Episode 5: Perfect Attendance
The following audio recording is classified documentation for case (static) with The Enclosure, unauthorized access to this information will lead to immediate intervention. Progress further if proper clearance has been given.
Dr. Todd Carmen: (via voicemail)
Hey Jared, it’s Dr. Carmen.
Listen, I know you asked to cash in on some of that paid time off you’ve got, but I wanted to let you know that I couldn’t fulfill your request quite yet. There’s one little thing I need you to look into for me first-
There’s some circulating rumors of a former teacher causing some trouble at the local school. I say ‘former’ because she’s been dead for about a hundred years or so. I don’t know the exact details yet besides what Dr. Rahal heard, footprints with no source, flying clocks, startled janitors…you know the drill. So I need you to go and investigate.
Since you’re just so good with those little kiddos that come by your place at night, I figured you’d be even better with some actual kids. And since you’ve been doing a little personal community outreach, why not put that to use? Now go see what you can figure out and report back to me, then we can discuss that vacation time of yours-
Oh, also you’re welcome for the plumbing fixture, by the way. I know you’ve been too busy to stop by with a proper thanks, but I’m just glad we could get that all fixed up for you. Well, I’ll keep an eye out for your report by the end of the week, see ya ‘round.
(in a mocking tone)
‘Oh, you’re welcome for the plumbing fixture, by the way.’ — oh jeez louise, I literally never asked them to fix my plumbing, I called it, now he’s gonna hold that over my head for Gods know how long.
I know that some folks say that being motivated by spite ain’t the best way to live, but it’s a real hell of a motivator. I don’t plan to delete this voicemail ‘til I get that chat about time off, because if I get brushed out about that PTO again after everything, I’m going to remind them that he guaranteed me a talk about it. I mean he normally sends me out over the dangerous stuff, but this was just tedious. More like Todd just wanted to send me out on an errand and just threw me out over the first thing that he could. I mean, considering that I drowned a few weeks ago, this was expected to be a bit of a piece of cake…while it wasn’t life-threatening, it was annoying…and draining.
So, today I ‘just so happened’ to bump into the principal of the local school. I know that she goes to the Chronicle Inn’s country store a lot, especially during her lunch breaks. So I went in the afternoon and spent some time there talking with Ester and Laura as I waited for her to arrive.
Ester was wearing a really lovely dress and a floral apron, the pale pink accented her gray hair really nicely, and Laura was already in her denim overalls and plaid flannel. Apparently she was wanting to get some woodworking done in her workshop, but then she decided to stay in and help Ester out with managing the shop for the afternoon rush, you know, since all the folks started pouring in on their lunch breaks.
And that afternoon rush was what I’d waited for because that’s when Mrs. Anika Ralsh showed up. We haven’t really ever talked much, just enough to get to know each other’s names and general identities, so when she saw me she greeted me with a small smile and a wave. She asked how I’d been doing- y’know, what I’d been up to, the usual. I had planned on how I was going to broach the subject of the haunting in the school considering that it’s not exactly something that just uh…comes up naturally in conversation. I needed to find some inconspicuous way to shift focus to- to that topic in a way that wouldn’t trigger too many red flags. But then she dropped the bombshell on me.
She said that she’d spoken to Darius and that he mentioned that I had some curiosity with the supernatural, which was weird because I remember mentioning that passively to him like…once, when I panicked when he asked me what I do for a living- and that was a while ago, I’m shocked that he remembered.
So I basically told her what I told him. Yeah, I’m a scientist who studies natural phenomena around here but I also have an interest in supernatural phenomena but that’s more of a hobby…which is a bold-face lie, but far more acceptable than the truth.
The script in my head of how the conversation would go was now entirely thrown off which did, in all honesty, throw me completely off my rhythm. But she actually got far more to the point than I would have planned to so I guess it worked for the best.
Anika said that she hadn’t been sure who to reach out to about this, but when Darius had mentioned me, she thought it’d be worth a shot to ask me to look into things. That there’s a ghost of a deceased teacher that keeps stirring up trouble at the local school. It was a former teacher who taught fifth graders back in like, the 80s or something like that. She taught up until the day she died, and she’s rumored to still linger around. But she’s been getting more disruptive than before and it’s getting a bit out of hand.
