The Woman on the 13th Floor
A journalism student inadvertently stumbles upon her college dorm’s dark history as a psych ward, and the hauntings that have plagued its halls for decades.
Transcript: SCENE 1: Poppy (Feb 26th) Day One. POPPY: Okay! This is weird. I’m not a big fan of hearing my own voice, but hopefully by the time I finish this podcast project, I’ll have gotten over it! So, okay. My name is Poppy Harris and I’m a first year student at Cantor College but the reason you’re listening to this is because I’m in charge of the podcast episode that celebrates the 40th anniversary of our historic Havendale dorm! Confession: I’ve never made a podcast before and don’t really have any qualifications for this? Ha. BUT this podcast is part of my contribution for the room and board that my scholarship covers, so bear with me! Let’s see… where to start? It’s February 24th and I’ve got about a month before this thing is due, so I’ve done some initial research on Havendale. Just online stuff so far, but it’s actually more interesting than your average student housing. Back in the 80’s, it was a psychiatric hospital and considered “cutting edge” for its groundbreaking treatments in the fight against mental illness. I tried to find out more details on that, but the internet didn’t get too specific about WHAT those treatments were. Anyway, the hospital treated a variety of psychiatric patients over the course of about fifty years, but things suddenly came to an end in the 80’s when several patients went missing. I guess Cantor College, which was only a few city blocks away, wanted to expand and needed the student housing pretty badly. So the hospital sold the building and the rooms were converted—well, mostly? You can still see a lot of weird hospital-like features. I’m in my dorm room right now, and there’s even a “call button” right next to my door. And yes, if you’re wondering, of course I’ve tried pressing it! Kind of hard not to. Then there’s a lot of old linoleum in the halls, and the bathroom showers look at least a few decades old, and on the 4th floor, there are these little glass rooms that can barely fit one person, so I’m guessing those were from the hospital, too. Anyway, it can be creepy in here for sure, especially down in the basement, but I’m only there when it’s laundry day. Hopefully I can find out more from some interviews and library archives, since I’m sure there’s a story there. More soon! Signing off. I know I ended the podcast already, but I had to record this. Can you hear that? That knocking has been going on for so long and I’m starting to freak out. It can’t be any of my neighbors because they’re all out of town for a soccer meet. I don’t know what to do. I want to get the RA, but then I’d have to open the door. Plus, It’s like 3 in the morning. I’d feel so bad waking them up. I’m just really scared. At first I thought it was a drunk person, but it’s been going on forever. They’re still out there. They keep trying to get in and I can hear them breathing heavily. Calling dorm safety is probably the best option, but no that wouldn’t be good because I have LED lights in my room and the last girl they found with LED lights had to pay a fine. It’s so stupid because everyone has them. Anyway, I’m getting distracted. Who would stand out here knocking all night? Unless it was really important. It’s just weird. Unless there’s a real emergency? Maybe that must be it. There must be some kind of emergency. I better get up and check. SOUND CUE: Insert sound of getting up to check SOUND CUE: Phone will be left on the bed to record Hello? Hello? Oh? Uh. Ok. SOUND CUE: Walks back and picks up phone I guess um no one is there? Maybe they ran down the hall? Like a prank or something? They woke me up and ruined my night. I’m so pissed, but I guess I’ll just go back to bed. They’re probably long gone now, probably ran away. SOUND CUE: Door shutting and one moment of silence then the banging starts WHAT THE HELL. I just checked and there was not a human being in sight. SOUND CUE: Lullaby starts really low I can’t open the door again. I just can’t do it. It sounds like they’re going to break it down anyway. Oh god, I might have to call dorm safety. SOUND CUE: Insert lullaby getting louder+ banging stops Oh thank god it stopped, but it sounds like someone is singing out there. All I know is I’m not opening this door. Hell no. I’m not leaving my room until daylight. See you then. SCENE 2 (27th): OK, so it’s a new day and I’m a little less freaked out this morning… but that was beyond weird. All I can remember is a few words from that creepy lullaby, so I googled the lyrics this morning. It seems to be some kind of old Irish folk song about a woman named Molly Malone. But it doesn’t look like there’s any “Molly Malone” who has ever had anything to do with Havendale. So a dead end there. Anyway, I’m back to doing my job: researching this crazy building! Even though it’s been 25 years, there actually IS one person who’s worked here since the very beginning. His name is Mr. Williams and he’s our Head of Security, retiring this year but not before I get to interview him! Let’s go see if he has time to chat. SOUND CUE: Knocking and door creaking open POPPY: Mr. Williams, do you have a free minute to answer some