9.09.2008

The Meatroom

Informant: Male/31/ Mixed ancestry
Location: Kauai

The mid 80’s was a good time for business, especially in the grocery retail sector. Workforce was healthy and sales were on the upswing. Tourism was starting to gain steam and energy costs were down. One store in particular had a hard time retaining workers, particularly in the meat department. Keep in mind that most meat cutters in this one particular store were of Filipino ancestry and speaking out was not something they did. But it started to gain attention when meat cutters would be hired one day, they would work the night shift, and they would quit. No two weeks notice, no nothing, they would just walk off. Eventually management was tasked with filling in and one particular manager, Seiji, and his encounter over a series of three nights is what has prompted me to telling you this tale. 

Seiji

"No one wants to go there! I won’t even go there! That place is haunted and it is just not safe." Seiji and I had a chance to talk one day. He had since been retired for over 12 years but is still visibly shaken from his experience. "You gotta understand, the workers back then, many of them came from the plantation and would not let management know. They refused to speak out against the company or their bosses. They came and went until finally I got stuck working nights in the meat room. My primary responsibility was to clean carcasses and prep them for the next day’s butchers and clean the meat room down.

"The first night I was there, the store had just closed and it was me and the office manager left in the store. I walked up front to let her out and told her I still had to shoot the meat room down. As I walked back the music started playing over the speakers. How weird! We always turn the music off and I swear it was off, but it just turned on! I walked back, opened the office door and turned it back off.

"As I rounded the corner the light in the meat room was off and I swear I left it on. I hit the switch but no light. I flicked the switch up and down but still no light. I walked up front to the office to grab the keys to the storage room and as I headed to the back office I noticed that the light in the meat room was back on again. By now I was starting to get a little scared, but growing up in Waimea Valley, we encounter lots of strange happenings. I had to shoot the meat room down and sterilize the equipment before I went home and since there were no carcasses to clean, I was looking forward to getting home a little early."

Tuesday Night - Day One

"I felt very groggy all day and called in to see if it was okay to come in right before closing. Our manger said that it was okay but there were three pig carcasses that came in and they needed to be prepped for tomorrow. I came in shortly before 10:00 p.m. just in time to let her out and start work. As I walked to the meat room I was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of rotting flesh. It was horrible! Smelled like a dead rat! This is not something that you want in a grocery store and definitely not something you want in your meat room. As soon as I flicked on the light, the smell was gone. I tried to walk around to see if I could smell it but it was no longer present. I told myself how funny the tricks that your mind plays on you. 

"I opened the walk in chill and saw three pig carcasses hanging from stainless steel meat hooks. They were butterflied and needed some prepping for tomorrow. Prepping these carcasses involved butchering them into smaller more manageable cuts so the butchers can handle them better to get you pork cutlets, tenderloins, and Boston butts wrapped up and placed on the shelf for you to buy. I unhooked my first carcass and wheeled it to the cutting room table. All of a sudden, I heard the distinct sound of the meat saw buzzing away.

"What the hell!!! A meat room is a place of safety, all equipment is secured, the floors are clean and slip resistant, and there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. So for a meat saw, which is basically a table mounted circular saw starts to go off on its own, it sends shivers up you spine. I walked over to hit the switch and noticed it was in the off position. I went to pull the plug and it wasn’t even plugged in! By this time I was truly petrified with fear. I started to run towards the door when all of a sudden it shut off. Back then I tried to convince myself that there must have been some electric current that was store in the motor but we all know this is physically impossible as there are no batteries in a saw.

"And that smell, it started up again.

"The smell of decomposing flesh was thick and overwhelmed me as I dry heaved three or four times. I walked around trying to locate the source but could not find it. All of a sudden, I heard a soft buzzing sound. It sounded like hundreds of flies hovering but there were none in sight. I walked slowly to the walk in chill and put my ear to the door. I could hear a sound that sounded like hundreds if not thousands of flies were in the walk in chill. Suddenly from in the chill I could hear the sound of metal creaking. Squeak squeak squeak. Like a squeaky tire. I opened up the door and what I saw next still haunts me to this day.

"One of the remaining pig carcasses that was hanging on a hook was swinging back and forth as if someone was pushing it. And when I say swinging it was almost hitting the roof of the chill. I tried to run, my mind told me to run but I froze. I couldn’t move. And there I was, watching as this carcass dangled from a meat hook swinging back and forth like a kid being pushed by their daddy on the swings. 

Wednesday Night - Day Two 

"I don’t remember what happened next except I awoke the next morning from our boss’s tapping on my window. I had slept in my car in the store parking lot. I rolled my window down and he was furious.

'Seiji! You left the goddam meat room in a mess! The walk in chill door was open and all the meat has to be thrown out!' I tried to explain, but I could tell he thought I was making it up. I ended up being suspended for three days. I live alone, and my closest neighbor is a five minute walk down a dirt path. I never felt lonely or afraid of being alone but those three days were hard to deal with. I mentioned it to no one except co-workers were calling and asking what the hell happened. I am fortunate that my boss had the courtesy to keep our short conversation to himself. I returned to work but refused to take the night duties. I was fortunate to be put back on my regular schedule. 

"My boss talked about the incidence once and had decided that the long nights and my body’s sleep pattern had caused my mind to play tricks on me. I didn’t imagine this. Those extreme incidents never happened again but I would hear stories from time to time that knives were misplaced, or equipment had moved, their was even talk in the break room of a saw turning itself on but it was typical lunch room chatter and they usually dismissed it with blaming a co worker or how the company needed to buy a new saw.

Thursday Night - Day Three

"One night, there was a false alarm and our boss went in to reset the alarm, I don’t know what happened but the very next day, he had rescheduled our shifts to eliminate anyone from staying in the store past closing. He asked management to bless the store and a few weeks later a kahuna came in. We all walked with her as she chanted and sprinkled water mixed with Hawaiian salt. She dipped her ti leaf into a bowl and sprinkled the walls, the workers, and the floor. She stopped in front of the meat room and her chants grew dim and she had stopped sprinkling her salt water. She stood in front of the door and her eyes were wide as if she had saw or felt something terrifying. She turned back to the company President and whispered something in his ear. I looked over at my boss and his eyes were wide and I knew that he had encountered something that night when he came into the store to reset the alarm.

"The company president turned to us and said, 'She’s going in by herself so we can all just wait here. It is too cramped and we can’t take the risk of anyone getting hurt with all the dangerous equipment we have in there.' We waited outside for 20 minutes until finally she emerged drenched in sweat and looking as if she had run a marathon. She told us everything is fine now, everything we’ll be okay. We walked the rest of the store and enjoyed some pupu and refreshments in the break room after.

"Nothing really happened after that night. A few years ago I ran into the old Hawaiian lady who blesses our store. She hadn’t even aged a bit. I asked her if she remembered blessing the store and she smiled and said, 'I have blessed so much stores it is hard to remember which one.' Instead of stating which store I figured why relive a moment that I was trying to put behind me. So I said farewell, kissed her goodbye and walked off. I took a few steps and heard the old Hawaiian lady say, 'The meat room was built over the graves of three young children, they meant no harm. They was just being kolohe.'

"My hair stood on the back of my neck as I turned around. She stood there, smiling. 'They died many years ago, before the store was built. They died playing when their house burned down. They were playing with the oil lamp. They died from being mischievous. They were still causing mischief, I had to scold them. You know kids, they are kolohe.'

"I never saw the old Hawaiian lady again."

1 comments:

Ryan said...

This is an incredible story! Chicken skin!