up on the wall, and seemed to be leaking the same liquid that the other one was. I felt like I was moving along something infinite. Every now and then I would have to duck or move under another metal bar, another showerhead. They began to pour more profusely, but the liquid was too thick to come out easily.
The room began to smell. I remembered immediately the way that Mr. Mays had described it. I grabbed my shirt and put it over my nose, trucking onward, but it didn't stop the smell for an instant. It smelled like vomit; it smelled like shit; it smelled like burnt hair; it smelled like rot.
I was still moving against the wall when I fell into some sort of outlet. I hit the dirt ground hard, adrenaline coursing through my veins; the pain still managed to break through, though. My flashlight was still in my hand; I aimed it and examined my surroundings. Sitting in front of me was a doorway. There was a door there, though it looked aged now. It had a nice little design on it, a doorknob, and a knocker that looked like a snarling demon. Red paint was peeling from it, flaking off and falling to the ground in front of me. I clumsily rose and busted through the door, narrowly missing a piece of hanging sheet metal in front of me. I was crawling now; there was no way that I could run. The walls and ceiling were lined with metal, the kind that you would see on the roof of a farm. Large pieces of wood seemed to brace the sheets, holding this makeshift tunnel together. I couldn't risk sliding against that and possibly cutting myself on the metal, or hitting the wood and causing a cave-in. So I crawled.
I pulled myself for what felt like miles, running into walls every now and then because the path seemed to curve like a snake. I had no idea where I was in relation to the hole that I had fallen through, but I told myself that there was an exit at the end of this. Had I not been crawling, I would have surely hurt myself far worse. There were parts of the tunnel in which the ceiling dipped down to maybe three feet above the ground. It hadn't caved in, because the ceiling still lined it. Someone had built it like this. This, again, is in hindsight. I didn't care at the time. I kept telling myself there was nothing behind me, but I swore that I heard feet scraping only a few inches behind my own.
My jeans would brush against my legs every now and then, making it feel like someone was touching me, and even now, I still can't completely convince myself that someone wasn't. I crawled and crawled until I reached an upslope. With joy I looked ahead of me; there was a cellar door. The door was made of wood; I knew this because I could see light through them. I couldn't be sure, but I thought it might have been the light from the car's headlights. Besides all of that, I was just so immensely happy to find an exit.
I crawled all the way to the door and threw my shoulder into it. It budged, but didn't open. I began to scream, but I my throat seared with pain. The most I could manage was a harsh crying noise; it sounded like a dying animal. I collapsed in exhaustion and pain, my eyes staring up at the slits of light before me. I was so close to being out of here; I could taste it.
It was in that moment of silent defeat that I heard a noise that was, without question, something moving in the tunnel. It sounded like something was being dragged across the floor. It would move, pause for a second, and then move again. I had nothing left in my stomach to throw up, but I began to gag. I gathered myself slightly and tried to steady my hand enough to focus the flashlight into the tunnel.
What I saw, I can still not rationalize. I know what I saw, but I cannot convince myself that it was actually there. I can't stop telling myself that I was hallucinating. I saw a child in a dirty sleeping gown. The gown was stained with something dark and brown, with occasional splashes of a deep red. The child was extremely frail, like the pictures that people might see of a holocaust victim. I could only make out one eye, brightly reflecting the light of my flashlight. In between huge tufts of long, dirty hair. It reached down beyond the fingertips of the child, which were caked with dirt. The boy, or girl, I'm not entirely sure which, moved towards me with difficulty. It wasn't breathing hard, but it seemed that every movement of every muscle took every ounce of strength the child had. The thing that froze me, though, was the eye. It was only visible because it was reflecting my flashlight, but even in that glint, I could feel anger, or deep hatred, or something like it. This is the point in which the English language really lacks the right words to explain the situation. I could tell that this child meant me harm. Whether it was a hallucination or not, the thing was getting closer. I started to cry. It was getting closer and closer when I heard a voice from behind me. "Hey, Jack," whispered the voice. It was Steve, I was certain.
