Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Long Dark Night of the Sole

I sleep soundly. In fact, I’ve slept through a great number of loud and calamitous events. Archimedes is credited with saying something along the lines of “give me a long enough lever and a firm place upon which to stand, and I can move the earth.” Myself, I’m more of a “give me a decent pillow, a science channel marathon about the pyramids or UFOs and a flat place to stretch out and I can lose an afternoon” kind of guy.

All of which makes what I’m about to tell you just that much more troubling. For recently, my sleep was interrupted. Not just once but multiple times. In one evening. Let me explain.

Last week, I had the good fortune of heading south. Like a sloth-afflicted sparrow, I boarded an Alaska Airlines flight – bound for San Diego. As is my habit, I was heading for a three day conference on securities law, held every January at the Hotel Del Coronado, on Coronado Island.

The hotel is a hauntingly beautiful old structure, perched right on the edge of the Pacific. And though my conference keeps me in a conference room all day for each of the three days, there is always some time to spend poking around on the beach before or after the sessions. I like the beach. You can find sand dollars if you’re lucky. And if you’re really lucky you won’t step in the ick that seems to wash ashore from Tijuana just across the border.

Well, this year, I had no time for the beach. When not in class, I was on a mission. Mrs. TSMK had sent me with specific instructions. And, unlike her mission of choice the last time she accompanied me on this trip, my mission did not involve long hours spent observing the nearby Navy seals playing shirts versus skins football on the beach.

No, this mission was more important. I was going ghost hunting. For in my carry-on bag I had brought all the tools of the trade. A K-II device to measure electromagnetic fields. A fancy thermometer to help me identify hot or cold spots. And, of course, a digital voice recorder to help me capture any electronic voice phenomena.

[Note: if you decide to fly out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport carrying the foregoing items in your carry-on bag, be prepared to have an interesting conversation with the TSA agents at the security checkpoint.]

When I checked in to the Hotel, I asked to be placed in one of the haunted parts of the hotel. The desk clerk narrowed her eyes slightly, and after a few keystrokes, told me I would be staying in the western side of the oldest part of the Hotel, on the third floor.

I trudged up to my room. I wanted to hunt for ghosts immediately. Unfortunately, I’d been at work from early morning to midday, and had then been traveling for several hours. Unless my paranormal prey was holding a hoagie, I wasn’t going to be satisfied. I needed food.

[Note: As far as I could discern, the pizza place was not haunted.]
I made my way out of the Hotel, onto the main street. After a brief walk, I found my objective: pizza. I placed my order – a small pizza with bacon, onion and mushrooms – and telephoned home to learn the news of the day. Then, while waiting for my pizza, I got out my equipment and did a bit of looking around.

I returned to the hotel, pizza box in hand. After eating a slice or two too many, and working on a sock for Mrs. TSMK, I collapsed in a heap on the bed.

The sock is an interesting pattern – and by interesting I mean maddening. It is a toe-up design, and every fourth row has a twisted rib, requiring you to cable (forward or back – depending on the row) every other stitch. I’m doing it on two size 1 circular needles.  On every fourth row,  I've got a cable needle in the mix as well.  This way lies madness.

I woke the next morning, mouth tasting of garlic from the night before. Showered, dressed and properly caffeinated, I dutifully attended the conference.

[Note: As far as I could discern, the conference room itself was not haunted – although there were some truly disturbing sounds coming out of one of the stalls in the mens’ room during one of the breaks in the program. I chose not to try to debunk those sounds.]

After finishing my classes for the day, and a fair amount of work I’d brought along from the office, I set about investigating my room. I found no unusually high electromagnetic fields. I searched in vain for inexplicable temperature anomalies. I heard no unusual noises.

Slightly discouraged, I dressed for bed. I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth. The light clicked on as I entered – part of the Hotel’s “green” initiative – like not washing the towels every day unless requested. I washed my face, left the bathroom, and settled down to find something on the television. Something that would keep my mind off the fact that I was trying to knit tiny cables with fat fingers. After working for about an hour, I set the sleep timer on the television, turned out the light, and proceeded to drift off while listening to the history channel interspersed with ads for what I understand is a revolution in home fitness – the Shake Weight.

I awoke at just after 1:00 a.m. The television was off but the room was illuminated. Confused, I sat up to have a look around. The bathroom light was on. I rolled out of bed, convinced I’d forgotten to turn it off. I stumbled to the bathroom and pressed the button to turn it off. With the room now properly dark, I got back under the covers.

I awoke again at just after 1:45. The light was back on. Again I trudged to the bathroom to turn off the light. Again, I climbed back under the covers.

I awoke again just before 3:00. The light was back on. I left it on, and tried to sleep.

At 6:30, my alarm went off. The light was off in the bathroom. I stood near the bathroom door. I jumped up and down on the creaky floors, trying to get the door to sway. I looked for air vents in or near the bathroom that might cause the door to move or the shower curtain to flutter. I could find nothing. Try as I might, I could not debunk my experience. I could not account for the behavior of the light.

Excited about my encounter with the inexplicable, I called Mrs. TSMK. Halfway through the conversation I realized that she would never again accompany me to this conference – at least not if we stayed in the same Hotel.

I dressed and rushed downstairs for the conference. The day flew by, and soon I was back in my room. I had made a plan. This night, I would set my digital voice recorder to record any noises that might happen during the night. I was so excited I could barely sleep. But sleep eventually came after innumerable rows of that blasted sock – which was finally nearing completion.

The night passed without incident. I slept soundly, disturbed only briefly by the sound of what I can must assume were two consenting adults in the next room. I woke in the morning, turned off the voice recorder, dressed, packed my belongings, checked out of my room, and attended the last day's sessions at the conference.

When I arrived back home, I check over the voice recorder.  I was hopeful that the recorder would have picked up something, anything, that might explain the strange events of the prior night.  But what I found made my blood run cold.

After reviewing the audio footage, and filtering out some of the background noise, I found I had captured three distinct messages.  Messages, it would seem, from beyond.  The first is simply mean spirited. 

The second was confusing and, it would seem, irrelevant. 

The third, well, it would prove prophetic.

I finished binding off the cuff of the sock, and fearfully approached Mrs. TSMK.  But the voices from beyond were right.  The gusset is too narrow.  The sock doesn't fit.

Damned spooky if you ask me. 



  1. I am with you on tiny cables (well cables of any size) = madness. Loved the recount of the hotel. :) very funny.