By Joyce Jacobo
[Author’s Note: Another ghost tale, and this one based on experiences my mother had while in the Air Force.]
My mother used to work as a nurse in the Air Force, many years ago, and early on in her career she got stationed at a base hospital overseas. Although the hospital had been in operation for over a century, more than half of the original building was less than half that age when my mother came to work there. Bombings during some past war had torn the place apart, creating a clear division between the old and the new.
The new sections of the hospital, for example, had well-lit hallways, smooth tiled floors, and the latest medical equipment.
Meanwhile, the older sections of the hospital… held shadows from the past.
My mother heard about the ghost soldier soon after her arrival. In fact, her co-workers had a lot to say about him. Like that he took the form of a forlorn young man dressed in a stained military uniform—whether U.S. or otherwise was impossible to know for certain—reportedly killed during the same conflict that had devastated the hospital. They would add that, due to the circumstances of his death, he could only walk the halls in the remnants of the former structure.
They also said he only appeared right before terrible tragedies occurred.
At first my mother dismissed all these stories. Her fellow nurses mentioned the ghost soldier so casually and calmly, as if he were an accepted fact rather than simply a rumor, that she figured it was perhaps a part of some odd initiation exercise meant to give new nurses late-night chills. Besides, she faced far more terrifying ordeals on a regular basis amid her usual workload, which included being an ambulance driver.
As time passed, though, she started to notice an odd trend.
Staff members took turns venturing into the older sections of the hospital, down passageways that had long unused patient wards and administrative offices, and sometimes they would come scurrying back to the main desk on the first floor in a frenzy of anxiety to announce that they had seen “him.”
Immediately, the whole medical crew would begin to rush around, arranging for emergency rooms and doctors, among other preparations. Nurses would tell my mother, if she was the designated ambulance driver at the time, to get the vehicle ready right away. My mother found their actions somewhat extreme, especially on otherwise calm nights.
But then the phone would ring to report a major accident that had just taken place, and which tended to involve either an individual with terminal injuries or a group of people in need of intensive care.
Every single time anyone reported having seen the ghost soldier, the same thing would happen without fail. The whole phenomenon baffled my mother, of course, but whenever she told me the story later, she would insist that these warnings were crucial in helping the medical staff get everything ready for extreme situations which might have come as a complete surprise, and possibly affected their response time. Preparing for disasters in the hospital took a lot of organization, after all, and having their resources together even before the phone call came to report an incident made them more efficient than if they had had to wait for the phone call itself.
It was like the silent duty of this departed soldier to ensure the hospital crew was ready to help those in dire need.
Whoever or whatever the ghost solider was, his appearances proved so reliable that soon even my mother rushed to make the necessary preparations at each reported sighting.
Over time, as she came to depend on his appearances, my mother came to learn the ghost soldier had his mischievous qualities as well. He would unlock the doors at night, forcing staff members to grab their keys to do exactly that, or switch on the lights after they had turned them off for the night.
I have asked if my mother ever saw the ghost solider herself. A faraway look will sweep across her face, and she will say, “I never did, even when the other nurses explicitly sent me into the old halls as a lookout. Either I only came on night when all was peaceful, or the soldier knew that, despite my skepticism, I was terrified at the thought of actually seeing him.” Smiling, she will add. “He was quite the gentleman.”