when work gets spooky

Today’s episode of the podcast is a special Halloween episode, filled with stories of people’s spooky experiences at work — we’ve got voices when no one is there, a creepily laughing doll, a fired guy’s ghostly revenge, and much more. If you’re ready to be creeped out by those stories, you can listen here:

Or, if you prefer, here’s the transcript.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Amber Rose*

    I have the best spooky doll story, but it’s not work related. The only work related doll in my life was a Bratz doll that was confiscated from one coworker’s kid and kept popping up around the office in weird places and poses for a while. Less spooky, more spoopy.

    There’s just something inherently ominous about kids’ toys for some reason.

    1. frostipaws*

      I hope we can have an off topic day post where we can discuss living with kitties. I’d love to know how Alison and others manage to have nice furniture and knickknacks around the house. My clowder thinks they’re Conan the Destroyer. That gargoyle would have fallen to his death at my house. =(

      Eve is totally adorable!

      1. Steve*

        A big big part of ‘enthusiasm for destruction’ is fundamental personality. In other words, it’s something to figure out when you are looking to get a cat, and if you have a destructive cat then do your best to not have it stress you out overly much.

        For more practical solutions, I would suggest My Cat From Hell episodes, as they occasionally deal with destructive kitties. If you can’t find them (I look on Youtube) then it depends in part on the reason. Boredom can be addressed with structured playtime (ideally with a wand toy or laser pointer) and feeding a meal shortly before bed (like humans, food often makes cats sleepy), scratching of furniture is often related to flimsy scratch pads (can also be addressed with nail trims), and anxiety can be helped with Feliway.

      2. Cassandra Lease*

        “How…others manage to have nice furniture and knickknacks around the house”


        I’ve given up on REALLY nice furniture (I love my late mother but we had cats when she bought the dining set I now own, I have cats now, and I have no idea why she thought white, easily claw-able upholstery was a good idea), the couch actually has a plastic cover (which one of the cats sometimes climbs UNDER to hide, she’s knocked over a cushion to make herself a little cave…), and anything I don’t want the cats getting up goes on a high shelf, a table or counter, or gets put in a cabinet where they can’t get at it. The cats sometimes get on the dining or coffee tables but avoid most other tables/shelves.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I was LOVE a post where we can talk about living with cats. I’ve got 11 and my house is like a circus sometimes. Well, most of the time. With a trail of death leading to my back door (one cat goes outside) and another trail of cat puke leading out the front.

  2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

    I swear up and down that my old office was haunted. It was a converted apartment building that was about 70-80 years old. I’d come in early and hear someone sitting in the cube across from me shifting in their seat, moving the mouse, etc.. I kept thinking it was my co-worker, so I’d say, “Morning, Co-worker” and get no reply. Peek around the cube and of course the desk was empty. The folks in the 2 rooms next to mine said the same thing happened to them. I decided to just start saying, “Morning, Ghost, how are you today?” because I felt kind of bad for anyone who had their afterlife in our office and stuck behind a computer.

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I did the same thing living in an allegedly haunted dorm in college! I figured the ghost, if it existed, was probably bored and lonely!

  3. T*

    This podcast was great. I worked at an office/warehouse one summer as a teenager, and everyone in the warehouse avoided one room because a worker had passed away at work from a heart attack. They said the night manager would find the door to the room open after he had closed it, and items moved (papers all over the floor, drawers left open) when he was the only person there.

  4. HailRobonia*

    In college I worked in the library, and one time I had to go to the sub-basement to get some office supplies. The sub-basement looked like it was right out of the set of some Haunted Library movie: a maze of shelves, boxes, book storage, poor lighting, etc.

    I thought I was alone down there through a space in the shelves I saw a stern older man just sort of glaring at me. I yelped and then apologized “sorry, I thought I was alone, you startled me.” He didn’t say anything, he just stared at me angrily.

    After what felt like forever, I suddenly realized it was a bust/statue of some historical figure.

