The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

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Ingrid's Obituary


Weird Workplace

All Nida Ermenagilda wanted was a nice place to work. A return to the 'fifties' didn't meet the job description. No Computers! No mobiles and staff smoking by the water cooler? Whatever next?
Weird Workplace

Where's the telephone?

Mentioning ghosts always seems to get the same reaction. A slight hesitation and then the immortal words, “I don’t actually believe in ghosts but .....” And then you get the grisly story. I think I’ve told you about the friend who got on a train from Edinburgh, sat in a carriage with and old lady, left it to go to the buffet car and then, when she returned, it , and the little old lady,had vanished? No? Ah. Well. I’ve just had another of those stories from a lady in Canada called Nida Ermenagilda Bertolini. I get quite a lot of interesting feed back since Ghosthunters was published.

Her story starts in an office in Toronto. Nida had just got a job as a copy writer for a PR company and was looking forward to a rich and varied future. On the Monday morning she turned up scrubbed and eager. The first thing that struck her was how different the reception hall looked. She was about to go outside and verify that she was in the right building when a young lad in a fifties looking suit came up, enquired politely if he could help. When she told him that she was starting work there that day he welcomed her to the company and asked her to follow him. He led her to a small, rather grim office, asked her if she would like a cup of coffee and disappeared to get it on her nod. Nida looked around the office and was surprised to find that there wasn’t a computer. And the telephone very old fashioned. Black bakelite with a dial. The boy returned and she asked him about the computer. Or lack of it. He looked puzzled for a second and then told her that all the computers were in the Accounts department. She started to say something but decided it was best to forget it for the moment and wait until she spoke to someone more senior. The boy was obviously retarded. She sat and sipped her coffee and tried not to let the gloominess of the room dampen her enthusiasm. On her desk was a cube calender. One of those fiddly things that you have to twist the numbers around until you get the date you want. The numbers spelled out 17 - 1 - 1952. She picked it up and tried to alter it to the correct date. 22/7/2000. Problem! The ‘19’ part of the date was solid. There was no allowance made for update to the 21st. Century. She assumed that it was just an old calender that, like the office, was due for an up-date. She started to rummage around in the drawers. Nothing !. She looked at her watch and was surprised to find it was nearly noon. She could have sworn she hadn’t been there for more than half an hour. And why hadn’t anyone been in to see her? Tell her what she was suppose to work on? Since the lad had brought her the coffee she had seen and heard nothing . It was time to show some initiative. That was it! Her new employers were testing her. They wanted to see what she would do if she wasn’t ordered to do something specific. She finished off her cold coffee, straightened out her skirt and opened the door.

The outer office was large and old fashioned. Long tables with a file rack in front of each with jacketed men sitting on high stools placed on either side. At the end of the room were half a dozen typists pounding away on antique Remingtons. To her right was a glass cubicle with a woman, obviously the supervisor, sitting behind a small wooden desk. Nida decided that she needed to speak to her. As she walked passed the desks another oddity hit her. She had assumed that the absence of a computer in her allocated room was just an oversight. The room obviously hadn’t been used for a while so there was no sense in wasting hardware. She stopped and looked around the room in amazement. Not a computer of any size, shape or colour to be seen. She looked closer and was surprised to see that the clerks were using hand operated calculating machines. For the first time she felt a stirring of - not terror.... not even fear, unease?

Weird Workplace

There must be something to type with somewhere?

