Spooks. The CIA is famous for them. But this Halloween, we decided to explore a different kind of spooky story, tales best told by candle-light or when gathered around a roaring bonfire in the cool of a late autumn eve.
Like everyone else, Agency officers love a good ghost story. Working late at Headquarters, and in locations around the world, it’s no wonder that strange experiences have given way to ghostly legends. CIA officers, analysts, police, maintenance crews, and visitors have reported spooky stories of all kinds — ranging from the uncanny sound of footsteps in an empty hallway to seeing the apparition of a former Director, huddled over an old map in the library at night.
Often, these unsettling experiences are explained away by fatigue or an over-active imagination. Sometimes, however, a story is just a little too real, a little too strange, and told by someone not known for flights of fancy. In those cases, the stories begin to make their way around the Agency, whispered in the dim of the evening after a long day’s work, usually beginning with the words, “Hey, did you hear the story about…”
In the spirit of Halloween, we decided to gather a few of these spooky tales and share them with you. All of the stories you are about to read are reported to be true. Sometimes, the names of people and places have been changed… to protect the spooks, of course. Happy hauntings!
* * * * *
“Good Day, Mr. Director”
Early in my career, the elevators in the older section of CIA Headquarters (known as the Original Headquarters Building or OHB) were known to have quirks (I think they still do).
Occasionally, the elevator would stop and the doors would open at a floor with no one there, and no one on the elevator had requested that floor.
I heard second-hand that the “thing to do” when that happened was to say “Good day, Mr. Director,” because it was assumed that the doors opened for the ghost of Allen Dulles. OHB was his project, as many know, but he never was able to move into his office, having been replaced as CIA Director just before it was ready.
Late Night Pick-Up Game
Late one night back in 1986 when I was on the Agency Security Protective Force making my security/safety rounds, I heard what sounded like someone bouncing a basketball. As I made my way to the old arch-way that framed the entrance to the gym, it was obvious that someone was shooting baskets. My first thought was, why would anyone be shooting baskets at this time of night?
As I entered the room, there were no lights on and the dribbling of the basketball stopped. When I finally found the light switch, I spotted a basketball sitting in middle of the floor. I was expecting to hear running footsteps, but heard none, just a lone basketball sitting at the free-throw line.
I returned to post and told my boss this story, and I remember him telling me about the ghosts that other guards had seen or heard.
Was it a ghost? I don’t know, and I can’t explain why I did not hear any footsteps or see anyone. After this incident, I paid close attention from that day on when I was near the gym at night. I never heard the bouncing basketball again.
Work Never Ends for the Chief
A colleague of mine had to stay at the office late one night to write some cables and get caught up on other work. Her office was small and she was the last person in the office that night. While the silence of being alone had, up to that point, allowed her to work more efficiently, this night was different. As she typed on her keyboard, she swore that she could hear typing coming from a typewriter. At first, she thought it was the sound of someone else typing from a normal keyboard, but the sound of the carriage return bell every ten seconds or so left her with no doubt that, somehow, she was hearing a typewriter. Curiously, she could only hear these sounds, faintly, as she typed herself; every time she stopped to listen to the mysterious sounds more closely, the sounds ceased.
Finally, when she was ready to depart for the evening, she decided to check the office one more time before locking up. After all, she heard faint typing noises earlier, so she thought maybe someone had come back into the office unbeknownst to her. After verifying that, indeed, she was the only person left in the office, she walked toward the door, passing an unused and faintly lit office. As she passed by the doorway, she caught a glimpse of a man in the office, wearing a suit and a fedora, holding the phone to his ear. She backpedaled immediately to see who it was and to tell this person that he would be the last person remaining. But, when she looked into the office not even a moment later, she discovered it empty, and moreover, without a phone installed. She decided to put the whole incident out of her mind and go home.
The next day she could not shake the impression she got from the previous night and cautiously mentioned the experience to a coworker, dismissing it immediately as the result of her fatigue that night. “Oh, you saw the Chief,” was her coworker’s unexpected reply. She insisted that by that late hour, she had already seen the chief go home for the day, but the coworker said, “No, the Chief is what we call the guy some people have seen in this office late at night.” Apparently, more than a few of her coworkers had seen this mysterious figure before. All who have experienced his presence have done so while working in the office alone, late at night, though some have experienced him in different ways. Some claimed to hear unexplainable footsteps, while others occasionally caught a whiff of cologne in a long-empty office. A few have seen him, always wearing his suit and fedora and standing while talking on the phone. For this reason, some in the office theorized that he is the spirit of a man who often stayed late at work and, after putting his hat on, picked up the phone to call his wife and tell her that he is on his way home.
Many years ago, when I worked at Headquarters, a colleague of mine who arranged travel for officers overseas, let’s call him Don, told me of his “ghost sighting” in the CIA Library. He was working very late and was walking through the library.
As he turned a corner, he saw a man bending over a table, looking at a map.
It caught him off guard to see someone so late at night.
He said that the man turned his head to look at Don, smiled and disappeared. Don said the man had on a pinstriped suit and that he resembled Bill Casey [former Director of the CIA-William Joseph Casey].