1) The Pit
Mournful, heavy with pain, and torment, this sound came drifting over the
moon-lit deck from the elevator pit. Shivers ran up my spine, the hairs on my
nape rising. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The moanings continued for
several minutes, and then stopped as suddenly as they began. "This is
ridiculous.' I thought to myself, removing my hand from my side-arm's holster.
before had I ever instinctively reached for my "45". I shook my head.
It was an hour or so past midnight. I was on security-watch...fun and games they
put young recruits through, though I was months out of boot-camp...now awaiting
assignment to a ship. The ship I was "guarding" was an old
World-War-Two "jeep" carrier, or CVE...the smallest of aircraft
carriers, some converted from C-3, and T-3 merchantmen...this ship having
already been stripped, and ready to be towed to the scrap yard. She was a
"dead" ship in the strictest of terms. Nevertheless, she was a large
structure with lots of dark forboding spaces within...places I dared not
go...not alone anyways, especially at night. Of course there was no power on the
ship, the only light being my flashlight, and the dim bulb in the wooden
make-shift guard house set up on the flight deck near the accomodation ladder,
the only way on, and off the ship. The nearest phone was up the pier, and we
weren't issued a walky-talky, as I said this was more for "training"
than anything else...though it could be classified as a fire-watch. There was
certainly nothing here worth stealing, any ways the hulk was within the confines
of the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard, but moored way off in a remote, lonely
I probably wouldn't have
payed much attention to the sound emanating from the now useless elevator pit,
the elevator platform being down a foot or so from deck level, if the fellow I
relieved hadn't been so upset. In fact, I found him waiting for me on the dock,
at the foot of the accomodation ladder, literally shaking. He told me of the
moaning in the elevator pit, and of some creature slowly ascending the old oak
accomodation ladder, and peering over at him from deck level, and then
disappearing. "Stomp, stomp, stomp.' he dramatized the foot steps up the
ladder. "It was grotesque.' he said. He had locked the guard shack, turned
out the light, and put a clip in his gun.He advised I do the same, as he ran off
towards the barracks. "Stomp, stomp, stomp.' I said to myself...laughing.
"What an imagination that fellow had.' I thought as I went up, and aboard.
I found the shack dark...the lights out, the windows up. I might have, just to
assuage my confidence, actually toured the decks, but that would have been
foolhardy with only a flash light, and being alone with no communications. I had
a good book to read, and I didn't believe in spooks, or monsters. That of course
was up until a few minutes ago, just before the "moaning". Now all we
needed was some foot steps...heavy, and ever so slow. Ha ha
stomp...."What the hell?" Strong, heavy foot steps began coming from
the direction of the gang-way...just minutes, or less. after the moaning sounds.
Fumbling, I un-snapped the flap to my holster, my fingers refusing to function
properly. I was like
paralysed. My useless fingers dropped the 45 to the deck, as I managed to fling out
my right arm to hit the light switch to off, the stool I was sitting on slipped
out from under me, crashing me to the deck. Stomp, stomp, stomp, and then the
low mournful groaning from the pit joined in. I groped in the dark for my
useless gun, my still useless fingers trying their best to open the clip-pouch
on my belt. Shaking like a leaf I grasped the 45, and rammed home the clip. My
rubbery legs quivering as I raised myself high enough to peer over the window
sill and gaze onto this monster that should be at the gang
Nothing! All was still. The
waning moon just about deck level now, its silvery path down the flight deck
almost gone, leaving the recess of the pit in darkness. Literally shaking, I
kept my eyes on that gangway. Forgetting to lock the door, I jumped for the
knob, and flipped the lock, realizing I could be ambushed from
The shack was out in the open
more, or less. It had windows all around...cheap-thin-glass windows. What kind
of a chance would I have against whatever was out there? As trees in a forest at
night can take on ghostly features, the same thing was happening with the
various pieces of deck gear lying about the deck...the simple
"island", or conning tower taking on the shape of an immense troll. I
braced myself for the worst. Chancing a glance to port, or across the ship, I
saw it behind me, in reflection, in the direction of the gangway. My whole body turned into
goose-pimples. I spun around to face this thing head on...there was nothing
there. Now I knew I was halucinating, this was getting the better of me. I had
to get out of this cage I confined myself to...get out and fight to the end.
