Back in my struggling student college days, I earned money to get by working as a building reclamation assistant; which basically meant they paid me to go clean up a bunch of empty, abandoned houses and warehouses. Before they could rip up the floors or put up new wallpaper, someone had to go in pick up all the garbage and left over years of neglect. Most of the time, I had a big group of guys with me so that it wouldn’t take too long to clear everything out, but every now and then I’d end up having to do it with just one other guy. That was the case the time we heard something that I struggle to even really explain, but I will try.
This guy who I hadn’t really ever been on jobs with and I were assigned to go to this old run down textiles plant in one of the local small farm towns near the city. He didn’t speak a whole lot of English, so we never really interacted that much other than with the basic formalities that come with being on a job with a person. We picked sections of the building and went about our business. I would bring along a CD player (remember those?) and headphones so that I could just blast some music and ignore the fact that I was literally digging through some of the nastiest stuff you could ever imagine. I’d go into my own little world and the time would fly by a lot quicker.
Things were pretty normal on that job, and by day three or four I figured that the new guy and I wouldn’t have too much left to do well before our expected end date; which meant that we would be able to just kind of relax for the last day and enjoy getting paid for sitting around. That was always the ideal situation when it came to a job like that; trust me on that if you’ve never worked hard labor before. And I was right; we would end up having an easy time of things. So we just hung out inside the building, and did just some minor cleaning and sweeping. We were talking about something menial and random when we heard something completely unexpected from one of the other rooms deeper into the building.
It was an awful, deep scream that caused the blood to rush from my face and the other guy to nearly run out the door towards the van. As soon as it was over, which felt like forever, my mind started shifting towards logical explanations for what we first heard. Was it an animal in pain? Was it some kind of machinery accidently starting up? Or was it something even worse and possibly dangerous? I knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t normal.
I was just about to say to my partner that we should go check it out when not two words into my sentence, that awful sound rang out again. And then again right after that. The other guy was already halfway to the van when I decided that I should go see what was causing the sound. I’d feel awful about myself just leaving them to die if someone was really hurt or in a bad situation. So I tried to raise as much courage as I could and started to slowly walk back towards the direction the sounds were coming from. It seemed like with every step closer I took, the shrieking was growing louder and for longer periods of time. It’s as if whoever or whatever it was didn’t want me coming to see it. But I went on anyway until finally coming to the very back room of the building; the one that the other had swept up and cleaned out a few days prior.
When I turned the corner and looked into the doorway the deafening sounds stopped completely. It was if it had never happened at all, other than the ringing in my ears. The room was empty and otherwise bland and exactly what you’d expect it to look like. I waited a few moments before finally walking into the room and took a look around. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary or unusual which almost made things even more unsettling. I made a quick check of the room and turned to make a quick exit. That’s when the sound erupted again from behind me which caused me to spin around on my heels instead of running out of the room. The sound was emanating from a drain pipe in the middle of the room. It was the worst sound I had ever heard and the next thing I remember I was halfway back to the front of building.
We didn’t say a word on the drive back to the garage, and never worked together again because he quit the very next day. I had no logical explanation for the sounds coming from that rusty old pipe, but it eventually went to the back of my mind and I forgot about. But a year or so later, I was reading the local newspaper and noticed a story about that building. Apparently, the new owners (the one’s that hired us to clean it up) had decided to destroy it and build over the lot. But upon doing so, they discovered a walled off room underground that had bones from at least six different people. The police suspected that it was a dumping ground for the local mob back in the early days of organized crime in the area. I couldn’t help but wonder if that was who I heard screaming up through that pipe.