What inspires you to write? Is it a place, a special setting, purpose, thought, or character? At one time I thought I had the perfect setting for a suspense story. For two years I worked in one of Oregon’s most haunted places. The building, built in 1906, had four floors and in its early years housed orphans and catholic nuns as caregivers.
People in the orphanage died over the years and according to staff report, mysterious things happened on every landing, but most often on the fourth floor which happened to be the old sleeping quarters.
During my time there, I worked with a team teaching eight behaviorally challenged middle school students on the first floor. Related offices were on the second and third floors, but the fourth floor was empty and falling to ruin. I did wonder why they didn’t make use of this fourth floor; my assumption is that it had to do with reports of haunting.
When I was hired, a psychologist gave me a tour of the fourth floor, such as it was. Looking around at the empty dark corners gave me an eerie feeling but that was the extent of my concern about being in the building.
Even though trusted staff of many years had a chilling story or two to tell about the building, the only thing unusual I experienced was that posters would never stick on a section of the wall in the classroom, no matter how hard I tried. I suspected the nuns didn’t want anything up there. Otherwise nothing untoward happened, so I suspected the “ghosts” didn’t want to have anything to do with behavioral students.
When I started to work there, I thought the building would inspire me to write scary or suspenseful stories, but that’s not what happened. All I really gleaned from working in a haunted building was how to write better descriptors of creaking floors and staircases, and how to better describe a large old building with tall ceilings and beautiful woodwork.
I still remember looking up the four floors of the building on my way into work each day and wondering about the fourth floor, but once I got inside my focus was on the students that I worked with, my mind was on making a difference in their lives. Sometimes writing inspiration doesn’t always come to you in ways that you would think.