I tried to talk back, fully intending to say, "Open this up and get me out right now." However, given my current state, I am sure it just sounded like garbled nonsense. I clawed at the door, pushing against it with everything that I had and finally breaking eye contact with the child. As I did this, the flashlight rolled down the slope, coming to rest somewhere near the child's feet.
"What do you see?" the voice asked.
"What are you talking about?" I closed my eyes.
I remember hearing a reply along the lines of "Just look at it. Tell me what you see," but my own screams of frustration drowned it out.
I was mumbling like a maniac when the voice told me, calmly, "Rest for a second, I'll get it." The statement took a second to settle in, at which point I closed my eyes tight.
"Steve, just do it please. Please, just get it open please," I whimpered. "Just get me out of here." My voice was beginning to get louder. "Steve, god dammit, open the fucking wooden door." I opened my eyes for a split second to see nothing but black hair, dangling in front of my face, a small glint of light hidden in the mess of tangles. I slammed my eyes shut and screamed with every ounce of energy I had, "Open the fucking do-" The door behind me gave way, and I fell onto the dirt, taking in a breath of fresh air. My eyes were still closed, but the first thing that I did was scramble to find the cellar door and close it. Once I had done that, I took a deep breath and opened my eyes.
I saw the barn in front of me, illuminated by the headlights of the car. My head was pulsing with pain. I was covered in dirt and liquids that I didn't even care to know the origin of. My knee was, at the very least, dislocated. But despite all of that, I was out of the tunnel. I took a deep breath, buried my head in my hands, and said "Steve, why didn't you just fucking open the door?"
I waited for a response, but none came. "Steve, seriously," I began, "I was fucking clawing, screaming for my life," I said as I looked behind me. My stomach must have been on the verge of falling out of me at this point, because it shifted again. The only thing behind me was the large mass of bushes that I had seen while examining the perimeter or the building. I was angry. "Steve, this is not the fucking time. Come out of the fucking bushes." I was getting ready to stand up when I heard a yell from the front of the building.
A flashlight bobbed up and down in the semi-darkness. Steve was running into the open door of the structure, yelling my name and telling me not to worry. I must have lost consciousness at that point. When I woke up, Steve was standing over me, desperately trying to wake me up. His words were almost incoherent, at least to my ears.
He helped me to my feet and began to walk me to the car. As we walked away, I saw my flashlight sitting just outside the cellar door, the light was fading.
Steve brought me back to the car and then drove me to the nearest hospital. I fell asleep, but he told me that he drove around for an hour before he found a main road. I don't think I ever told him the whole story. I believe he thinks that I was just injured from the fall. He never really asked about it, and we didn't stay in contact for much longer. It's not like we deliberately parted ways, we just sort of stopped hanging out after that trip and went our separate ways.
I have never been able to fully understand what happened that night. There are many things that I can explain away as being hallucinations, but there are still many things that don't make sense. The showerheads were there and they were leaking something. The door was real, the tunnel was real. Most everything else can be semi-rationalized if I can convince myself that I had a very bad concussion, a very, very bad concussion. But the one thing that I couldn't have imagined was that cellar door was locked, and then it suddenly wasn't.
I am still as skeptical as I have ever been, but I believe in what happened to me at The Showers. I'm not a hermit or a social retard because of this. I drink a lot, but I am still functional. But, I will never return to Nebraska; no one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. I don't watch horror movies either; there is absolutely nothing entertaining about being so desperately scared. That's it, really. There is no typical ending for my story. I was changed by my experience, yeah. But, there is no way to change anything about it or "fight back" against it. I can't even convince myself that I wasn't just seeing things. Believe me; I've been trying for years.
Prior to this, there was really no way to find any information on The Showers. The legend didn't extend outside the classroom of Mr. Mays. No one told stories like this to keep children away from a certain place or to scare them; it just wasn't known. I guess that's really the point of this whole story. I want people to know, first hand, what this place is like. Maybe it is a drunk's rationale, or the kid inside me wanting to spread these kinds of stories again. I don't know; I don't care. But, it's out there now, for people to mold and warp to their needs. Most importantly, it's finally out of my head.
It's getting late and I'm getting another drink. Cheers.