The Pizza Parlor Ghosts (a True Story)

I looked out the small, glass-less window in the scullery door and see a man standing in the middle of the dining room. I can only see his silhouette against the arcade games behind him, but his arms are folded, and he is staring me down.

Hold on, let me backtrack here…

The pizza parlor I worked at from 1980 to 1984 was not in an ancient, rundown building. The shopping center was maybe 20 years old, and was home to a Safeway (supermarket), Long’s Drugs, an animal hospital, a Laundromat, a bike shop, a shoe repair shop, an office supply store, dry cleaners, a funky restaurant/ café called Peyton’s Place, and a salon. The outer complex featured a bank, a diner (Sambo’s, then Seasons), and a duplex movie theater. All this sat next to Highway 1 with the Carmel River at its back.

It was 224 yards from my house.

The pizza parlor will remain unnamed, but it was a franchise where the employees wore hats of straw…so you figure it out. The pizza was and is still damned good, and if you have a franchise in your neighborhood you should eat there often.

1980 was my sophomore year in high school. My brother already worked there along with many of our friends, and everyone else would drop in on Friday or Saturday night on the way to that weekend’s big parties. The first year and a half was packed full of non-haunted fun, it was a great job for a kid. The money was alright, enough to buy records and guitar equipment, and there was always pizza, or spaghetti, or hot pizza wrapped sandwiches, and the salad bar. By then I had a key to the front door to lock up at night, and did weekend prep-cook work. In October, 1981 I took the state proficiency exam, and left high school allowing me to work full time.

At that time the shopping center began construction for expansion. The crews and contractors would have lunch at the pizza place each day, and we got to know them. By then I worked morning prep five days a week, which meant backing up the kitchen during lunch rush. I had the job wired.

That November I found myself waking up at three in the morning, and unable to get back to sleep until five or six, and then I’d feel like shit for the rest of the day. I get the brilliant idea to just get up and go to work instead of going back to sleep. Walking in the dark cold morning air would get me hyped, and I’d have all my work done by seven, allowing me to play Asteroids until we opened at eleven.

My routine was this. Get in there, turn on only the lights I’d need for the back stock room (the kitchen and back pantry power was always on as they were linked to the walk-in refrigerator), and blast Van Halen on my Panasonic boom-box. I didn’t turn on all the lights because this attracted homeless people who would pound on the front door and window. Keeping the dining room dark meant I was invisible. The pizza parlor only had windows at the front kitchen so people could watch their food get made, and there were double glass doors at the far end. The place was a forty yard-long narrow rectangle with a narrow hallway between it and Long’s Drugs next door where we kept the dumpster.

We called this place the garbage hall.

Life is great when you’re seventeen going on eighteen. Your body can do just about anything. I would get in there at three or three thirty, work until five, and often come back around closing time at ten or eleven to shoot the shit and joke around. Three or four hours sleep? No friggin’ problem, dude.

Before I see the man standing in the dining room there had been other, less dramatic things happen in these wee hours. I heard girls whispering from the other side of the counter near the salad bar, but no one was there. I heard footsteps of someone walking around the salad bar in slippers. I wrote these off as by brain still being asleep.

I also turned the music up so I didn’t hear this anymore.

Everyone who worked there for a while developed a specific sixth sense for responding to kids waiting to get quarters for the arcade. No matter what you were doing you could feel their little eyes burning a hole in the back of your head until you turned around. You could be washing dishes in the scullery sink with your back turned, and know there was someone waiting at the bar for change.

In these early morning shifts I start dropping what I’m doing to help someone at the counter only to realize the place is locked up tight. Again, I blow this off to early morning brain farting.

That cheese on your pizza starts as a 25lb block, which is cut into smaller sections with a two-handled knife to fit into a grater attachment on a Hobart machine. This was done on a cutting table in the back pantry, called “The Scullery”. This particular morning I’m segmenting the Monterey Jack cheese when I look up. Through the glassless scullery door window I see a man standing, arms folded, in the middle of the dining room. The first thing I do is close my eyes and count to five. He’s still there when I open them.

