- For Thee, Bands of Redby Dean Kuch
This work has reached the exceptional level
It's scratching, now, just outside the elevator door...
For Thee, Bands of Red by Dean Kuch
Story of the Month contest entry

Warning: The author has noted that this contains strong violence.
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of language.


"Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away..." ---
William Hughes Mearns

~ For Thee, Bands of Red ~


Dr. Geoffrey Weissman parked in the space marked AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL, then sauntered up to the entrance of the Jefferson Building. The historical structure housed the medical examiner's office and Jackson County Morgue.

Retrieving his personnel ID badge from his briefcase, he swiped it through the card slot, subsequently waiting for the tell-tale click-clack sound of the disengaging locks and confirmation beep.

Weissman enjoyed working the graveyard shift. He laughed aloud at that; the graveyard shift. How ironic, he thought, when one considered his chosen profession. He was spared the interruptions his colleague, Dr. Vlasser,  was made to endure while working the daylight shift. Weissman preferred working alone to the side-show circus of news reporters and police detectives. For the most part, the veteran medical examiner was left to his own devices.

Tonight would be busy. Another shooting brought three new victims to his doorstep, as well as to his scalpel's blade. One of the dead was the shooter, deciding that a bullet through the brain would be the easiest way out of a sticky situation.

Weissman agreed.


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Checking in at the log book atop the deserted security officer's post, he made his way to the elevator leading to the dungeon-like confines of the county morgue below. The Antebellum-styled structure was a historic one, built near the time of the Civil War. It was given the usual state of the art upgrades; telecommunications, modern medical equipment, etcetera. However, the cargo elevator from that bygone era remained intact, for the most part. It had a few modern upgrades, such as push button controls, security cameras and the like. It looked exactly the same on the exterior as it did in 1859, when it was installed in the building by the Otis & Son's Elevator Company. The town council decided to keep it around for its historical significnace. The fact that they needed to save a few green-backs because of the buildings over-cost renovation had nothing to do with it, or so they said. As long as it performed adequately, it wasn't going anywhere.

He tugged open the heavy metal grating leading into the expansive elevator, then closed it. He depressed the button designated with a faded “M”, and the elevator made its slow, deliberate descent to the morgue.


Once Dr. Weissman hit the basement floor, his nose was assailed by the overwhelming stench of embalming fluids, alcohol, and human decay. The thing he wanted to smell most just then was a pot of freshly brewing coffee.

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He hung the building keys on the peg board, then made his way to the first victim. Female, nineteen. Such a shame, he thought. Her life cut short by a jealous beau with an overactive imagination. All Weissman knew was the young man caught his other victim, her calculus tutor, in her dorm room at West Virginia University, and without asking questions, he immediately began spraying them with bullets. Witnesses stated that the only things they recalled hearing were his screams of, “You fucking slut; I just knew it!...”, followed closely by the unmistakable pop-popping of gunfire. Eventually, the delayed retort of the final shot was heard echoing throughout the halls.

“Small world”, Weissman whispered. His son, Larry, was currently attending WVU as well. However, Larry was off on a brief sabbatical with friends in Miami Beach. He wouldn't be returning home for a week.

Weissman noted something amiss immediately after taking another cursory glance at the young woman's body. Her right arm dangled from the side of the autopsy table where she lay covered beneath a sheet. All incoming cadavers were tagged with a red ID band which contained all of their basic information. Hers was missing. Aggravated at his colleague's apparent oversight, Weissman raised the side of the sheets covering the two male victims, exposing only their right arms and portions of each torso.

Again, no red bands.

He checked the supply cabinet.


Weissman angrily returned to the elevator to retrieve some from the storeroom on the first floor.



It was then he saw the sheet move on the girl's corpse.

Weissman hastily threw open the security gate to the elevator, then quickly entered. Almost immediately, a pair of alabaster-white dainty hands clawed at the gate in an attempt to pull it open. The bright-red nail polish shown like blood against the pale white flesh of its fingers. Horrified, Doctor Weissman smashed his palm against the “UP” button, trying desperately to set the elevator in motion. Yet, it remained stuck where it was. He was trapped. The lights abruptly winked, then went out. He was enveloped in total darkness.


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Sounds of someone — or, something — scratching, just outside the gate, forced him into action. In the inky blackness, the sounds were maddening.

"Just what the hell is happening here?"

He felt for the button in the dark, repeatedly hitting it over and over again. With a lurch, yet still encased in darkness, the elevator began its slow, steady climb. Weissman continued pounding on the “UP” button, oblivious to its movements.

