Scariest Place on Earth: Alone, in the Church, in the Dark, at Night

I have lived a pretty sheltered life when it comes to terrifying circumstances.  I have never been in military combat, or been the victim of a shark attack.  Heck, I hardly ever see scary movies.  I am no stranger to fear, however, because I have been alone, in the church, in the dark, at night.  Several times in fact.

When I was growing up, we lived next door to the stake center, and all through my teenage years my dad was in the stake presidency.  This meant he had the keys to the building.  He was a bit of a softy on certain subjects, and basketball was one of them.  So when there wasn’t much going on in the building I would go over and use the gym.  Most of the time I was just fine over there.  But once in a while I would come home after just a couple of minutes.  Not because I was disturbing some presidency meeting, or because I was tired.  I came home because I was scared.  Of what, I don’t know.  On some nights, just going through the halls to the gym gave me the creeps.

I have since had callings like Young Mens President, or EQP, and now I am the ward clerk.  With these callings I get keys to the building, and once in a while I go in, alone, at night.  Usually this is no big deal.  But even now, sometimes I just leave and go home because I am afraid.

I am not sure what this says about me, or the church, or whatever.  What do you think?  Has being alone in the church, in the dark, at night ever freaked you out?

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18 Responses to “Scariest Place on Earth: Alone, in the Church, in the Dark, at Night”


  1. 1 DCL February 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Yes – I had the calling to check and lock the building every night at a chapel that was set back from the road in the woods. The parking lights were on a timer and went off around the time I would come to check and the place was pitch black. I was supposed to check the inside to make sure everyone was gone, etc., but sometimes I would just quickly check the exterior doors and get the heck out of there.

  2. 2 Tex February 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    On my mission we had an incident where a homeless man was living in the church. He knew a member who would prop a window open so he could sneak in.

  3. 3 Ardis E. Parshall February 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    I used to go to the stake center at 4 a.m. to type in the Family Records Extraction Program before going to work. Those cavernous, dark halls stretching away from the puny light at the entrance were terrifying — I was sure there were dozens of Gadianton Robbers hiding just past the drinking fountain. Good thing the room with the computer was right next to the door I had a key to — I could dodge in and lock the room door behind me. /shivers/

  4. 4 Eric Nielson February 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    DCL:

    I can relate.

    Tex:

    That is scary for real.

    Ardis:

    So why are we afraid? For what it is worth I was walking in a dark hall in a Presbyterian church once and it was scary to me as well. Yet, I am not afraid of the dark in other buildings – as far as I know.

  5. 5 Tom O. February 23, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    I don’t typically get the heebie-jeebies in situations like we’re talking about here, but there was this one time….

    Actually, it was just a few weeks ago. It was a Saturday morning in January, and there was a funeral taking place in the ward building around noon. We had a rather large snowstorm the couple of days previous, so I stopped by the building to see that the sidewalks and disabled-access ramp were cleared of snow prior to the service. I was also dropping off some food for the post-service lunch.

    After shoveling the snow, I decided to take a peek inside and see if the carpets needed to be vacuumed prior to the funeral, as the viewing took place in the building the evening before. I hadn’t been able to attend the viewing, which was in the chapel, so I went down to pay my respects.

    The building was pitch dark, with the only natural light coming in through the few exterior doors; moreover, this chapel has no windows. I made my way to the chapel doors, and opened them. Before I could turn the lights on, I could only see a faint red glowing light near the pulpit.

    Curious, I moved closer (without, for some reason, turning the overhead lights on) only to discover that the casket had not been closed following the viewing the previous evening, and that the red glow came from a small lamp (like a adjustable reading light) fitted with a red light bulb….shining right on the deceased sister’s face!

    I have never moved that fast in a church building before, and I doubt I will again. I still get the willies thinking about that one.

  6. 6 Eric Nielson February 23, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Tom:

    I think you were set up.

  7. 7 WVS February 24, 2011 at 4:18 am

    I was a church custodian for a large building as a student. Cleaning up at night was not unusual and I had to take my turn to lock up certain weeks. Turning the lights out as I made my way out of the building always creeped me out. I’m a bit claustrophobic so that may have been part of it.

