by Lou Mei Gutsch
A lot of people told me that spirits are not real. I didn’t think they were real either until I moved to St. Louis when my culinary school, Oregon Coast Culinary Institute, required us to do a paid internship (externship) for six months. In Missouri, I lived with my brother and found a vegan and vegetarian restaurant called The Tree House to extern as a vegan baker. For a while, everything was going well.
That all changed, one early morning, round 5am, on a typical shift when I was the first one there rolling the dough for the doughnuts. I needed some flour, so I walked down to the basement where the pantry is. When I was filling up the bin, I felt a hand firmly lay on my shoulder. I thought it was a coworker who felt like coming in at this time of day but when I turned around, I saw no one. I felt cold then warm, then really cold. I was a little scared, so I quickly filled up the bin and sprinted up the stairs. I thought it was my imagination just tricking me because I don’t enjoy being in the basement all by myself in an old building. But it wasn’t.
Later when more coworkers showed up, I asked them if this building is haunted. They said, “Oh yes!” Then they told me their encounters with the spirits. One of them told me that when they were closing alone, they heard a moaning noise in the basement. Another one told me when they were opening alone, they saw a shadow of a person walk into the bathroom; my coworker then walked to the bathroom door to find that it was locked. They thought of quitting but decided not to because the spirits weren’t hurting them.
I asked my boss about the history behind this building, and she had told me that it used to be a medical practice, an apartment building, a vape lounge, and now it was the Tree House. She also told me that people had died in this building and their spirits remain there. I told her that was BS and thinking she was just trying to scare me. But she showed me proof, from surveillance camera footage taken upstairs of the restaurant, where there is a bar that is a part of the Tree House called the Night Owl. My boss had sniped a picture from one night of filming of the spirit that was roaming around upstairs holding a cross. When she showed me that photo, my skin turned cold.
For a hot second, I asked myself, “Why am I working in this building?” But I knew that I still had five and a half more months to work there for my externship, and I really wanted to pass my program at culinary school. I told myself that I wasn’t going think about those spirits. I was just going to focus on doing what I love: baking.
A few months later, in the early morning, I was filling up the container for sugar when I felt a hand firmly lay on my shoulder AGAIN but this time the lights turned off. I knew that I was the only one in the restaurant because no one goes in at six in the morning. Terrified, I full- on sprinted up those stairs with the container full of sugar like it weighed nothing (even though it usually weighs about seventy-five pounds). I legit thought about quitting that day. But I didn’t because I loved my job and didn’t want to leave. The spirits didn’t hurt me, they just spooked me out.
I called my boss and told her that this building is possessed and that she needs to bring in the Ghostbusters or something like that. She told me to suck it up and get back to work. I walked back in, too mad to be scared, and busted out the doughnuts. When my boss came in, she told me that that stuff happened all the time and I needed to get used to it. Then she told me her worst experience ever with the spirits.
One night, my boss Bay was fixing the power upstairs when she had this gut feeling that was telling her to get the fudge out of there, but she kept on working on the power because if she left, all the food would be spoiled if the refrigerators weren’t working. Bay told me that she heard moaning down the hallway then felt hands all over her body. She quickly fixed the power and sprinted out of that building. Bay told me that she kept the restaurant in this building because she likes to stay on the edge. For me, I am not about dealing with the spirits, but I still had a few more months before my externship was completed.
A few days later, I was sitting at the bar talking to Jessica the bartender and asked her if she had any crazy experiences with the spirits. Jessica told me that when she was closing, a balloon floated from one room to inside the bar when the vents were off. She didn’t feel scared but instead she felt comforted. She felt good vibes from the spirits. She told me she felt safe because she assumed that the spirits were troubled when they were alive, which she could relate to, since she also had a difficult past. The way she saw it, the spirits were just saying hello, nothing more. The spirits respected that Jessica is a tough gal who doesn’t let people push her round.
I asked one of the waiters if they experienced anything similar, and she said she felt connected with the spirits. She told me if I respect the spirits and thank them for letting me use their space, I shouldn’t have a problem. I thought this was crazy, but I took her advice.
I later told my sister about these experiences with the spirits, and she didn’t believe me. When she visited me, she asked my coworkers if there were any spirits in the restaurant. They said yes, then my sister got nervous. When she went to the bathroom, she said the lights went off and she felt warm, cold, warm, then REALLY cold. Frantically, she ran out of that building so fast. Now she believes that there are spirits on this planet.
The next time I walked downstairs to fill up the brown sugar, I said out loud that “I come in peace” and thanked them for letting me use their space. They didn’t touch me or do any kind of voodoo on me. I was relieved and felt good vibes in the restaurant. I worked at the Tree House until my time was done. I ended my externship on a good note with my boss and with the spirits. If anyone still won’t believe in spirits, go into an old building in St. Louis and you will see for yourself. I think we should believe in spirits because they were here before us and we can learn lessons from their lives.