Mustering all the strength I had, and working myself up into a frenzy like the
marshal arts types do, and with loud hollering like a bonzi warrior, I slung
open the door, and charged towards the gangway, pistol in one hand, light in the
other. I fetched up against the safety chains on the platform of the ladder. If
I had been travelling a little faster I would have gone right over...down to the
dock thirty feet, or more below. The sudden realization of how close I had come
to doing just that, shook me back to
Actually chastising myself outloud for
being so stupid, I caught the lights of a harbor tug dashing past the piers, no
doubt heading for a docking or undocking elsewhere. The only sign of life so far
that night, it was conforting to know I was still in the real world.
Shaking my head in unbelief to my behavior over the past few minutes, I
walked back to the guard shack, holstering my 45 as I went. I broke out in an
audible laugh. "What a jerk I am.' saying to myself. As I was just about to
step into the shack....
Ooooooooh, oooooooh, ooooooh,came this mournful cry again from the pit. I
jumped into the shack, slamming, and locking the door behind me. I didn't know
which way to turn...this was for real. Someone, or thing WAS down there, this is
no imagination. Gun up, lights out, I gathered my shoulders together, tightening
my chest, flexing my arms, fashioning myself into some lethal spring...ready for
anything. I let the sliding window come crashing down - open. I peered out, eyes
wide open, pupils dilated to gather every bit of light possible as I swept the
dark, flat, empty deck...stopping at the gaping pit. I caught a glimpse of the
receding tug as it came out from under the bow of the ship, fully visible once
again. I sensed a slight movement, no doubt caused by the wake of the tug, but
paid no attention to that. The moaning slowed, then diminished. In a mad dash
out to the door of the shack to confront whatever was down in that pit, I was
met foot steps...foot steps off to my right. I stopped my advance towards the
pit. Listening intently now, I could definitely heard, almost feel these slow,
purposeful foot steps - stomping, heavy steps. "You've had it buddy.' I
yelled as I ran towards the gangway, pistol extended, flashlight steady one the
stomp...closer, and closer they got. Closer, and closer I got to the gangway. If
I had a sword, I would have been slashing, one side to the other. It might have
seemed to have more effect as I ran to challenge the monster. Stomp...one stomp.
Then another, but slowing, the next stomp almost inaudible, its stopping before
getting to the top. It knows I'm coming. "I'll get you.' I cried out as I
jumped onto the platform to face this thing head-on. I swept the
ladder...nothing. Not a thing, person, nothing. I swept the dock from
above...nothing. I ran down the ladder...nothing. Then, clearly audible a faint
foot step, like in its death-throws.
There was the monster. Dark, and
gnurled, covered with a black ooze, it's head flat like Frankenstein's. It
wavered there, standing out of the dark water. I jumped onto the string-piece,
the heavy-timbered facing for the concrete dock. I kicked the monster in the
head, and it fell back, hitting the ship - boom
( stomp ), coming
back at me, I kicked it again, it fell away again, striking the side of the ship
- boom - stomp...again. The water was calm, but wouldn't be for long....A tug
was going by again. Three hundred, so feet ahead, the wake, or waves from the
tug was beginning to reach the bow of the ship, the ship ever so slightly
beginning to rise, fall, and roll. I couldn't hear it from the dock, but I bet
the mournful soul in the pit was beginning to moan.
Before long, the waves started to move the monster, it's head striking
the hull plating of the ship - stomp, stomp, stomp - heavy, slow footsteps
began. Leaving the monster, I raced up the ladder, across the deck to the
"haunted" pit, getting there just in time to catch the last of the
moans as the ship settled down.
had to see this poor soul, I had to get down there, and see for myself. Quick to
the side of the flight deck, down a short ladder, and a jump through an open
water-tight-weather door. The beam of my light leading the way, I made it to the
area under the slightly lowered elevator platform above. A look down the
pit...guides, and slides, and heavy springs, and cables...all candidates for
spooky sound-effects. The next tug that passed confirmed all this as I again
raced down there to catch the symphony of the dead.
The above account is true.
The dramatization poetic license on my part.
Quartermaster Signalman - Cox, a navy ship mate of mine on
Arneb AKA-56 was the brave
ghost-buster. He told me this story on a dark, calm night at sea in convoy while
we stood signal watch in 1953.
Below is a few samples of
what these CVEs looked like, before, and after conversion. Search Altavista for
"aircraft carriers" &link:cve , and find loads of information.
T-3 type tanker above to Escort Carrier ( CVE ) shown on the
C-3 type freighter above to Escort Carrier ( CVE ) shown