Oh shit, someone’s broken in.

A few months prior some guys had busted in through the garbage hall and cleaned out the arcade games and took some other stuff. I think they’re back. This is long before cell phones. The closest phone hangs in the kitchen near the register where I’d be exposed, and an easy target. My two-handled cheese knife happens to be the most dangerous blade in the restaurant, and I grab a second, ten-inch carving knife. The entire time I keep my eye on the intruder.

He never moves.

Taking a deep breath I kick open the swinging door and yell something bad-ass while waving my knives.

The man is gone.

Oh shit.

I turn on all of the lights and begin a search. I check both restrooms and the garbage hall…nothing. I check the back of the dining room where the arcade games are by walking down the center in case he’s hiding in between one of them…nothing. I check the back stock room and the employee room…nothing. The back door is locked, the garbage hall door was locked from the inside, and the front door was locked.

I got back and finish prep-work for the day, but instead of playing Asteroids I decide to go to Seasons for breakfast, and come back when the rest of the gang comes in. I stopped going in before the sun was up. I figured I had imagined/hallucinated the entire thing.

Maybe three weeks later I’m sitting at the employee table at the end of the bar with the manager, Danny, and the janitor, Ray. It’s closing time, and we’re joking around while waiting for the night crew to finish up. As they walk past us to go back and change, Ray asks if one of us will stay while he cleans up for the night. We both say yes (it’s an easy job, I love vacuuming). We ask him why, and he says he doesn’t like being alone in here anymore at night. Ray is married to Regina, a French lady who runs the day shift in the kitchen. He’s been here longer than anyone. We ask him what was wrong.

He tells us that a few weeks back he was vacuuming the back dining room when he looked up and saw two girls walking to the front of the restaurant. They were blond, and in their teens, and wore white dresses. Thinking that they’d been locked in while they were in the ladies room (that had happened a few times), he shuts off the vacuum, grabs his keys to let them out.

They’re gone when he looks back.

He checks the kitchen, walk-in, and the restrooms, and decides to get the hell out of there. He came back in with his wife the next morning to finish up, and I remember that.

Danny shakes his head and says he’s seen them too. They had walked past the manager’s office at the end of the bar one morning. He got up to find out how they’d got inside, and they were nowhere to be found. Each of us had been alone in the pizza parlor. We cleaned that place and were out the door in record time.

We decide not to tell anyone else and wait to see if anyone sees anything.

The wait isn’t long.

I’m closing with Cathy D., Maureen M. and Lisa P. Cathy and I sit in the front booth across from the kitchen waiting for Maureen and Lisa to change in the back room. We’re talking when we hear the coffee pot on the top burner of the Bunn machine rattling hard.

Cathy calls out “Mo!” The pot flies off the burner onto the floor. Right at this time we see Maureen and Lisa walking to the front. I get back behind the counter, the glass coffee pot is unbroken, which by itself is just weird. I had personally detonated a pair of them while washing in the sink. Cathy is upset. She tells us she saw a blond haired girl behind the counter when the pot was rattling and thought it was Maureen. On the ride home I tell her about what had been seen by Danny, Ray, and I already. She seemed to be relieved, I guess she was more worried about going nuts or something.

Within four weeks everyone had an encounter of some kind. Even the biggest crew skeptic saw something, and he freaked out enough that he had tears in his eyes while telling me about the man in black. During this time there were a lot of little things that went on; the man in black would pop up in the dining room when it was slow, a second here, a second there. Sometimes he wore a hat. I’m in the garbage hall when a girl’s voice laughs within inches of my face.

At some point someone brings in a Ouija board and everyone gathers for a séance, which was a huge waste of time. The only good thing about it was someone had the idea that whomever had their fingers on the planchette (the pointer thingie) should be blindfolded. This came into play later.

