Ghost in the Wall

Just before Midnight Sunday March 31, 1991

Alarm tone.  And the dispatch: “Engine 18.  Investigation at the North Shore Hilton.  No more information available. 1602 ( Captain Inny) is responding.”

While I am still in route, no lights or siren, on the radio.  “Engine 18 to 1602.”

I toggled my mic.  “1602, Go.”

“Captain, I think we need a full still response on this.”

“1602, 10-4.  Do you need the 2nd Truck?  1602 to Skokie.”

“Skokie, Go.”

“Give me a box alarm 9555 Skokie Highway order of 1602.”

“1602,do you want us to notify 1601 to respond?”

“Negative, Skokie.”

I pulled into the Fire Lane, parked and made my way to the hotel.  “1602 0n the scene. 1602 is Hilton mobile command,” I advised.

“1602 to Engine 18, you are interior sector.  What is your location?”

“Ground floor back hallway, near the pool area.”

“1602 to all responding apparatus.  Take a slowdown.  Staging area will be the 9500 building.  Truck 16, you will be resource sector and Ambulance 18, you are medical sector.”  Standard ops.

“1602 to Skokie.  Who do we have for a Police Sector Officer?”

“1602, police advise it is Captain Halas.”

At this point, everyone in place for just about anything that could happen.

As I enter the lobby I find several very excited people and one women laying on the floor with people just staring at her.  “1602, Med Sector, one down.  Jump bags now.  Lobby by the elevators.”

“10-4 1602.”

“1602, Skokie, start another med unit in stand by for size up.”

As I walk the half block to the back hallway I get no answer from Engine 18 interior sector command.  As I come around the corner I see the company officer with his ear to wall.

“Why didn’t you answer me, Lieutenant?”  In response, he put his finger his lips and listens intently.

The two other firemen are also at other walls with their ears against the wall.   I walk around the corner and see two police officers with their ears to the walls, and the hotel’s night manager and the head of building maintenance with their heads against the wall.

Every one is very still and then I hear it, a very low groan.  No words.  Just this God-forsaken moan.  As I check the faces of the people with their ears against the walls, I see blank stares mingled with disbelief.

In the stillness that followed: “Ambulance 18 to 1602.  Ambulance 16 is med sector but we need you in the Lobby before transport.”

“On my way, Ambulance 18,” I respond on mic.  “Lieutenant, take over here and keep me in the loop.”  I nod in his direction.  “1602, Skokie.  Holding all units on 9555 Skokie, no fire, not found the cause of the investigation.”  At this point I hear the laughing in the background before the operator closes the mic.  Thinking to myself, that is strange.

In the lobby, the woman is on the stretcher is sitting up.  “It’s a ghost,” she tells me.  “He talked to me.  I was alone in the back hallway and he called my name. He said ‘Oh, Helen,’  and then moaned very loudly.  I ask who is it and he answered “dump me’.”

I turned to the Paramedic and asked what the patient’s name was.  Helen Gone.

OK, first the laughing on the radio, now a ghost, and a person name Helen Gone.  Yep, it was a Sunday night and, yes my friends, there was a full moon and it was now after midnight so It was now April Fools Day.

On the radio:  “1602, from interior sector.  Captain, we need you back here.” OK, just another half block walk. As I round the corner, I see the rescue squad is in place.  They have their power saw ready and the Lieutenant tells me he thinks the noise is in the wall and wants to cut it open.

The night manager refused to allow this.  The building engineer was standing in front of the wall trying to protect it and I can’t help it,  I bust out laughing.  About 20 minutes have gone by.  I have seven fire companies on the scene and still do not know what is going on.

Enough.  I call for the fire pre-plan book and the Rescue Officer shows me where we are.  I decide to go down into the basement to see what is under this location.  I tell everyone to JUST stand-by.  No action, please.

In the basement, we can hear a faint scratching noise and then the moan.  I turn the lights on in the maid’s area.  There is a laundry chute in the ceiling.  It has to be in line with the upstairs back hallway.

We push a cart under the chute and pull the latch open.  A few sheets and towels drop out along with a nude male.  All he had on was his socks.

Seems he was partying with group of ladies on the tenth floor.  There was an argument.  They beat the daylights of him, then dragged him down the hall into the tenth floor maids area and dumped him into the laundry chute.

He was kind of banged up and outside of being totally drunk, he had no broken bones.  The hospital had to be called by telephone as this was not going over the radio.

As to the “Oh, Helen” and “dump me” that she heard through the walls?  He was not calling for Helen and she dumped me.  It was “Oh, hell.  They dumped me in here.”

Time to go.  “1602, Skokie go. “Strike out the Box Alarm on my orders,” “All units are in-service returning to quarters, Ambulance 18 in route to Post # 1. ” Show 1602 in service on the air, enroute to dispatch.” Dispatch “1602 to call 1601 at home.  He’ll want a full rundown.”

“10-4 rundown.”

“1602 to all units.  Narratives all round, boys.”

We had 12 more calls that shift, but nothing could top this one. Not any other April Fools Day, no Friday the 13ths, no once in a life time adventures.  13 calls in 24 hours and the 1st one in the 4th month was the winner.

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