Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
As a freelance convention planner, I stay at many hotels over the course of a year. I spend about a week per trip in an all-expenses-paid suite of my choosing, doing nothing but studying the location and interviewing the staff on hand to get a feel for the hotel and its traffic. I then spend another week organizing the event and ensuring my client is satisfied with my plans. There’s a little more to it, but that’s the overall gist of the job. If you can get over the constant jet lag, it’s not a bad gig.
In all my years of planning conventions, I must have stayed at over a hundred different hotels. With similar floor plans, architecture, and staff training, they all blend together in my mind, but one, in particular, will always stay with me – the Grovewood Inn located just on the outskirts of Cape Cod. That one kept me up for many nights, even after I left.
At first, my trip to the Grovewood Inn seemed mostly forgettable. The “convention” I was planning was a glorified book club meeting for a group of older women and some local authors. The service, food, and layout of the hotel were average and unexciting. The only thing I liked about the place was Claira, the desk clerk (I’d have even asked her out on a date, had she not been married). I had planned boring conventions before and been to many subpar hotels, but this trip was remarkably mind-numbing. I couldn’t wait to be done with it.
One night at the Inn, after a long day of mundane event planning, I flipped on the TV, poured a glass of wine, and climbed into bed. I grabbed the program guide from my bedside table and looked it over, hoping to find the porn networks. As I glanced through the channel listings, something at the bottom of the page caught my eye. Written crudely in permanent marker, was the following:
03 08 06 B1 04 02 07 B2 05 01
This was odd. I knew of hotels that had pin pads on their elevators (usually to prevent children from using them), but the Grovewood Inn was not one of them – plus most pin pad elevators only required a four-digit code.
Intrigued, I decided to call up the front desk to find out more. I was sure the code would turn out to be something trivial and uninteresting, but it was, at the very least, an excuse to talk to Claira again. Though unreciprocated, I enjoyed flirting with her, if for no other reason than to hear her infectious laughter.
A sip of wine and few failed pickup lines later, and I was back at square one. Claira didn’t know anything about it, claiming there were no devices in the entire building that would require a code like that, much less one of the elevators. She did, however, point out that the numbers in the code aligned with every floor of the hotel – one through eight, plus the two basement levels. We both found this odd but ultimately couldn’t make sense of it.
After getting off the phone with Claira, my curiosity got the best of me. I left my room, walked over to the elevator, and stepped inside. I then pressed the buttons in the order they were written on my channel guide, just to see if anything would happen. Much to my disappointment, the elevator did nothing but take me to every floor of the hotel, before finally stopping at the lobby.
The front desk was in eyeshot of the elevator, so I quickly hit the button for my floor, not wanting to explain to Claira what I was up to. Though I didn’t have a shot with her, it still would have been embarrassing to tell her I was spending my night playing around in the elevator. Luckily, I was able to escape unseen.
Upon stepping foot back on my floor, I noticed a member of the clean-up crew walking down the hall. That’s when it hit me. The staff never used the patron elevators – they had their own service elevator to get from floor to floor without impeding the travel of guests. It may sound ridiculous, but I needed to know if the code worked in that elevator, if for no other reason than to placate my undying curiosity.
I inconspicuously made my way down the hall, heading to the service elevator. Once there, the familiar sting of disappointment set in. A staff card was required to gain access, no doubt to keep guests from using it. Feeling defeated and realizing how crazy I was letting boredom make me, I walked back to my room.
After a few more glasses of wine, I drifted off and entered a long, peaceful, alcohol-induced slumber. I awoke many hours later to sunlight flooding my room and the familiar sound of a vacuum next door. Clean-up is always in full force early in the morning at hotels.
When the initial grogginess of waking up wore off, something came to mind. Something that caused me to jump to my feet and immediately exit my room.
There, in the middle of the hall, was the cleaning cart, and there was no staff in sight. Hanging from a lanyard was the maid’s staff card, ripe for the taking. This was it. This was my chance.
Maybe it was the slight hangover I had, or perhaps it truly was the monotony of planning a less than exciting convention, but I grabbed that card and ran to the service elevator like it was the last chance I had at having some adventure during my trip. Something about that code was calling to me. It was a mystery I desperately felt the need to solve.
Upon swiping the maid’s card and entering the elevator, I quickly punched in the code and waited. At first, nothing happened. The elevator didn’t move, but the buttons all remained illuminated. I thought that maybe I somehow busted the thing, but the proceeding moments proved this theory wrong.