  8. 8 Paul February 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I always turn on as many lights as I can. Faith may cast out fear, but lights do it, too.

  9. 9 John Scherer February 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I am so relieved that other people have had this experience. I always assumed I was just a coward.

  10. 10 Mark Brown February 24, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Eric, totally agree.

    When I got called to be clerk the records were in bad shape and so it took a lot of time to get everything squared away. I spent some late nights at the church, and I didn’t really mind, because I was busy working and the door was closed. But when I made the rounds at 11:00 p.m. to make sure the lights were off and everything was locked up it always creeped me out. A lot of it has to do with the recessed doorways and darkened alcoves. Once I had gone all the way around the building and turned the last corner, only to see that a light I KNEW I had turned off was now back on. It turns out that the clerk from the other ward had come in on the way to his graveyard shift to get some work done, but he almost gave me a stroke.

    Once our YW president was locking up after a special YW function. She decided to take the short cut through the chapel, even though the lights were off. When she was about halfway across the darkened chapel, she heard the unmistakeable sound of a person breathing. I don’t know how she did it, but she kept her wits and made her way to the light switch. It turns out that it was one of her Mia Maids. Her father had been abusing her and the lesson that night had inspired her to get out of the situation. She had decided she was just going to sleep in the chapel instead of going home.

  11. 11 Eric Nielson February 24, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Mark:

    That YW story is weird/cool.

  12. 12 Jacob M February 24, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Oh, the stories I’ve heard/experienced. My father had that calling where you make sure the building is closed at night. He took me a few times and every time it was a nerve racking experience. It didn’t help that my frickin’ dad would tell stories of how he would press the code to turn the alarm back to green from red after he had opened the door, then go through the building, and finding the light red again, meaning that someone had opened the door. Thanks for the nightmares, Dad!

    I also remember a couple of years ago inputing membership record info late on a Saturday night. As I’m shutting off the computer and stepping out the clerks office, I see movement to my right. I turn and look, and a man is walking right towards me. I about peed my pants, and then he stops, and says, “Hi.” I respond with “Hello” (somehow no sounding girly). He went right on through the rest of the building. I figure he was checking to make sure the building was locked up, but it was odd that he didn’t say so.

  13. 13 Keryn February 25, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Is it weird that so many of us have the same fear of the church at night? What is that about?

    I worked early morning custodial for two semesters in college, and even the basement of the Clyde Building never gave me the chills the way darkened ward buildings could. Maybe because we are used to it being bright and full of people?

  14. 14 Angie February 25, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Please read “Emily Climbs” by L.M. Montgomery. There’s an awesome church-at-night scene.

  15. 15 Kris February 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    My mother in law would go to the chapel to practice the organ. One time she was practicing away and glanced toward the heavy drapes covering a window. Looking down, she saw a pair of men’s feet poking out underneath the drapes. She just left.

  16. 16 Brother Smyth March 15, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I have felt the same way on several occasions where I’ve had to lock up the church at night or if I’ve cut through the chapel in the evening after Mutual is over.

    I think it just may come from being somewhere you’re not used to being when it’s dark. At home, I’ve occasionally had the feeling, but it’s more rare there, because I’m often walking around the house when it’s dark.

  17. 17 glv April 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I ran across this post and was very surprised because I thought I was the only one too, but apparently not! I was alone in the church on occasion when I was a bishop (due to some quirk of inspiration – the bishop part not the alone part). Anyway, I was always spooked when I was alone in the church, even during the day. And it was especially bad at night. I nearly freaked one night when I went around to check all the doors and I saw what I swear was a Gila monster trying to scramble onto the glass door, to get in (?) It was New Mexico but not in the right habitat so it was really scary. Maybe it was cold (?) I just ran and exited the other side of the church. At least it wasn’t a salamander.

    I like Karyn’s idea. My theory is that the church is obviously not the building. Without the liveliness of the Saints and their bright spirits it is only dark and lonely. The contrast is very powerful. And that must be what spooks when anyone is all alone in what should be a bright and lively gathering place.


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