The Thing I Never Reported: Working the Overnight Shift at a Mental Hospital
Updated: May 25
It’s been over two years now since I quit my job at the mental hospital, and I never once told anyone what happened that night. Even on that morning, after the sun had risen and the other staff were filing in, bright-eyed and ready for the day, I couldn’t speak a word. I grabbed my bags, handed over my reports, and slowly walked out of the building. The night started off normally enough. I arrived at 9:48 and clocked in with twelve minutes to spare, so I went to the upstairs unit to grab some coffee. By the time the evening staff were ready to go I had already gathered my paperwork, pulled up my favorite chair into the blind spot on the camera (in case I fell asleep), and checked the battery on my bed scanner. We had to scan each patient’s bed every fifteen minutes of the night, and I didn’t want to have to run and grab another scanner if mine died. I got the shift report- two children were on a home visit, and one had been suffering from diarrhea. I would have to scan for thirteen children tonight. After the evening staff left, I walked up the long narrow hallway, looking into each room. I counted the patients to make sure they were all present and sleeping. All there, all sleeping. Then I sat to do my paperwork. I rushed to fill out the documentation so that all I had to do was scan beds for the rest of the night, so for a while the only sound on the unit was that of my pen scratching relentlessly at my packet of paperwork. 10:15. It was time to do my first scan. I got up and grabbed my scanner. I usually start on the left side of the hall because there were fewer rooms on that side. I scanned each bed, going up that side of the hall and then back down on the right, making sure the boys were breathing. Then, I continued my scans every fifteen minutes after that, each time looking at their faces and chests to check for unhindered breath. Once my paperwork was finished I was free to relax between scans, so I dug in my bag and found a book. I read, scanned, then read, then scanned. Occasionally I would use the bathroom or blow my nose, but mostly I sat in my comfy chair, reading. Then my eyes started getting heavy, so I figured I close them for a little while. Riiiiiinnnnnnggggg! I jumped out of my chair, heart racing. It was the unit phone. “Boys unit, this is Mrs. DeVore,” I said. “Mrs. DeVore, I noticed you hadn’t done your 2:30 or your 2:45 scan. Is everything okay?” “Yes, Mr. Sanchez, I just dozed off for a while, I’m sorry. I’m up now, thanks.” “Okay, have a good night.” Dang. They’re actually checking cameras tonight. The supervisors sometimes watched us from the hallway cameras to make sure we were actually monitoring the children on schedule. So much for having a little nap. I grabbed my scanner and started up the hall.
Then, on the way back down the right side of the hall, it happened. I went into the room that three boys shared and watched for a moment. Their chests were rising and falling; safe, alive, sleeping okay. So I bent to scan the first bed. “I’m so glad your here,” a voice came from the darkness behind me. I scanned the bed that I was currently slumped over and turned around. “Thank you Jacob, but go back to slee-” Jacob was sleeping, though. I looked around to see who might’ve said it, but all three boys had their eyes closed. I shook it off, thinking maybe one of them was playing a trick on me, and I walked out of the room. If they were playing games, I wasn’t going to entertain them. I continued my scans and sat back down. In fifteen more minutes I got up, as usual, and started up the hall. When I approached the room with the three boys, I stood outside and listened. If they were awake, I would hear them plotting. I stood there for a few seconds and then I heard some shuffling and laughing, so I quickly stepped in the room. Nothing. I went to scan the beds, not bothering to investigate. The first bed was Romeo’s. Even in the dark I could see that his face was smoothed and his breathing even, so I scanned and moved on to Dylan’s bed. He was also okay, so I scanned him, too. Last was Jacob’s bed. He had a dark blanket pulled over his face so I couldn’t see him. I grabbed the blanket to pull it back, but it was unusually warm for a blanket, and unusually heavy. I tugged a little harder at it, and quick as a flash something reached up and grabbed my wrist - a matted, greasy claw. It took my tired mind a few minutes to realize what was going on, but then the horror sank in as I realized that this thing was sitting on Jacob’s face, smothering him. And now it had my arm. “I’m so glad you’re here,” the creature said with a wide grin. My eyes had adjusted to the dark by now and I could see it’s teeth gleaming in the moonlight. Though my insides had started lurching, I couldn’t bring myself to scream, to wrench my arm away. I was rooted to the spot. The thing pulled my arm closer to its face and took a deep whiff, drinking in my scent. I couldn’t do anything but let it. Then it suddenly let me go. The thing turned back on Jacob, who barely stirred this whole time, and it laid back over his face. It was then that I should’ve called for help, but I didn’t. I backed out of the room and up the hall, careful to never turn around. Then I sat back in my chair. I wasn’t sure if it was my mind playing tricks on me, but I was sure of this: I wasn’t going to be doing anymore scans for the rest of the night. I sat in my chair, keeping my eye on the room. If it came out into the hallway at least my supervisors would see it, too, on the cameras. Fifteen minutes passed. Then thirty. Then an hour. I watched and watched until my eyes got heavy again. If I closed them for a little while, I reasoned, morning would come a little faster. So I dozed. Big mistake. It wasn’t a shrill scream or a jarring crash that awoke me. Everything was quiet and calm, as a matter of fact. Exceedingly calm. What awoke me was the unusual warmth on the unit. I was sticky with sweat, uncomfortable. I opened my eyes to check the time, but I found that I couldn’t see anything. I was under a blanket. A warm, heavy, smelly blanket. “I’m so glad you’re here,” the creature said in my ear. It’s muzzle brushed against my face as it spoke the words. Its fetid breath was filling up my lungs. I wanted to scream but I knew that if I did the creature would quiet me. I squirmed to get some fresh air, but the more I moved the tighter it squeezed me. The thing stroked my face with four long, skinny fingers. The matted fur on them was stained black in some places, dried blood. I tried to keep calm. I haven’t scanned in several hours at least. A supervisor was sure to come by the unit to bust me sleeping and once they came, I’d have some help. The thing continued to stroke my face, reveling in my fear. And I continued waiting for someone to come. What seemed like an eternity later, its stroking against my cheek slowed and eventually stopped. The thing laid across my body, quiet and still. I slowly moved. If I got enough leverage, I might be able to throw it off of me and run. I slipped my half-sleeping arms from underneath it and braced myself. The creature’s body was even heavier now that it was resting, but I was able to get my arms from underneath it. But just as I set my hands firmly on the arm rest of the chair, it started to laugh, nuzzling deeper into my neck. I sank back down, knowing that this creature knew my plan and wouldn’t let me get away so easily. Some time later my heart was still racing, ready to give up. But then I heard it - a sign of hope. People were right outside of the unit door, talking. It was the morning staff. The creature heard them, too, and slowly lifted its wretched head. And just as the unit door opened, it slid down my body and straight through the floor. I sat up in my chair, incredulously watching the spot where it disappeared, trying to force my mind to understand what had just happened.
Ms. Dawson was the first of the staff to shuffle in. She yawned, stretching her long arms and throwing her day bag into one of the chairs. Then she turned to me. “Good Morning, Mrs. DeVore. Are you sick? You’re all sweaty.”