Without warning, the elevator raced up the heights of the hotel, ascending much faster than normal. The digital read-out above counted the floors up to eight and then kept going until it reached twelve. This was bizarre, as the Grovewood Inn only had eight floors, and there was no discernible reason the elevator should have been able to reach that height. By all accounts, I would have been in the sky by that point.
After a few moments, the elevator door opened, revealing behind it a grand ballroom, the likes of which I’d never seen before, in any of the hotels I’d been to. Victorian-era chandeliers hung from the ceiling, beautiful silk banners danced from wall to wall, and hundreds of people dressed in old-fashioned attire and elegant face-wear waltzed about as a large band played a catchy tune. My jaw was on the floor.
It’s hard to explain, but a romantic fog filled the air. I watched as masked patrons danced in unison and partook in lavish festivities, completely oblivious to my presence. For a moment or two, I completely forgot about the hotel below, awestruck by the scene before me. Something about it was absolutely intoxicating.
Just as I was about to step out of the elevator, the music stopped. All at once, the ballroom guests turned around to face me and held their gaze with mine, almost as if peering into my very soul. It became quickly apparent that I was not welcome there – an uninvited and unwanted visitor in a room I was never supposed to reach. It was clear to me that it was time to leave.
I tried pressing the button for the lobby, but it wouldn’t light up. I tried floors two, three, and four – no dice. The elevator was stagnant, and I was trapped. I looked back over to the crowd, and to my horror, they had begun walking in my direction. Their march was slow, but without a working elevator, I had no means of escape. I was at the mercy of the ballroom and its occupants now, no matter what that fate entailed.
With little in the way of options, I attempted to converse with the group.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?”
My query was met with little reaction. The only response I received was the continued sound of footsteps on the ballroom floor. Frightened of what was to come next, I backed up as far as the elevator walls would allow; a mouse cornered in a bird’s cage. Just as the vultures closed the gap between us, an explosion of fire emerged from the background, overcoming the guests and engulfing the entire room in flames.
I began to cough uncontrollably from the toxic smoke that loomed above. Beads of sweat the size of pearls dripped down my cheeks. To top it off, the guests were still there, standing still at the foot of the elevator, somehow unfazed by the fiery heat around them. In between coughs, I managed to offer them one last question, though I knew it would probably go unanswered.
“What do you want?”
A woman at the front of the crowd stepped forward. She wore a fox mask and a slight grin, though her lips would soon spread apart to speak.
“We want to be saved.”
At this moment, the flames took flight, rising to the highest heights of the ballroom. Molten skin dripped from the woman’s frame like candlewax as her features morphed into a gruesome arrangement of congealed flesh and bubbling blisters.
“Won’t you save us?”
In a grotesque slur of unnatural movement, the woman stumbled in my direction, arms outstretched. I stood still in terror as her burnt fingers made their way to my neck. Just as she was about to make contact, the doors shut behind her and the lights went out. The bulb in the elevator, the fire in the ballroom – it was all gone. The energy around me had dissipated abruptly, leaving nothing but pitch blackness in its place. Somehow, I was alone.
A few moments of confusion passed, followed by a loud roar from the elevator shaft below. All at once, everything sprung back to life, save for my fox-masked assailant. As the elevator dropped, I watched the digital read-out count backward from twelve. Eventually, I was back in familiar territory, safe and sound on the ground floor. Before the doors could fully open, I made a mad dash for the front desk.
“Hey. What’s got you so frazzled? And what were you doing in the service elevator?”
If I told her what I’d seen, she’d think I was crazy. Instead, I composed myself and asked for some information.
“Did this hotel ever have a twelfth floor?”
Claira looked very surprised by my question.
“Yes, it did. The Grovewood Inn was originally almost twice this height, but a lot of it burned up in a bad fire, so it had to be reconstructed. The top floor was a ballroom, but that was a very long time ago.”
She pointed at a framed picture on the wall behind her, dated 1913.
“Why do you ask?”
“…no reason, just curious. That’s all.”
I promptly made my way back to my room and reflected on everything. I wondered if I’d seen the picture without realizing it and dreamed up my elevator escapade. I discarded this thought rather quickly, sure that I was wide awake when it happened. I thought it might have been something in the wine, but that was equally unlikely. There was no logical explanation for what occurred.
And that’s about it. I never found out exactly what happened that day in the hotel. I mustered up enough courage to try the code again, but it didn’t work. It seems I was allowed a one-time glimpse into the past – a look at what was before and what might still be today had the hotel not been partially destroyed. I only wish I could have taken part in the festivities before things went sour. Perhaps I could have somehow prevented the fire and saved the patrons, just like the fox-masked woman wanted. All I can do now is look back on that day, completely bewildered, as I plan my next convention.
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