Screeching to a grinding halt, the lights abruptly blinked on. Weissman threw the hefty steel gates open as if they were made of tin, and ran out into the foyer. Picking up the phone on the security desk, he dialed 9-1-1. No dial tone. No busy signal. Just static — no, not static at all — whispering! Faint and hard to hear, but that's unmistakably what it was. Someone was whispering to him from the other end. But, how?

Help...Me-e-e-eeeeeeee... Please,'s dark, and I'm so, so very cold. I? Ple-e-e-a-a-s-s-s-e, come...back to me.

The terrified doctor didn't bother to place the phone back on its base. Instead, he flung it, as if the phone had scorched his hand, shattering it against one of the marble columns in the center of the room.

The doctor ran to the front doors, throwing himself against the glass. In a panic, he pressed on the handle to open them. They wouldn't budge. It was at that precise moment the realization hit him. His blood ran cold, turning to ice in his veins.

He'd locked the doors, and the keys were the morgue.

She was coming, now. He'd seen her moving; he wasn't imagining any of this. But, why him? He'd done nothing. 

A pale white hand, with nails that appeared as if they'd been dipped in blood, rested gently on his shoulder. Around the wrist was a single red band. For a moment, Weissman couldn't move. Urine trickled down his leg, pooling on the marble floor beneath him. He ran. He ran without any further thought about the hushed, ethereal whispering, what horror lurked behind him — anything else but getting away. He ran back to the only place he knew to run, to the elevator. He was just about to enter and close the door when a hand grabbed him roughly, yanking him inside. Standing in front of him was a young man in a security guards uniform he'd never seen before.

“How did...when did you come in? Couldn't you see that I was in trouble out here?”

“No, doc, can't say that I did. I was downstairs, in the morgue.”

“Well, we have to get out of here, right now. I...I'm being followed someone...”

“Look, doc, we'll all get out of here soon enough. Larry is waiting for you — downstairs. We'll get him, then we'll be on our way.”

“No, please, you don't understand. She was dead, you see, covered up with a sheet on one of the tables down there. She was one of the shooting victims, and she was... Wait. Did you say Larry? My son, Larry? He's” Maniacal spurts of laughter poured uncontrollably from Weissman's quivering lips. “Bu...but that's impossible. Larry is in Miami Beach. But that girl — that thing — she's after me.”

The young man went on about setting the elevator in motion once more, oblivious to the doctor's ramblings.

“I was out of red ID bands, you see, so I was on my way back up here to get more. That... that girl...she had a red one around her wrist. Red means dead, you see, red means... It wasn't there when she was on the slab, I know it wasn't there then."

"Doc, calm down, would ya? I ain't seen no girl, not up here, anyway. See, I work out at the college, at West Virginia. Larry decided he'd had enough fun in the sun, I guess, and came back early to surprise his girl, Cynthia. There was a fight — an altercation broke out — I just happened to be the poor sap on duty at the time. Larry, your son; he grabbed my gun from its holster and, well...the rest is history. He's waiting for you now, downstairs. We're all waiting for you...”

Weissman's fractured mind barely comprehended what the man was saying. He heard the voice, he recognized the fact that the man was speaking. It just wasn't making it's way to that portion of one's brain where comprehension takes place.

“Red means dead, you see? She's...she has a red band around her wrist now. Don't you understand what I'm telling you?”

“You mean a red band... like this one?” The man held up his right hand, exposing his wrist. Blood began to ooze from a deep wound in his neck, as his laughter roared within the claustrophobic confines of the elevator compartment. The wound bubbled with each new gut wrenching chortle. His body began to convulse and wobble.

“Red means dead, means dead!

In the thick fog of yet another typical Morgantown, West Virginia early morning, spooked pigeons flew en masse from the ornate eaves beneath the roof of the Jefferson Building. Their starled cacophony of coos mingled with the muffled screams emanating within, then drifted lazily away with the mist.


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Author Notes
Urban Legends (also known as Contemporary Legends ) are modern folkloric stories based loosely on truth which affects the lives of people in a particular country where the story was told. These are stories which are accepted by people as true, whether the truth is known or not. Not all urban legend originates from gossip. Some come from real life stories or the story of the urban legend itself is actually true. They become unbelievable once the story is exaggerated or added to with excessive details.

This story was based upon a Filipino urban myth. It supposedly happened at a hospital there in April of 2012. It's called, quite simply, the "Elevator Ghost".

Now that you know the origin of this terror tale, I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of it.

And as always, boils & ghouls...Pleasant Screams...~

Thanks for reading!


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