The Boiler Room Ghost

In the early part of the 20th century, the coal-fired boilers of the old county courthouse were replaced with new oil-fired boilers.  While the new boilers eliminated the back-breaking task of shoveling tons of coal, they did require a worker to light them by hand every morning.  For years, the boilers operated without a problem, except for that fateful Wednesday morning in 1942.

On that chilly morning, the janitor arrived for work and set about his chores just as he’d done for the previous five years.  Everything seemed perfectly normal as he walked into the boiler room.  He probably anticipated the comforting warmth the furnace would soon send through the cold, dank building.  All sense of normalcy vanished in an instant as he reached out to light the boiler at 7:10 am.  With a thunderous boom, the boiler backfired, belching flames and engulfing the helpless janitor in a deadly inferno.

A city disposal truck driver was passing the courthouse when he saw the flash and heard the explosion.  Jumping from his truck, he ran to the boiler room door where he found the janitor caught in the doorway with his clothes on fire.  The driver dragged the janitor from the building and began tearing off his burning clothing.  At the same time, a woman dashed from her apartment across the street with a blanket to help smother the flames.

The janitor was rushed to the county hospital with massive burns over his entire body.  He stubbornly clung to life for several hours, but finally succumbed to his injuries and died at 2:15 in the afternoon.

The janitor’s spirit apparently remains in the basement of the old courthouse, desperately seeking water to extinguish the flames and repeatedly reliving the final agonizing moments of his mortal life.  Many people over the years have reported clouds of smoke, clanking, moaning, and agonizing screams of pain in the basement near the location where the boiler once stood.

A particularly chilling tale of the janitor’s ghost involves a facilities foreman who worked at the old courthouse (now a museum) a number of years ago.  As the story goes, the man was hired shortly after moving to town and scoffed when told stories of the janitor’s apparition by his coworkers.  To prove his mettle and fearlessness, the man often volunteered to work alone in the building – staying late and arriving early.  Of course, he surely didn’t mind the overtime he collected as well.

All this changed one morning.  The man arrived early and set about preparing the building for the day.  Working near the old boiler room, he became aware of a muffled sound nearby.  He ignored it at first, but it became louder.  As the sound increase, he finally found it impossible to ignore and looked towards the location of the sound.  He was startled to see a white mist.  It dawned on the man that the sound was similar to approaching footsteps.  He also noticed the temperature in the room felt as if it was rapidly increasing.

As the man watched in now frightened disbelief, the mist solidified into the smoldering figure of the long-dead janitor.  The apparition screamed and slowly sank to the floor.  It glowed as if on fire and convulsed in apparent excruciating pain while its arms flailed seeming to search in vain for a water bucket to extinguish the phantom flames.  Finally, the body turned to a pile of ashes and with one last horrifying groan, disappeared.  The time was 7:10 am.  The man let out a blood curdling scream heard three blocks away, ran from the courthouse, packed his bags, and was never seen in town again.

Yet, to this day, the staff maintains that the old janitor continues to haunt the basement and most avoid ever going down there alone.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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