The activity ebbed and flowed. Sometimes we’d go a week without incident. Other days it was like a movie. The ghost loved to slam the fire-door that led into the garbage hall. Whenever we checked after we heard it, the door was always locked from the inside. The door slammed at all hours of the day.

The ghost’s favorite activity was trying to freak me out while I was punching in the code for the alarm no matter if I was coming or going. Sometimes I’d hear the sound of someone running toward me through shallow water. I’d hear the girls laugh. I’d hear a man laugh. One night after a long, ugly shift, I’ve turned off all the lights, and I’m getting ready to arm the alarm system. One of the coffee mugs on the tray next to the bar cash register starts rattling. I see it’s one in the middle of a dozen mugs.

“Look, I’m tired, and I want to go home. So if you’re trying to scare me you’ll need to do better,” I said.

The mug flipped up from the tray, bounced along the bar, and fell at my feet unbroken.

“That’s more like it.” And I’m out of there.

Ron G. had missed the séance. Dave A. had spent the evening telling him about it, and Ron notes that the Ouija board is still in the office, so he talks me into breaking it out after we close and see what happens. Sure, why not? After everyone else is gone, Ron and I don hand towel blindfolds and Dave’s job is to write everything down. We’re sitting in the dark restaurant like idiots asking questions to invisible people. Nothing is happening.

I ask, “Do you want us to leave?”

The planchette jerked hard to a spot on the board.

We both pull off our blindfolds. It’s pointing to “Yes”.

Ron and I are on our feet and out the door in seconds. The whole time Dave is asking what happened. We pile into Ron’s truck, and he’s so shook up that he doesn’t realize that his headlights are off until we reach the stoplight. Ron just asks me if I was wearing my blindfold, and I tell him it was on tight. His was too. Ron never talked about that night to anyone as far as I know.

The year went on, the crew changed, and the stuff continued to happen with no rhyme or reason. The ghost became just another thing to deal with day to day.

One Sunday evening I’m sitting with a friend, Caesar, who works next door at the supermarket. We’re talking guitars, cars, and general small talk, one of those nights where the conversation carries on until late. By then we’d moved to the employee table and Danny has joined us. It is a quiet night. The subject of ghosts comes up, and we tell him about ours, and he becomes intrigued. I mention the Ouija board, and he insists on giving it a shot. Danny and I are bored, and agree to stay after closing.

The crew leaves and we get the Ouija out and kill the lights. Danny and I tie on our blindfolds and man the planchette while Caesar takes notes. Danny starts asking questions and the pointer starts moving. It just goes around in a circle. Caesar starts asking questions and it responds. He asks a question in Spanish and it goes crazy.

Neither Danny nor I speak Spanish.

The next forty minutes he’s asking questions in another language and getting answers. And just like that he says it’s over. We take off our blindfolds and review the conversation. It begins with the ghost calling Caesar a drunk in Spanish (he had put away a few that night), and he’d asked what he and I had been talking about, the reply was “Amps” (we had been talking guitar amplifiers). The response when he changed to asking in Spanish was this:

I am talking with the one named Caesar

Spelled out in Spanish.

We got a date of 1887, but it wasn’t clear the significance. When asked about the two girls the response was “They’re mine” or “They belong to me”. The last long answer echoed the first:

I am talking with the one named Caesar

This time Caesar is the Latin spelling.

We’re all amazed. Two guys who don’t speak Spanish just answered question in Spanish while blindfolded. We lock up and go our own ways. Two days after this, Caesar comes in looking shook up. He says that when he got home and went to bed the ghost visited him in his dreams. Said the ghost was half Mexican-half Indian, and worked as a coachman for the Del Monte hotel. He lived in a shack in an area that would be in the far back corner of the shopping center. The two girls had been kidnapped, raped and murdered while on a picnic. Their mother had been killed first down by Monastery Beach. The two are buried between the shopping center and the river.

Caesar said our man in black was just a mean S.O.B. who enjoyed scaring people.