Nida tapped on the door of the glass cubicle. It had a little, highly polished brass shingle with ‘Miss DuBosc’ etched in neat Times lettering on it. A voice she assumed was Miss DuBosc told her to enter. The lady behind the desk smiled brightly and ask Nida how she was settling in. Nida explained her problems. No computer, nothing to do and a feeling that maybe she was in the wrong place. The women listened to her with a vacant smile. When Nida ran out of conversation Miss DuBosc widened her smile, picked up a pen, said “Good. Carry on” and then went back to what she had been doing when Nida entered the room. Nida stood there for a few minutes, perplexed. What should she do? “Miss DuBosc” she tried. The woman took no notice. Nida let herself out of the office. There was a water fountain just by the door. One of the typists stood staring at the wall vacantly and sipping out of a paper cup. Nida waited until she was finished and smiled at her. “Hi, I’m Nida”. she said brightly, “I’m new here”. The woman nodded. “Rosa”. Nida gestured towards the old, upright typewriters. “Haven’t heard of word processors yet then” she tried. The woman looked at her blankly. “Word processors? No we use Remingtons.” She said, gave Nida a strange look and went back to her desk. Nida looked around. Nobody seemed to be taking any notice of her. She followed the typist to her desk and asked her where the ladies ‘loos’ were situated. Which earned her another blank look. “Toilets” she explained. The girl gave her directions. Again a surprise. The toilets, although spotlessly clean, were antiquated. Even to the extent of having a pull-chain in the cubicle.

By now Nida was getting severely annoyed. Not so much by her surroundings as by the lack of attention. She had convinced herself that the ‘fifties’ theme was deliberate. Like having the place art-deco-ed. Only not as harmonious. Probably the art department where they serviced the customer’s publicity accounts was completely up dated and buzzing. She went back into her office and picked up the telephone. As nobody seemed to be interested in giving her any work she decided to call the agency that had got her the job and ask the agent what she had got her into. The telephone didn’t work. That was the last straw. She decided she had had enough. She would go to the agency in person and tell them she had quit. A surprise awaited her when she wrenched open the office door. What had a few minutes earlier been a room full of workers was now empty. Nida stormed towards the glass enclosed room which had housed Miss DuBosc. Empty! As she turned away the lights stuttered and were extinguished. For the first time Nida felt fear. She blundered towards the far end of the office where the door out onto the corridor was situated.

The corridor was also in darkness. Really frightened now she frantically felt her way towards what she hoped would be the exit. That had only a small blue light over the glazed double doors. Thankfully she ran to them. She pushed the left side, then the right. Neither budged . She tried pulling. Same result. Hysteria was building. She didn’t know why. There had been nothing that could threaten her physically. She was close to tears. A voice behind her made her spin round in fear. An elderly Commissioner, resplendent in peaked cap and smart blue uniform, rows of gleaming medals displayed on his chest testifying to his valour, stood smiling at her. She pulled herself together. “I want to get out”. She explained breathlessly. The Commissioner nodded, reached past her and gently pushed the door. It swung open soundlessly. Nida gave him a quick ‘thank you’ and almost ran out into the street.

When she told her agent her experience she protested she had sent her there in good faith. While Nida stood beside her the agent rang the company. The resources manager at the company said that Nida hadn’t reported there that morning but the job was still open if she wanted it. Nida tried to protest but it was obvious that the agent thought she was putting up a story because she had overslept and didn’t like to admit it.

The next day she went back to the block of offices. The company was still there in the same building but had been completely modernised. Nida peeked into the large, well-lit vestibule but couldn’t bring herself to enter. She still insists that everything happened as she described it. She thinks she went back to the office in the fifties and actually inter-acted with people who worked there in the past. To authenticate the story she also sent me a letter from the Agency which sent her there. They confirm that she was supposed to start work there on the 22nd of July 2000 but had not taken up the job she had been offered. Hardly verification of what happened. But then it is a ghost story - or is it?

If you want to tell me your ghost story I’m be materialising and wafting around the NEC at Birmingham on the 26-27th. July and then the Scottish version at the SECC in Glasgow on 23-24th August. I’m also looking for good, first hand stories from the early days of Hammer and I’d be over the moon if anyone had some unpublished photographs from those early days. For a run-down on Hammer history from the start of the company until it made its last movie, Part Three has just been added to the story on my website at www.pittofhorror.com. (Ed: Now available here on this website).

Shivers

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt