“We’ll put you up in a different dorm block, if that’s OK. Yes, I know room 13 is empty, but it’s not available. That is for the safety of the students. I hope you understand.”

“Ah well, yes, apartment 8 IS unoccupied. No, it’s not that we prefer families over shared accommodation. Our true preference is that nobody ever gets into that house ever again.”

“Well, sir, I have to insist on any of these rooms instead. Some are similar, some even better. Honestly, I’d rather you take any other room in this hotel, sir. Room 76, you just can’t have. Nobody can… should have that one.”

Haunted house stories are plentiful and amusing. I suppose you have heard of or read a few yourself. Goodness knows I’ve encountered my fair share of wardens, real estate agents and hotel managers determined to cordon off supposedly spooked accommodation from human occupation. While I do like a good hair-raiser to read over dinner, it’s quite annoying when your preferred room is denied to you based on some fable. People die or lose their minds all over the world, in all sorts of locations. If we quarantined every single spot where a mishap occurred, we’d need a new planet quite soon.

How would you feel losing something this sweet because a previous occupant was clumsy?

When you’re in college, you’re at the mercy of the administration’s whims and you live with what you’re given. You deal with the leaking flush in your bathroom’s toilet. You learn to sleep through your roommate inexplicably turning the lights on from 2–4 AM. However, I am now 34, and paying top dollar. When I say I need a hotel room that provides sunlight at certain hours, or a tranquil location to set up shop in, I mean it.

By now, I’d had it. Something needed to be done. Which is why, on my business trip to Rex City last week, room 666 at the Aloft Grand was my hotel of preference. The business? Ghostbusting. I researched Rex City’s resident spook and decided to merge my annual getaway with my determination to put the town folk at ease.

I expressed this preference to the hotel manager. And what do you think he said? “Sir, I see you are requesting room 666. I am happy to explain in detail the myriad ‘occurrences’ in that room. But let me just say it would be in both our best interests that we put you up elsewhere.”

This time, I wasn’t having it. “I truly appreciate your concern, my good man. I am aware of the ‘occurrences’ you speak of. Regardless, I insist on having that room.”

“Sir, I understand that room provides a lovely view of the ocean. We have other rooms overlooking the beach as well.”

“Let me be even clearer. The only reason I am even in this hotel is to stay in that room.”, I said.

“Pardon me, sir? Are you of sound mind?”

I chuckled at his bold question. “Well, let me try to put you at ease. I am a citizen who wants to give back to the community. It will not do for the town folk to be running scared of a resident spook, and I presume it’s certainly not good for the hotel’s business.

“Sir, I’m not sure where you’re...”

“Let me help you turn things around.”, I interjected.

He sounded resigned with his response. “Very well sir. Forgive me for being so morbid, but let me remind you that you agreed to certain terms when booking this hotel, and among those is a complete waiving of liability on this hotel should any injury or death occur in this particular room. I can refund the booking amount in full if you wish to reconsider.”

“I am aware, and I have no issues. Please give me the key and show me the way”.

He handed me the key, showed me the elevator, made the sign of the cross and said a little prayer. Nice gesture, even if unnecessary.

At this point, I did still expect something to happen — the elevator to auto-skip the 6th floor and force me to use the stairs, the floor to have a foul smell, the door to reveal a room that hadn’t been cleaned in years.

What did happen? Nothing. The door was the same colour and type as the others on the floor. The room was perfectly normal — Bed, bathroom, television, room service menu and fully stocked minibar. The WiFi password was on a sticky note above the intercom phone, along with the necessary contact numbers. I ordered in dinner, cracked open a Corona, connected to Netflix and started to binge The Haunting of Hill House. Nothing like a bit of banter to start an encounter with spirits, I thought.

I ran through the entire show (10/10, I must say) and fell asleep at 11 PM. Surely now the ghouls would work their magic? Nope. A full night’s sleep, and nothing happened. What a bore. At least now I had good news to deliver! I took a shower, packed my things up, locked the room and started towards the elevator.

Except, I couldn’t just ignore what I saw and go to the elevator — every other room on the floor was wide open.

I stepped into room 665, curious. I found a middle-aged woman lying face down on her bed. She wasn’t breathing. I rushed to her intercom and dialed reception for help, but nobody picked up. How incompetent! 1/10 from me, the moment I had time to review. I called an ambulance and the police, and headed to check room 664. Much to my horror, another lifeless occupant! This time, a plump man around my age, on his back, eyes shut. 663, 662, 661 — this was the scene in every room on the floor.

I went down the elevator and ran to the reception, only to find the receptionist and hotel manager lying wide-eyed and lifeless on the common hall couches. I was numb and speechless as the cops and doctors arrived.

Everyone in the hotel was dead. Everyone except me.

I suppose I did manage to turn things around.

Football. Anime. Manga. Tennis. Words.