questions for my podcast? MR. WILLIAMS: Ohhh, Poppy. Sure, why not? Now is as good a time as any. POPPY: Great! I was excited to find out you’ve been at Havendale since the very beginning. From the news articles, it looks like this dorm was kind of an exciting event. What was the atmosphere like when it first opened? MR. WILLIAMS: I don’t know about exciting… things were pretty tense. Those hospital folks were running around trying to put out fires. There were constant rumors flying around– patients out of control, staff using excessive force, the whole place a disaster–, but they left so quickly, no one could know for sure what went on here before the college took over the building. POPPY: Patients out of control? Could you elaborate? MR.WILLIAMS: Oh well they were all crazy, that was the specialty here. POPPY: I noticed that in my dorm room and a few other places, it looks like some of the hospital features never got changed in the renovation… MR. WILLIAMS: Renovation? What renovation? They mopped the floors and painted a few rooms. The college moved right in, but didn't change much before the students made it their home. And after 25 years, I couldn’t be happier to get the hell out of here. POPPY: Well, thank you Mr. Williams for being such a valuable source SOUND CUE: Of closing door POPPY: Wasn’t he just a ray of sunshine? But some of that makes me think: there’s more to this story than an anniversary… and I’m going to find out what it is. *Time jump 6 hours* SCENE 3 POPPY: Ok, so a confession—I don’t have any news yet on my investigation into Havendale, BUT it’s 2am and I’ve been cramming for a test all night, and I think I’ll be able to stay awake if I get out of this dorm room and away from my comfy bed. There’s nowhere to go except the laundry room—and I may as well do my laundry since there’s no way I’m sleeping tonight-- but since it’s down in the basement, I’m going to take you with me and maybe I’ll be less freaked out along the way. SOUND CUE: Footsteps echoing in empty hall POPPY: Sometimes it feels like this elevator is one step away from a breakdown. I probably shouldn’t have said that out loud… SOUND CUE: Elevator creaks and hums, door opens. POPPY: Oh good, the light’s already on in the laundry room. I guess I’m not the only one who had this idea… hey, Jade! SOUND CUE: Washer door slamming JADE: Poppy? You scared me! What’s up? You can’t sleep either? POPPY: Not quite—cramming for the STATs exam tomorrow. Figured I’d come down here to keep myself awake while I try to memorize this stuff. Multi-tasking! JADE: I hear you on that. I got into the habit of doing my laundry at weird hours because that way I never have to wait for a machine. Ummm… are you… recording me? POPPY: Oh, sorry! I’ve gotten into the habit of taking this thing everywhere, since I’m making a podcast for the dorm anniversary that’s coming up. Is that machine next to yours free? JADE: Definitely. There’s been no one down here since I started the wash an hour ago. Machine’s all yours! SOUND CUE: Poppy opening the washer, throwing her clothes inside. Humming “Molly Malone”. Shutting washer and turning dial to start the load. JADE: What are you humming? I’ve heard that somewhere before. It’s creepy… what is it? POPPY: Ha! I don’t really know. I heard it the other night after someone was banging on my door super late. It’s like some kind of old Irish folk song, I think. JADE: Yeah! About someone named Molly, right? I’ve definitely heard it before. I think maybe it was that time I got lost on the 13th floor. That’s probably why it creeps me out. POPPY: Whoa… what? You actually WENT to the 13th floor? I don’t get it. I thought they keep the whole floor vacant and locked all the doors. The elevator won’t even open there! I know, cause I’ve tried! JADE: It was back in first semester, and I was hooking up with a girl on the 12th. She was being weird about it, so instead of using the elevator, I took the stairs up to her floor and just spaced out. Lost track, I guess? Anyway, the door from the stairwell *wasn’t* locked, and when I opened it, I knew I was in the wrong place. There was basically NOTHING there, and it was colder, dead silent. I took like a few steps inside just out of curiosity, and then I heard that song—the one you were just humming—and I just froze. It started getting louder, and I heard footsteps, and I finally turned back and bolted down the stairs to the 12th. (shudders) I have NO desire to go up there again, thank you very much! POPPY: This is kind of blowing my mind. I definitely need to check it out. JADE: Whatever floats your boat. But if you do go up there, I’d recommend going in daytime, at least. POPPY: Haha sold! Listen, I’m gonna head to the bathroom real quick. Is it cool if I leave my stuff here for a sec? JADE: Yeah of course. SOUND CUE: Poppy’s fading footsteps. Washing machine beeps to announce its completion. JADE: Finallyyyyy. Dry time. SOUND CUE: Washer opening, wet clothes flopping into cart. Dryer opening. Scary breathing/ghost energy noises getting louder?? JADE: What the?... OW! Get--get off me! SOUND CUE: the SLAM of a head hitting metal. The thud of a body collapsing on the floor. Poppy’s footsteps returning. POPPY: Jade? JADE!! Oh my god, no. HELP, SOMEONE??! No no no no. There’s blood everywhere… how could this happen?? Jade? I can feel her pulse, but she’s out cold. JADE! Please, oh god, please wake up… SOUND CUE: Jade groaning in pain, coming back to consciousness. POPPY: Thank god you’re ok. That looks really painful though. The cut on your forehead? What happened? Don’t get up yet, rest for a bit! JADE: I don’t know what that was. You left, and the room was empty. I went to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer, and I was bending over… I don’t know! It felt like someone kicked me. But no one was here. I was about to call for you, but then he—it?