      1. HailRobonia*

        More library creepiness: on the floor that had the art books collection, there was a semi-abstract, somewhat creepy sculpture of a person sitting on a chair in the corner. One of my duties was to sit at the art collection reception desk, and at least once a week I would hear a yelp from someone turning the corner and encountering what I later dubbed “the Art Attack Ghoul.” I would even see someone going down that aisle and count to myself…. three, two, one… “EEEK!”

  5. Kyrielle*

    We have been hearing for a while now a low, haunting tone at intervals. At first I thought it was a set sound on someone’s computer, but nope. We suspect the HVAC system is the real cause, but it’s been dubbed the “office ghost” anyway.

    1. Nita*

      My office has an acoustics division. Sometimes they test their equipment in one of the conference rooms. They did send a heads-up email about it the first time they ran the test, but not after that. Anyone who didn’t see the first message is bound to be creeped out – it’s a low, pulsing sound that carries through the whole floor. Kind of sounds like one of those new police sirens in NYC, but clearly not a siren.

    2. Blue Anne*

      When I was a kid, we lived near the Princeton Battlefield park, and our house had a noisy HVAC system. There would be whining and groaning through the whole house when the heat came on at night. Mom would just say “Oh, there’s the ghost of General Mercer!”

      1. HailRobonia*

        When I was a little kid, one of the houses we lived in had a noisy heating system that made weird clanking/pinging noises. I was terrified, but luckily my mom assuaged my fears by explaining how heating systems work: trained mice carry buckets of hot water through the pipes to pour into the radiators, and the ping noises were the sound of the empty buckets banging on the pipes.

  6. TakingTheFifth*

    More cute kitty pictures, please! One of my little furballs just peed on my purse & a pair of new shoes. Yours look positively angelic.

  7. feministbookworm*

    Re: costumes and interviews, a former coworker of mine loved to tell the story of the time at a former job of his when he wore full drag for Halloween and then had to interview candidates for an open public relations/media position. I’m not sure if this was purposeful on his part, but it ended up giving them useful information about candidates for a position that required thinking on your feet and not getting thrown off your game by surprises. It probably also gave candidates who were looking for it an indication of the office’s queer-friendliness, though I can also imagine the worry/horror some HR folks would probably feel about the situation…

    1. CoffeeOnMyMind*

      My team had an interview scheduled for Halloween but the HM gave the candidate a heads up that people might be in costume, so at least it wasn’t a surprise (hopefully) if any interviewers were dressed up.

  8. Taryn*

    No way! I was the last caller. Thanks for featuring me, Allison! Such a fun episode.

    I’m wondering if anyone in the know will know what theme park I was in

    1. motherofdragons*

      I totally empathize with you, I would’ve been scared out of my wits! But all the same, your story gave me a good chuckle :)

  9. I Love Thrawn*

    Somewhere here in a past Halloween archives is my fav haunted work place story. Someone was staying late, past ten, to finish a task with a major deadline. The ghost escalated its behavior, with the living employee ignoring it, until it got REALLY mad and … I think grabbed the person’s arm and yelled GET OUT. Which they did. The employee came in the next to a trashed office. They never stayed late again. It was a great story!

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Thank you for linking the story. I know a couple of people who’ll love getting creeped out by that. I also choose to believe the warning was from an entity who didn’t want him to get hurt and the office-trashing was done by someone/thing else.

        Brian, if you’re still around and reading, your story is going to stay with me for a long time.

        1. I Love Thrawn*

          I never even thought about it from this perspective. That actually makes sense but then… there is at least two whatevers in that building. I think the reason this story has stuck with me is because it just resonates so realistically.

