My husband was the cremation artist at a very stately funeral home just across the river from downtown. The place had three levels and the spiraling staircase that led to the basement was hidden behind a painted door. Once the door was opened, all of us employees would take a deep breath and make our way down the stairs. Slowly.
A little boy lived in that basement. He was dressed in a blue suit that almost looked vintage, like from the ’30s. His eyes were bright, but they didn’t move. He wore a jaunty little cap and almost looked like he was transparent. His head was cocked to the side, tilting his jaunty little cap. He would just wait at the bottom of the stairs to see who was heading down. And he was a ghost.
Only three people I knew claimed to have seen him. They all gave the same description and equally shared a fear of the basement. One of them was my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. He spent all his working hours in that basement, unless he was enjoying noodle bowls with all of us in the break room.
I worked in that funeral home, too. And the possibility of seeing that little boy scared the hell out of me. I wanted to see him, but I really didn’t. Every time I needed to head downstairs to the vault room under the stairs where all the records were kept, I would pause at the door and get ready. Quickly I would whip the door open and take my first step. I would stare at the green carpet under my high heels, all the while talking to the little boy, telling him that I was coming down and please do not scare me. I was coming down and didn’t want to bug him, I just needed to get an old file or something that could wait if he was poised to freak me out.
As I made my way to the curve at the bottom of the stairs I was ready to see him. But not really. I was so curious yet so relieved when he didn’t appear. I spent all my time downstairs talking aloud to the little guy, telling him that he was welcome to show himself to me if he felt he needed to but to please, please not make any sudden moves. Or tap me on the shoulder when I was in the prep room. Or appear in a mirror.
We guessed that the ghost boy was brought into the parlor alive but died in-house, maybe before embalming was really a sure-fire thing. Maybe the undertaker thought he was dead but he really wasn’t. Being placed in the mortuary refrigerator did him in. And after escaping in phantom form he was set free to roam the corridors of the basement, which was a full footprint of the building. My husband spent many hours in the darkened basement cremating people and constantly looking behind his back.