—pushed me hard from behind. I was bent over and I must have slammed my head against the dryer… I’m so dizzy. What WAS that? Do you believe me? I must sound crazy… I must… POPPY: I believe you, of course I do. But please don’t get up. Let me call the RA and get someone down here who can help us. JADE: Just don’t… leave. Please. POPPY: I’m not going anywhere. I’m just gonna turn this thing off so I can make the call. (All background noises cut as episode ends) SCENE 4 (28th): POPPY: So, it’s been a couple of days. Jade is totally fine now, thank god. She’s just freaked out and rightfully so. We still have no idea who or what pushed her, but when I listened to that night’s recording back I couldn’t hear any footsteps…only this really creepy heavy breathing over the mic. I don’t know what it had to do with the thirteenth floor, but I’m in the staircase on my way up there. Yes, I’m going even though it’s restricted. I really shouldn’t be doing this on a school podcast, but I have a hunch that I’ll get some answers up there…especially because we were talking about it right before Jade was attacked. SOUND CUE: Footsteps up the staircase POPPY: Okay this is kind of terrifying, but here we go. SOUND CUE: Door opening SOUND CUE: A few footsteps POPPY: Woah, this place is ancient… forget about a paint job, it looks like it wasn’t even touched in the renovation. The walls are beige, but peeling so that you can see that really old hospital green color underneath. I see a weird sign, let me get closer so I can read what it says to you. SOUND CUE: Footsteps echoing POPPY: It reads “FOR SOILED LAUNDRY ONLY” and in the corner “COMMISSIONER DEPARTMENT OF HOSPITALS.” Oh that’s what this is, it must be an old laundry chute. They really haven’t changed a single thing up here, have they? I’m really getting the creeps, but I’m way too curious to turn back now. SOUND CUE: Faint lullaby getting louder POPPY: SOUND CUE: Poppy’s footsteps echoing POPPY: That song! I knew it! I can hear that creepy lullaby, but can’t tell where it’s coming from. Going to take a look around. The set up is basically the same as the other floors, but everything is just so much older. Here is the bathroom. SOUND CUE: Door opening POPPY: The tiles are white and green, unlike the other floors which have a Cantor College purple. The oddest part is it looks like someone’s been using it. There’s some towels hanging up and a shower caddy on the ground… but I guess it could just be some student from another floor looking to take advantage of an empty space. It just seems off… anyway, this isn’t where the lullaby is so I need to keep moving. SOUND CUE: Footsteps echoing POPPY: I’m going to try to open these old rooms. I really hope they’re not locked. SOUND CUE Footsteps seconds later door opening POPPY: Well, they’re open, but they look totally empty. SOUND CUE Footsteps plus doors opening x2 POPPY:: Oh wait, that’s weird, this one is different. There’s some old hospital-looking furniture. Just an old metal bed and a wooden chair. There’s something on the bed, some kind of stuffed animal SOUND CUE: Footsteps getting closer POPPY: It looks like a lion maybe, or I’m not sure, it’s falling apart. It looks like it’s 40 years old, it doesn’t even have its eyes anymore. Wait, do you hear it’s getting louder? I hope the recording is picking it up. Don’t worry, even though I’m freaked out, I’ve got to keep going down this hallway. SOUND CUE: Of walking down the hall and lullaby getting louder POPPY: Hello? Is anyone there? *Wait for response* Poppy: Welp, that was worth a try, but whoever is playing that lullaby can’t hide forever. I think I’m getting closer to the source of the noise now. SOUND CUE: Noise gets to its loudest point before opening door POPPY: I can tell it’s coming from inside this room. I have no idea what I’m about to find, I just have to go for it. SOUND CUE: Door opening SOUND CUE: Noise gets to its loudest point POPPY: What the… this room isn’t anything like the others. It doesn’t even look like it belongs in a dorm or a hospital. It’s totally redone. I mean it’s furnished and the walls are painted pink. There’s sheets and blankets on the bed and art on the walls. We aren’t even allowed to hang up art in our dorms. It looks as if someone has been fully living here for a while. AHA, I found the lullaby, it’s coming from that stereo. I haven’t seen something like this since I visited my grandpa, whoever is living up here is from a different generation. This lullaby is so creepy, I can’t even think straight with it on, I’m going to turn it off. JUDY: What have you done? Turn that back on this instant. POPPY: Oh God, you scared me! Who are you? JUDY: Who I am doesn’t matter, just