    1. anon24*

      That’s my favorite too! I have a similar story. I worked in a building where I and a few other employees admitted to sometimes hearing weird noises, feeling a presence (think a similar feeling to if someone walks up behind you and you don’t hear them but know they are there) and I would often see someone watching me out of the corner of my eye. It was actually not very creepy and most days I felt safe and protected by this presence. When I closed I was the last person out of the building and I would do a loop to make sure the doors were locked, lights were off, equipment properly shut down. As I would make this loop I would turn off the lights behind me, ending with the main hallway when I exited the building. I would often feel the presence behind me in the darkened rooms. One night in winter (so it was very dark) one of my employees decided to be helpful and shut all the lights off on his way out the door. I still had to do my checks but since I had worked there for 7 years I knew the building by heart and decided not to turn the lights back on and use my phone flash light in the few places I needed to see the equipment was shut off.

      Well I think what happened is that whatever I felt in the building thought I had left when the lights turned out. And it was NOT HAPPY that I was still there. One part of the building had no windows and it was pitch black walking through it. I could hear someone behind me and I don’t know how to describe it but I could feel hatred and anger directed at me in the air. Then I heard something swing through the air behind my head. I was terrified. I fled to the front of the building, quickly grabbed my bag, punched out and literally ran out the door. I turned to make sure the door was locked and something banged against the wall just inside the door. I didn’t even look through the window to see what it was or check the lock, I just turned and full on ran to my car. I know it was not a person because my employee cleared the building. My office was next to the only unlocked door and I watched all my employees leave and no one could have gotten in without me seeing.

      After that I never walked around in the dark there.

      1. I Love Thrawn*

        …. and this is why I can’t sleep in the dark! Definitely creepy. Makes me wonder if like thr first story, you had a nice and also a nasty…. whatever.

  10. New Job So Much Better*

    At my old job the building was locked at 4 pm, the cleaning person locked herself in and got to work. She, and others before her, regularly reported hearing footsteps above when cleaning the basement level. But never anyone there.

  11. HailRobonia*

    At my very first office job (a front-desk temp job) I kept hearing a creepy, raspy voice that I couldn’t make out. It occurred every day around the same time, and seemed to be coming from inside my desk.

    After a few weeks I realized it was coming from the computer (which sat under the desk); it had some setting where it would do text-to-voice for system alerts, and the volume was set to what I will officially call “just loud enough to hear and freak you out but not loud enough to locate easily or discern.”

    Also this was in the late 90’s and the computer voice was not very high quality… imagine Marvin (from the Hitchhiker’s Guide series) with a smoking problem.

  12. SheLooksFamiliar*

    At a former job, the toilet in the visitor’s restroom flushed for no reason – no other bathrooms had this problem. Visitors commented on it, and I witnessed it several times. Over the years we had a few plumbers check it out, and no one could find a reason for the unwarranted flushing. We started to joke about having a playful ghost and the flushing happened more frequently.

    We named our ghost John. I’ve heard from former co-workers that he’s still at it.

  13. Elsajeni*

    I had an office haunting experience just this morning — I was at my desk, reading some spooky stories to get the day started, when I started hearing… whispering? Really quiet whispering? I was the first person in to my part of the office, so I’m sitting at the end of a mostly-dark hallway, all the doors around me closed, no one in whisper-hearing range. And yet there is definitely someone whispering. Kind of… rhythmic whispering. Whisper-chanting, although I can’t make out at all what they’re saying.

    Eventually I got up the nerve to go investigate.

    A new student worker was down the hall sorting mail, and whispering the names to herself over and over as she looked for the right inboxes in the unfamiliar mail room.

  14. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

    That story about the hostel freaked me the fork out when I first read it, and it still gives me the creeps!

  15. Phoenix Programmer*

    I attended a residential highschool that was a converted Hospital. One night, around Halloween, I was hanging outside with friends on the porch of the admissions building. It oversaw the lawn and was pretty much intact from the hospital days.

    Out of the corner of my eye I saw a little girl. I whipped my head around to look and all of my friends fell quite. Except one friend who was facing that direction when I saw her. He started chanting in a more and more desperate tone..

    Don’t say it Don’t say IT DONT SAY IT!

    I asked – did anyone else see the little girl?

