Scary Stories to Read in the Office
Spooky things can happen in the office. Your stapler mysteriously disappears into the ether, your lunch vanishes from the fridge — and your colleagues swear it wasn’t them. Or maybe the lights in the old building flicker on and off, on and off — mostly when you’re working alone at night.
Needless to say, these ghostly hauntings can be even scarier than a full inbox after a week-long vacation. And in the spirit of the season, we’ve compiled three chilling tales of terror. Read on — at your own peril.
Jenn had just had one of those days — long, exhausting and full of utterly unnecessary scrambling. She supposed that she should expect disaster to unfold whenever it was time to run payroll. After all, trying to gather timesheets from across such a large school district was a chore in and of itself. Needless to say, it was with a feeling of relief she flicked off the lights and climbed into bed that evening.
Just before falling asleep, she thought to herself how odd it was that somehow, every month, staff members managed to misplace their timesheets… or, as one employee seemed intent on believing, timesheets magically disappeared of their own accord. Still, she wondered where all those missing timesheets were. It’s not like they could get up and wander away.
She woke in the middle of the night, heart racing. “Hello?” she called out, to no response. She heard a muffled, rustling sound outside of her window, and rushed to turn the lights on only to see a piece of paper slapped across her bedroom window. She breathed a sigh of relief — she was three stories up, the wind must have carried it through the air.
But it didn’t fall gently to the ground as expected, and as a second piece of paper plastered itself against her window, she noticed that the night was still and calm — not a gust of wind to be found. She craned her neck to look outside, straining against the darkness to see what was happening. She heard a faint and insubstantial voice whisper right in her ear, “Ours.”
Thwack. A third piece of paper appeared on yet another window. She noticed with revulsion that it seemed to be moving, as if the parchment itself was alive and laboring to reach her. Then, as if at once, reams of paper appeared, thrashing against the window panes.
“Ours,” the paper breathed, struggling to enter the house. She ran from her bedroom, slamming the door shut just as one sheet wriggled its way through a crack in the window and shot through the air straight at her. She dashed down the hallway and found, to her horror, that her kitchen was already filling with quivering heaps of paperwork, crinkling quietly to her, “Ours.” She reached for the phone — who could she call? — but froze as the mass of paper streamed toward her, the rustling and whispering reaching a fever pitch. As more and more paper squirmed into her home, burying her under a literal mountain of paperwork, she saw the familiar format of an employee timesheet imprinted on each piece.
She had finally found the lost timesheets. Or rather, they had found and overwhelmed her. As she disappeared underneath them, she had a sudden revelation.
“Hours,” she whispered.
Trying to pull data together into something usable for the school board meeting was hard enough without his manager anxiously breathing down his neck. And repeated calls of, “Arthur! I really need that report for the meeting with the school board now!” certainly didn’t make the process any easier.
Not that it was ever easy in the first place. Unsurprisingly, Excel files were not the best way to manage the school district’s data, although Arthur supposed they were somewhat better than doing everything with pen and paper. And as one might expect, trying to wrangle spreadsheets under tight deadlines wasn’t conducive to the most accurate reporting.
Arthur wasn’t the type of person who thrived under pressure, and he began to sweat as the deadline loomed closer and closer. He was so nervous, so intent on finishing his work that he disregarded the pop-up warning him that an unexpected error had occurred. It didn’t matter if “Autorecover has been disabled for this session of Excel” —he would just save the file manually. Finally, feeling as though the stress would crush him completely, he added the finishing touches and hit “save.”
“Done!” he shouted, feeling triumphant that the report was completed with enough time to review and discuss before the meeting.
Ding. He looked at his screen, seeing a notice that Microsoft Office had crashed. Not a problem, he thought — luckily, he’d remembered to save the report. He went to reopen the file just as his manager approached.
He felt his heart skip a beat and cried out, “No, Microsoft! This information was not helpful!”
Desperate for a solution, he raced against time, frantically searching through Google and darting through troubleshooting tips. He found one promising article and rushed through the steps, feeling as though he were conducting some ancient ritual to coax Microsoft back to his side.
But instead of working, he found his screen frozen, faded out and unresponsive to his frenzied clicking and mouse movements. Unable to accept Excel-induced failure, he continued to fruitlessly click and bang on the keyboard.
There’s no way his computer could be frozen, not now when he needed it most!
He just needed more time, he thought hopelessly. He was so caught up in trying to find a solution, desperately hitting CTRL-ALT-DELETE over and over that he failed to notice as his computer itself began to freeze. Even as he felt the frigid air emanating from the computer, he convinced himself it was a symptom of panic.
It wasn’t until his computer was encrusted with ice that he decided to abandon all hope and admit defeat. But it was too late. The ice had already frozen his hands to his keyboards and was creeping up his arms, binding him in place.
Supposedly, Arthur is still there in the central office, suspended in time, frozen to a non-functional computer. And the report was never completed.
James had just started his job at Barningdale School District. So, when his officemate asked him to retrieve an employee file from the storage room, he jumped at the chance to help out. Had he known what awaited, he may not have been quite as enthusiastic. As it was, he didn’t expect to find himself in an old storage room lined with poorly-marked, unorganized filing cabinets along one wall.
“How hard could it be to find one file?” he thought, checking the first filing cabinet’s drawers. He was optimistic that he’d find the right folder soon enough. But by the fourth cabinet, he was beginning to lose hope, and his head was beginning to pound. It seemed like the thump of each drawer as it opened and closed was caught on repeat in his mind.
After several trips back and forth fetching records, he had a feel for how the old documents had been organized once upon a time. And to his delight, his next forays into the storage room went a little bit quicker — even though it seemed like there were more and more places to look every time. Even the rhythmic swish-thump of the drawers had settled into nothing more than background noise.
The next couple of days passed uneventfully, though it was becoming more difficult to find the right files in the ancient storage room. It seemed as though the school district was consolidating all of its employee records into one place, because by the end of the week each wall was lined with filing cabinets groaning under the weight of the records they contained. But the next week, things began to go downhill. The director had decided to conduct a voluntary audit to check their processes, and it fell to James to produce all of the records they needed. It felt like a losing battle — the storage room was stuffed with filing cabinets and even loose piles of paperwork, and James had developed what seemed like a permanent migraine. He swore he could hear the swish-thump of the filing cabinets’ drawers everywhere he went.
He decided that he’d had enough after walking into the building one day to find the dreaded filing cabinets spilling out of the storage room into his office. He asked Mel who had put them there, and why they couldn’t possibly just find another storage room.
“What filing cabinets?” Mel asked. An odd question, since one had taken up residence next to her chair. There was only one explanation.
“This is a terrible prank to play on the new guy. It’s not even funny,” James muttered, and turned to his computer — only to find it blocked by even more of the bland beige cabinets.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. But would you mind going down to the storage room and pulling this set of documents? I’m sorry, I know it’s a long list, but we really need them all by the end of the day.”
James couldn’t bear a single moment more hunting for haphazardly-filed records. He turned to tell Mel he couldn’t take it anymore — he was even hearing that awful, repetitive swish-thump of the drawers in his sleep.
But Mel was nowhere to be found. There were only filing cabinets — hundreds of unnavigable, disorganized filing cabinets — filling the office.