get the lullaby back on that stereo, young lady. SOUND CUE: Lullaby turns on again JUDY: You aren’t supposed to be here. No students allowed. Get out. POPPY: I’m not leaving until you answer some of my questions. I’m being harassed, my friends are getting attacked, and someone’s been banging on my door at night. It all traces back to that lullaby and to you… JUDY: It’s not me, I’m the only thing keeping you students safe. You said someone was banging on your door… which room is yours? POPPY: On the eighth floor, 8G, why does that matter? Who are you and what do you mean you’re protecting us? From what? Does anyone know you’re up here? Maybe I should go get my RA… JUDY: [sighs] Why don’t you have a seat, I think I can explain. SOUND CUE: Pulling out a chai JUDY: I think I always knew this day would come, but I guess I never expected a student to be the one to break the cycle. I suppose I should start by telling you, my name is Judy and I’ve been protecting this place for 40 years. Before you students showed up, we nurses were running the show, and this place was what we used to call a “nuthouse”-- though I suppose one wouldn’t use that word today. Most of our patients were disoriented and prone to hallucinations, but one of them, Everett, was occasionally violent. Most of the time we could keep him sedated and manage his outbursts, but every four years on February 29th, he would lash out in ways that multiple staff could hardly control. There were two particular leap years where… we lost people. One was a patient, and none of his family seemed to miss him. But the year that the hospital closed, we lost a fellow nurse. Everett… crushed her skull. He had a kind of brute strength, but it was the Leap year that brought out something different in him. All of the other nurses were terrified of him, but one day I noticed how calm he got when I began singing this old Irish lullaby under my breath. POPPY: Is that the Molly Mallone one that I keep hearing? I heard it a few days ago too… was that you singing? JUDY: Yes, it was me trying to do whatever I can to calm Everett and this was the only thing that worked. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but it’s his spirit, lingering in these walls even after all these years. I’ve been keeping it at bay ever since the incident. POPPY: That actually makes a lot of sense after what has been happening these past few days. It must have been Everett who hurt my friend Jade. JUDY: I’m so sorry that happened. Late at night is the hardest time to keep track of him. POPPY: I need to know the full story, what incident? JUDY: When Everett was a child, his father brutally murdered his mother, Molly, after finding out she was unfaithful. Everett was right there when it happened and he saw everything… he never recovered and as an adult began displaying textbook signs of psychopathy. I didn’t know at the time that his mother was named Molly and used to sing the same lullaby to him as a little boy. POPPY: But what does this all have to do with the leap year? JUDY:: Well, his mother’s murder happened on a leap year and when Everett was alive, he would have an outburst every four years. His last two leap years… well, both resulted in murders, and even though he’s dead and gone, his spirit becomes increasingly powerful as we approach a leap year so I stay behind to try to calm him the best I can. I have to protect you students and the lullaby is the only way I know how. POPPY: But wait, tomorrow is the 29th, what are we going to do? JUDY: I suppose I’ll keep trying my lullabies and hope that it all goes well… but it feels like his spirit is stronger than ever POPPY: No disrespect, but I don’t think that’s a solution, I think it’s time to put his spirit to rest for good. Can you tell me more about how Everett died? JUDY: It was on the last leap year before we sold the hospital. At that point the staff knew to expect an increase in violence from him on the 29th, so we were prepared, but we were too prepared. He got out of his room, and a few orderlies went to restrain him, but he was thrashing so violently that in their efforts to subdue him, they crushed his windpipe. The hospital director was so concerned about having bad publicity ahead of the building sale that they did everything to try to cover it up, even buried his body down below under the basement. POPPY: But that’s it, that’s what we have to do, we have to put Everett to rest.
Lauren and Lucy co-wrote the scripts during their one-on-one sessions every other week. When the time came to record, Lucy voiced the characters and Lauren edited the episode and layered in the sound effects.
Lucy Carson is a literary agent with The Friedrich Agency, a New York City based boutique. In her 14 years with the agency, Lucy has worked with Ruth Ozeki, Terry McMillan, Elizabeth Strout, Leila Mottley and many others, primarily in the adult fiction space. Lucy also manages the agency's Film & Television rights, and holds a BA in Film Studies from The University of Michigan.
Lauren Weisberg is a Freshman in the Hunter College Muse Scholar program and returning mentee. She was born and raised on Staten Island and is passionate about activism, creative writing and crocheting. She loves anything spooky and is intimidated by her cat.