    He hit me on the shoulder upset. I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY. I DIDNT WANT YOU TO HAVE SEEN HER TOO!

    To this day the rest of our friends thought it was a joke we planned.

  16. Creag an Tuire*

    Eve in this photo: “Don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead. They are fast. Faster than you can believe. Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And Don’t. Blink. Good Luck.”

  17. Dust Bunny*

    We used to have a display in our reading room of vintage nursing uniforms, including some styrofoam heads wearing caps. I came in one day during the winter, when it was still very dark in the morning, put my things at my desk, and turned around to see . . .

    . . . Patience Worth staring at me through the door.


    I thought my heart was going to jump out of my throat.

    I moved the heads and sent out a department-wide email saying, sorry, the former arrangement was simply not going to work.

  18. Bunny Girl*

    I’ve worked in the haunted house industry for about ten years. My original and longest running stint was at a huge haunt. We used to tell the new people not to go through the haunt backwards because it was built on the grounds of an old circus that burnt down and was haunted, and if you went through backwards you would see clown faces in the walls. Obviously a huge lie. I immediately regretted telling the new hires that, because they would all come and sit in my room during breaks because they were too freaked out to be by themselves in a dark room that was meant to freak people out. I never got any time to myself. Totally my fault.

    Oh yeah we would also hide and scare and sneak up on each other for no reason other than boredom.

  19. Girl friday*

    Just wanted to say that I also have a Halloween Kitty that passed away recently. We just loved her; they’re the best kitties

  20. Free Meerkats*

    Not really work, but my home office.

    My office chair is blue fabric, so I put an old t-shirt over the seat to reduce the amount of cat hair I have to remove from it because it’s also a favorite cat snooze. Of course, that just created a new sleeping spot for one cat, inside the sling the hanging down t-shirt made under the chair with her head hanging out the neck hole, but only when I was in there on the chair. When she was about 3 years old, she disappeared on one of her outside jaunts. And she never came back. Sad, but she was our last indoor-outdoor kitty, all ever since have been indoor only.

    Now, I’m a dyed in the wool to the bone cynic and realist, but… A few months later I felt her jump up in the shirt while I was at the desk. I absently reached down to scratch her between the ears, but there wasn’t a cat there. I immediately checked the other cats, and they were in their accustomed napping spots, napping. For another 6 months or so, I’d feel her jump in there, or up on the bed in the night. Then my first wife died and the cat never returned. It’s been over 22 years and I miss my ghost cat.

    1. Sc@rlettNZ*

      I so wished that my wee girl had come back to visit me. I was sure she was going to, but, nope :-(

    2. NYWeasel*

      We have a ghost cat who followed us to two different apartments and our last house. I actually saw the blankets moving around and then felt his very distinctive purr against my leg late one night.

      The night he passed, we got off the phone after telling the vet to end his suffering. About 3 minutes later, our other cat started running around as if he was playing with him. We stopped having ghost cat encounters after the second cat passed away, so I like to think that they were good friends and the ghost cat just wanted to be near his friend!

  21. Spice for this*

    I enjoyed listening to the podcast today and I remembered something that happened at my old office.
    In May of 2007, I started a full-time temp admin job at an office with about 40 employees. The second week I was there one of the employees (John) from another department invited everyone to his home for a company picnic (his backyard was as big as a small park). My husband and I went to the picnic and had a nice time. John passed away from a heart attack 2 days later. Everyone was sad.
    After a couple of months, they hired a new employee (Jane) to take John’s position. Jane started working at the company and I got to know her since we had lunch together. One day Jane told me that she thought we had a ghost at the office. She would often leave files on her desk before she left for the day to be more organized. These files would be moved to a different area of her desk when she arrived the next day. So I told her “that’s probably John’s ghost and he is very friendly, so just leave him alone and let him arrange your work files!”

  22. Steve Thomas*

    Regarding simple costumes, for the last 20 years or so, wear all black. Since I normally wear a tie to work, I add my Darth Vader tie. When someone asks, I tell them I’m Darth Vader’s accountant. They rarely ask me about a costume after that.

