© 2018 by Tom Sparough
Into the Light
It is true that I am the youngest branch manager at Your Trust Savings and Loan. This was not an honor. It was a set up for failure.
Perhaps they promoted me to branch manager simply because I wasn’t paying attention. Stories of unexplained open drawers meant nothing to me.
Our savings and loan has six locations. My branch is the oldest, but smallest. I have two employees. Three, if I count the janitorial service.
After I became manager, I did notice something strange with the curtains one day. They were swaying like they were being blown by the wind. I remember being puzzled as it occurred to me that the window was permanently locked. I looked around and noticed that there was no air conditioning vent in the area.
Standing next to the curtain, watching it billow in and out, I wondered what could be doing this. There didn’t seem to be any airflow around it. I brought my hand to the curtain and held it.
The curtain stopped moving for a moment. Then I felt a tremendous tug as the whole curtain shot upward, ripping it from my hand. I took a step backwards and nearly fell down. The curtain began to once again gently flow back and forth.
About a week later, just after I had locked all the doors at closing, I came into my office and noticed that every drawer in my desk had been opened. I was alone. I had just been in my office. How could the drawers have been opened?
I walked through the office and checked behind the counter. I tugged on the back door. I saw nothing unusual, but then I spotted the two front doors, which I had just locked, were now wide open.
Although they were designed to always swing shut, the doors were staying open. I walked over to them and closed them. Pulling out my keys, I relocked them. I double-checked to make sure they were indeed locked.
I didn’t call the police. What could I say? “I locked the doors and then they were open. The drawers in my desk were pulled out.”
That night cleaning up after my dinner I had an epiphany. The stories were true. There was a ghost at my branch.
The fact that one of the previous branch managers had been locked in the vault and died, up until this point had seemed an unfortunate accident.
Then I remembered another branch manager had broken his arm and ankle on a nasty fall down the steps into the basement. He was not merely clumsy.
I was the manager of a haunted savings and loan. My stomach churned. I hadn’t learned about this in business school.
The bank was quiet for a week. Just as my hopes were up one afternoon, I heard a noise coming from my office. It was a metallic sound, like a rolling metal dish. I went into the office and found my coat rack rolling on the middle of the floor.
“That’s my ghost,” I said and went back to my business.
Another quiet week went by and then at closing time we were having trouble reconciling accounts. One stack of bills was $20 short. My teller rechecked one of the other stacks that had already been double checked, but found it to be $20 over. So we put the $20 with the short stack and double-checked that it was right, but it was now $20 over.
We rechecked the other stack and it was $20 under. So once again we made the adjustment. My teller left. Just after she was gone, I saw, and this is true, I really saw it happen, one of the $20 bills was sliding across the counter, going from one stack to the other.
Then those two stacks, each with $500 in them began to spread out on the counter. The bills began to rise up into the air and then fall down onto the counter. I lurched at the falling bills and stuffed them into a bag. I put the bag into one of the locked drawers, and got out of that place.
I was shivering. After I started up my car, I had trouble putting it into gear. My nerves were shot. I was crying. I was worried that this ghost was in the car with me.
I managed to get home. That Friday night I drifted in and out of a restless, fearful sleep. On Saturday I gradually relaxed. I had been doing some reading on ghosts, and I increased my research and a plan formed in my mind. I was going to need to go into the office basement.
Sunday afternoon I opened up the back door and went into my branch. The building was 115 years old. How many stories were there about the very threshold I was walking through?
I opened the door to the basement where we kept our archives. I walked down the wooden stairs confident I was doing the right thing.
Yet, I was overcome with the eerie feeling that I was now in the very place that my ghost lurked. I pulled out the big book of newspaper clippings and began to look through them. This was a book that contained every article that mentioned our branch in the first 100 years of its existence.
I was searching for information about someone who had died at our bank, someone who was now haunting our branch.
After two hours of searching, I shivered when I read the following story:
“Robert Cole was found frozen to death yesterday morning. His body was found in the alley behind the savings and loan.
“It was an ironic death for the once prosperous farmer to die on the back steps of the bank. Years ago he had claimed to have brought in more $3,900 on the day of the infamous bank run, the day that the savings and loan managed to stay open, while the other banks in town went bankrupt.
“Cole had said that he had given his money to the manager Sven Johanson, who died from a heart attack that very night. According to Cole, his money was the reason Johanson was able to keep the bank open. Cole said that because he and Johanson were friends, and because of the turmoil that day, he never got a receipt.
“When the next branch manager refused to believe Cole’s story, Cole lost his farm in bankruptcy. Since then, he had been homeless. Cole will be buried in the paupers’ field.”
I may not be the smartest branch manager, but I did see the light here.
My mouth was dry as I finished reading this story. I felt his presence. I wanted to help him. I wanted to release and apologize to Robert Cole. I knew from my research that this was a reason why people became ghosts. They had unfinished business.
As a manager, I could take care of this.
“Mr. Cole,” I said to the empty basement, “I know you are here. You scare me. You have frightened me. But I now believe you are the one who has been wronged.“
I felt a cool sensation cross my hand, then wrap around my throat. I put my hand to my throat. I could feel nothing but the coolness.
“Mr. Cole, please accept my apology on behalf of all the past managers who have violated your trust.”
My throat. The coldness. My throat was being squeezed. I could scarcely talk. I could scarcely breathe.
“Please accept this apology, and I will take this story, and I will get a plaque, and I will put the story on the plaque. There will be a heading that says…”
I was losing consciousness. No breath.
“The heading will say,” I muttered, “The True Story of the Man who Saved our Branch.”
I fell to the floor. I couldn’t talk, but I thought, “I will do this. I will honor you. Our business is done. You may go. You must go. Leave me. Visiting hours are over.”
The light began to flicker. It rose in intensity.
I saw a figure of mist move away from me and immediately I could breathe again.
I gasped for air. “I promise not to forget you. This branch manager will honor you. I thank you.”
The misty figure was directly under the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The mist was going upwards to the bulb. The light pulsed brighter and brighter. I could no longer look at it.
There was an explosion. BOOM. The light disappeared. I was engulfed in dark. I couldn’t see a thing, and in that blindness, I became aware of the silence of the room. There was a calm that came over me. I lay on the ground for a moment taking it all in and then made my way up the stairs and out of the basement.
I walked into the light of my branch office. That very Sunday night, I ordered the plaque to honor Mr. Cole.
Implement best practices of others.
When we come across a problem that we haven’t experienced, we can try to handle it all on our own, but it is wise to find out what others have done to rectify similar situations. We do well to learn from those who have come before us.
What were the strategies this young manager used to correct his problem?
When have you addressed a problem successfully by following in another’s footsteps?