Growing Up Alaska: The Bed Unmade

When I was 5, my family returned to Alaska on vacation so that my two older brothers could see where they were born. Through a series of events, that vacation turned into staying over the winter and I never left.

One of those events that allowed us to stay here was the fact that my dad took on a carpentry project of restoring an old hotel at Arctic Circle Hot Springs. All the kids were put to work doing chores around the hotel and one of my duties was to help clean the rooms after the few guests that we had left.

The overall winter was quite boring and I don’t remember a whole lot except for a few events that have been seared into my brain.

At night, when all of us kids gathered in the lofts to sleep, the older kids would tell stories that of course made it difficult to sleep. Many of these stories were centered around things that went bump in the night, including the ghost of Mrs. Leech, the original owner of the hotel.

One thing that I noticed when the stories of Mrs. Leech came up, there was no laughter or loud screams to scare you, they were all done in hushed tones. The older kids would turn pale and grow quiet whenever her name was mentioned. Even the adults wouldn’t exactly deny the existence of something strange at the hotel.

It seemed like everyone had a story. Most were of strange sounds or the feeling of being watched. Some ranged to manifestations or things being moved, but they were often scoffed at, but never denied.

This is mine.

We’d had three rooms vacated and the linens needed to be changed. The manager had three daughters, and I honestly don’t remember their names, except for Brook. I was assisting the oldest daughter who was 16 I think and I don’t remember her name, but I will refer to her as Brook.

The rooms were on the second floor of the hotel and we methodically were cleaning them. Brook would pull the covers and sheets off and bundle them before setting them in the hall. I would then carry them downstairs to the cart where we would later wheel them over to the laundry.

While I was doing this, which was a chore since I was only 5, Brook would vacuum each room. On each return trip, I would grab the new sheets and blankets for the bed and deposit them in the room before taking down the next load.

There was a communal bathroom for the floor which was luckily someone else’s job, so we put fresh towels and washcloths in the chest of drawers in each room.

We had finished the cleaning and were putting the beds back together. I’m not sure how much help I really was, but Brook was always kind and was one of the few older kids that seemed to genuinely enjoy my assistance.

All the rooms were next to each other and were on the front side of the hotel, so we started with the one farthest away and worked our way towards the stairs. We finished the first room and Brook marked it off the checklist and we moved on to the next room.

We were almost done with the middle room when we heard a thump. I finished tucking in the blanket while Brook stuck her head out into the hall. She came back in and shrugged and we finished up the room.

We had just moved into the third room when Brook’s mom came upstairs to check on our progress. Brook indicated we were done with the first two rooms and we were moving on to the last one.

I was putting the pillow cases on while Brook was laying out the fitted sheet when her mother yelled for Brook from down the hall. Brook rolled her eyes and looked out into the hall.

“I want both of you to come here now!” she called.

I followed Brook down the hall and followed Brook’s mother’s very agitated gaze into the room. My jaw nearly hit the floor and I looked to Brook.

The blanket on the bed was pulled down and hanging off the front side of the bed. I also noticed a towel on the floor and the top drawer open.

Brook’s mom stared scolding her for not doing her job properly, but I was trying to figure out who did this. We’d heard a thump. There was only one stairway, and we hadn’t heard anyone walking up and down the halls. Besides, kids weren’t allowed on this floor unless we were working…

I bolted for the common bathroom and busted through the door, expecting to find my older brothers in there. But the room was empty.

I started back down the hall and checked the next two rooms on the backside of hotel. They were empty as well.

“Matthew, what are you doing?” Brook’s mom demanded. “Those rooms haven’t been used in over a month.”

I looked up at her and I could hear the whispers of the older kids at night and the hair on my neck stood on end. “We made the bed.”

Her eyes narrowed for a second, then she responded, “Obviously not. I don’t know what game you are playing, but it isn’t funny.”

She grabbed Brook by the arm and the walked to the second room and I ran to catch up. She opened the door and stood there. I peeked around and found the room perfectly fine.

“Now go back and do the first room right,” she said herding Brook down the hall. “And you go finish what you were doing in the last room.”

I scurried off and went back to fitting the oversized down pillows into their way to small pillowcases. The whispers kept haunting me. I could sense something and my little heart raced.

THUMP! THUMP! BANG!

I screamed and threw the pillow and spun around expecting something to spring out at me.

There was another thump and I ran for the open door.

Brook and her mother had come out of their room and her mom glared at me. “What were you doing?”

I looked back into the room and stammered, “I was ma-making the the b-b-bed.”

She started for me and I was ready to bolt, but she stopped in front of the middle room and slowly opened the door. She stood there and I could see her hand tremble as she paled.

Brook reached her before I did and she gasped. I slid under her mom’s arm and looked inside. The mattress was turned and both the blankets and sheets were in a pile on the floor. Both pillows had been tossed across the room and all four drawers were pulled out of the chest of drawers, the top one on the floor.

She carefully pushed us back and closed the drawer. She seemed like she was going to say something, but then she closed her mouth and herded us down the hallway. “Never speak of this,” she whispered.

She excused us from our chores and waited a couple of hours before going back upstairs and fixing the rooms.

At first we didn’t say anything, until the kids began to ask question after we were banned from doing our chores on the second floor for the week. The other kids began to ask questions and Brook finally broke and told them what happened.

Of course the others laughed quietly and played it off as a joke. But I will always remember how quiet they would get when something would thump or knock on the wall downstairs.

Was it a guest or was it Mrs. Leech examining the rooms?

Author: matthewlasley

I am a school teacher and an author. I like to write picture books, middle grade, science fiction and short stories. I live in Alaska and I love history, so those two things often influence my creative writing.

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