    1. Bulbasaur*

      I once wore a jacket and tie (I’m a casual dresser), carried a Bible, and went around asking everyone if they had a moment to talk. Nearly everyone got it immediately.

  23. Aggretsuko*

    I think I want the advice for what happens when technically you can dress up at work but 97% of your office doesn’t. We had four people “dress up” this year (not doing a whole lot, and one guy took his costume off after an hour) so I won the dressup contest. But it’s always a little weird to virtually be the only one who dressed up in the office. You look like The Weirdo even though come on, it should be okay, right?

    My outfit this year was Aggretsuko (if you haven’t heard of this, look it up because I think people here will love it) but my coworkers had no idea who that was. That is probably all for the best under the circumstances, though. Also, when I had the hat off I just looked like another boring office worker. Whee.

    1. A-nony-nony!*

      I doubt people think about it much. I’m in a big office, and the vast majority of people don’t dress up, but those that do aren’t weird. I enjoy seeing other people’s costumes, even if I don’t have the energy to do one myself.

  24. LondonBridges*

    Ooh, I’ve been waiting for this! Not work, but my freshman dorm room was definitely haunted. It was a four-person, two-bedroom suite, with a central common room and two small hallways going to the bedrooms and bathrooms. One of the small halls leading to a bedroom had “Please” stained into the ground and we couldn’t get it off.
    Sometimes you would just wake up and feel a presence late at night. It was never scary, just… something watching over us. My roommates and I named them Chris, because we didn’t know at first whether it was a boy or a girl, so we picked a gender neutral name.
    One night, two roommates had order UberEats, and didn’t say where they were going when they left to get it like we usually did. When they were coming back in the dorm, the outer doors opened by themselves, with no one in the lobby. We decided Chris was just protective of us. Another time, I was going to the basement for a soda, I got in the elevator, went to press the button and it lit up by itself before I touched it. I said, “Thanks Chris,” and the doors closed.
    My roommate actually saw him one morning. She was going out to the bathroom, with all the lights off, and glanced into the common room and saw a tall, dark, masculine shape. That’s when we decided Chris was a man.
    We were drinking one night and had washed a massive wine glass and left it to dry, centered on top of a set of drawers with a dish towel, that we used for drying all of our dishes. Ten minutes later we heard a crash, and when we went to see what had happened the wine glass was smashed on the floor. We decided Chris had had enough and we all went to bed.

  25. Shartheheretic*

    I used to manage an antique mall in a 100+ year old building. We had unexplainable happenings pretty frequently – items being moved during the night, cigar smoke in one section of the store with no one there, footsteps and voices when nobody else was in the store, etc.

    One room was notorious for having a ghost who would touch younger, attractive female customers (normally blondes with long hair). I felt someone touch the back of my neck in that room, and on another occasion both I and another person felt him walk around us and touch our backs while we were talking.

    When a new owner purchased the store, she had security cameras installed. I joked that we would now be able to see what the ghosts were doing at night, but didnt expect it to happen. One morning, I arrived to find the owner’s daughter waiting for me because she wanted me to look at the security footage. She had been working in that room the night before (we were now using it for storage/staging), and she thought she had seen something on the cameras. Sure enough, we had HOURS of footage of orbs slowly going back and forth between clothing racks as well as seemingly going back and forth from that room to the office above it, and hangers moving on their own. This went on for days…and then just stopped once the clothes were moved out.

    About two weeks later, I decided to look at the footage of another room where we had events occur in the past and i had been feeling like “someone” was in that room when I closed at night (and had heard something crashing in that room with nothing actually onthefloor or broken). I watched a light turn on and off by itself numerous times. Figuring it could be a short in wiring or an electrical issue (old building, old cords on vintage lamps), I went upstairs to unplug it to avoid burning down the building. The light that turned on and off was battery operated, and had to be picked up and twisted on the bottom to turn it on.