This was all from a dream, so take it with the appropriate amount of salt. However, in the 1990’s a woman’s skeleton was dug up near San Jose Creek across from Monastery Beach, a mile south of the shopping center. The man in black’s uniform matches carriage driver’s uniforms of the Del Monte Hotel in the 1880’s. I have never been able to find records about missing girls and their mother, but I did find a story about an 1890 lynching of a half-Mexican, half-Indian at the old hanging tree at the end of Fisher Place, about 120 yards away in Mission Fields.

Like I said, it was a dream. Who knows?

The man in black seemed to love harassing Ray. He had taken to doing his cleaning in the mornings because sometimes it was too much for him to deal with at night. One morning before the place opened, I’m in the kitchen loading the Make-Table (the stainless steel refrigerated table where tins full of meats and vegetables are kept in easy reach for making pizza). I turn and see the man in black standing near the alcove leading to the restrooms. I hear Ray swear. Regina, his wife asks him if he’s alright. Ray is crying. I tell him I saw our friend. He says he can’t take much more of this.

The final event I can tell you about happened in 1984, over a year after I had quit the pizza parlor to work at the movie theater in the back of the shopping center (note: I never had anything strange happen at the theater, and I was there at all hours). After closing up the theater one night (the late shows let out between 11 and 11:30 pm) a couple of the guys and I decide to hit the diner for munchies. We’re there just a few minutes when a pair of Sheriff’s Deputies come in and walk directly to our table.

“Where were you guys about twenty minutes ago?” one them asks. We tell them we’ve just got off work, and we give them the name of the deputy who’d escorted me to make the night drop at the bank. They check and start to walk away.

I ask, “What happened?”

“Someone was messing with the janitor at the pizza parlor.”

The deputies sit down at the counter. Less than five minutes later the janitor, Ray, and his son, Charlie, walk in and march up to our table.

“Just tell me it was you, and all is forgiven,” Ray says.

I tell him we’ve just left work, and ask what happened…

Ray and Charlie get started cleaning at 10:30pm, arriving after the crew has gone, shortly after a violent series of crashes comes from the garbage hall. Charlie goes to look. The stacks of empty white five-gallon buckets have been kicked over, and the collapsed cardboard boxes have been yanked out of the dumpster. He searches the garbage hall but doesn’t see anybody, comes back in and closes the door. Seconds later the ruckus begins again, buckets are heard bouncing down the hall, some are thrown against the door.

Ray calls 9-11.

The mall security guard arrives first, and while they’re standing out front they all hear trashing and crashing coming from the garbage hall. The guard goes in with Charlie, and searches the hallway – finds no one. About the time they come out the Sheriff’s arrive. As Ray and the guard relate the problem the buckets start flying again in the garbage hall. This time it’s the deputies turn to search. They enter and are heard yelling for the culprit to come out. Minutes later they return scratching their heads.

The next sound was never clear, they hear the buckets slamming around, but I think there was some kind of yelling too. The deputies go back inside, this time with guns drawn, and search the entire restaurant for the next twenty minutes. When they emerge one of the deputies has the mall security guard take him around to check the door at the far end of the garbage hall – it is secure. As they came back the noises begin again.

The deputies shake their heads and suggest the owner call an exterminator. They stand by while Ray and Charlie get their things, and lock up.

Ray quit the next day.

They never found evidence of raccoons or other medium-sized animals.

Several years later I’m poking around the shopping center on Halloween, and stop into a small bookstore. The two young women working that day are in costume, and in a holiday mood. We talk and one of them mentions that they have a ghost. The bookstore is fifty feet from the back door of the old garbage hall. They say he’s mischievous. I ask if he wears black, and they say he does indeed. I tell them I used to work nearby, and was well acquainted with him.

 

And that’s it, these are all the stories I can remember. The pizza parlor and that entire end of the mall are long gone, replaced by new buildings. Twenty years would pass before I ran into another ghost. Many of these events I can remember like they happened yesterday, but I have forgotten as many as I have told here.

 

 

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