    I kept copies of both recordings to give to our local paranormal investigators.

  26. Woodswoman*

    I used to work in a national park, where the staff was provided housing in multiple buildings. While I lived elsewhere, several of my co-workers each had bedrooms in one particular old, large house. Several of them told me stories of mysterious sounds ranging from footsteps to the sound of a piano. When all of her housemates were away over a holiday break, one person was so freaked out by what sounded like the feet of people dancing that she came to stay at my place rather than be alone there.

    One day, I was visiting a friend who lived in the house. We were in his bedroom chatting when a painting on his wall spontaneously started moving. It smoothly swung 90 degrees to the right, then 90 degrees to the left, back and forth a few times, and then stopped. I couldn’t believe it, and asked my friend about it. He said he figured a truck had gone by. That was completely wrong. We were in a remote road and we would have heard if a vehicle had gone by. To this day, I can’t explain it.

  27. CoffeeOnMyMind*

    I have lots of ghost work stories. I used to work in an old historic home that was built in the 1850s. At least 3 members of the original family who’d owned the house had died there.

    One day, I got a phone call from a docent who was alone in the house. She said that someone had been banging on the back door, but when she answered the door, no one was there. But then the banging immediately started on the basement door one floor below, and again no one was there. She was terrified, and said that if I didn’t come down to the house she was leaving. She refused to be alone in the house after that.

    A few weeks later, the same thing happened to me: I was alone in the house when I heard banging on the back door. It stopped just before I opened the door, and when I did the banging started on the basement door. I looked over the balcony down to the basement door and no one was there.

    A few weeks after that, I again was the only one in the house. It was first thing in the morning and I’d just disarmed the alarm. I immediately heard loud footsteps from the floor above. I walked to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up, “Hello?” And the footsteps stopped.

    Other things that happened in that house: footsteps up and down the second floor stairs, even though no one was there; and a permanent dead spot in my office where no electronics would work. I called it Empie, after the former owner who supposedly haunted the house after he died.

  28. NYWeasel*

    My brother worked in a restaurant that was in a historic old farmhouse (think 1750 or so). They all had the typical late night scary encounters with things being moved around, hearing voices, etc, but what he found most unnerving was when one of his coworkers started doing tarot card readings up in the room that had the most “activity”. Apparently the readings were so accurate, every single participant became shaken and visibly upset from having their deepest secrets exposed. (Not that the reader gossiped about anyone—it was just the idea of even having one coworker know something you didn’t tell anyone)

    After a week or so of seeing his fellow coworkers rushing away pale, shaken, and often crying, the reader asked my brother if he wanted a reading. 15 year old me was highly disappointed that he refused to do it, though 48 year old me completely agrees with him!

  29. jojobeans*

    When I worked in an active (and long-standing) conflict zone, one of my friends started a new job with a different organisation in another part of the city. The first time we got together after she started we were discussing her new job and she mentioned that the staff she managed all really liked her, much more than the woman who she had replaced. When I asked why, along with several other reasons, she mentioned that her predecessor had routinely made the staff members stay late even when it wasn’t necessary.

    Now, that’s annoying enough in and of itself, but that wasn’t actually a problem for the reason you might suspect: it turned out that people didn’t like to stay in the office after dark “because of the djinns,”

    I, of course, had to know more. It turns out that their office was in a building that had a terrible history: during the civil war a few decades earlier, that house had belonged to one of the numerous warlords that divided the city into territories and he had used it as a torture house.

    As in, the IT room was where the bodies had been kept, the Finance office was one of the torture rooms, etc.

    If you’re wondering why that particular building ended up becoming an NGO office, well, the city had been pretty much destroyed by the time the international community moved in and houses that were still standing, functional, and had a roof were in short supply. My guess is that’s why they originally moved in and then just never bothered to move out again.

    Although the stories I’ve heard from the civil war period include some of the worst atrocities I’ve ever heard of (which is saying something) so…I’m just glad I never had a reason to have to visit that particular office.

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