So Anika asked me if I knew a way to get this ghost to calm down, but to not get rid of her. Apparently this Mrs. Alice Caller has been a part of the school community for so long that even if she scares or startles people sometimes, they don’t really want her gone. She startles the staff more than anything, the teachers and all that, but the students seem to get a kick out of it-
‘Every building has their character, after all’.
That’s what Anika said, and I guess you could consider a ‘haunting’ to be a splash of character.
Anyways, so yeah, after chatting for a bit and pretending that I had my knowledge of ghosts and hauntings due to at-home research and not my nine to five…even if it’s more of a six to five.
I told her I could investigate, but I’d probably want to do it when there weren’t, you know, students in the halls? She’d asked if I was free literally that evening and considering Todd was basically holding my paid time off as hostage, I said ‘of course’. I mean the sooner I got it done the sooner I could have some sort of vacation.
As preemptive compensation, she bought me lunch which was really nice, and told me to come by school after I finished eating. She took her food to go, but I stayed and ate there at the end and chatted with Ester and Laura a bit more. I also texted Darius and asked if he told Anika about my…supernatural interests. He said yes and apologized if he shouldn’t have told her, but I said that it was fine, that I was mostly surprised that he’d remembered. I’d mentioned it a while back and we really don’t ever talk about it, so the fact that he remembered? It was…sweet, I mean especially considering I let him do most of the talking in conversation. He has a nice voice and tells really nice stories. I was flattered more than anything.
After I ate and played some mindless puzzle games on my phone, I headed out towards the school. If I’d really wanted to, I could have walked, but I had driven to the Inn from my house anyways and had no reason to just leave my car behind.
I got there a little before the last class ended and just went to the front office. After some light chitchat, I was given a tour. It was one floor, maybe like…13 classrooms in total? Not including the small computer lab, the gym, the restrooms, or closets. I saw teachers wrapping up classes and students getting ready to head home. Nothing seemed off during the first walk through.
She asked me when I got into tracking the supernatural and I told her about two years ago…not a lie, I guess. She asked what I did for the Enclosure.
“We don’t really know what it is you all do, I guess we’re just curious.” is what she’d said.
I felt like she was reading every movement and microexpression in response to whatever my answer would be. I kind of panicked. I told her that I just keep tabs on the natural anomalies, animal behavior primarily. I told her I’m involved in monitoring wildlife just to make sure that the ecosystem is in balance and stuff like that, then I quickly changed the topic because I know jack-diddley about biology beyond the basics.
I got to talking to Anika about what’s been happening…which was what Todd had said and then some. Flying clocks, footprints, and startled staff…but there were also a few other things as well.
Things apparently turn on and off by themselves, like the janitor’s vacuums or the lights. One time the cleaning staff heard some stuff moving around in an empty room and then when they investigated the room, apparently a bunch of desks got moved around and flipped over. Seems that this Mrs. Caller has also been knocking over projectors and has made things go missing, especially in the old classroom where she taught.
After Anika showed me around the whole school, uh, greeting kids as classes let out, which, let me tell you, made me incredibly uncomfortable. Again, I’m not good with kids, so I just kind of gave awkward waves and half-smiles to them…
Anyways, after she showed me around and led me back to where Mrs. Caller’s former classroom was, she asked if I needed anything before she’d go back to work and leave me to meander. Right before she walked away though she asked if I had any tools for the ‘ghost hunting’. I hate calling it that. I’m not hunting the ghosts or anything, I’m more just trying to communicate, check in and see what’s going on. They don’t always want to talk and I definitely respect that. I mean, heck, there’s times I sure don’t want to talk to people-
I told her I mostly wanted to check out the place first. I would bring in my equipment from my car once all the students were gone…she asked if I needed to wait ‘til night time and I told her that that’s just a rumor. Paranormal investigations often happen at night because it’s quieter from interruptions and easier to use the night vision. But if the ghost has been haunting during the day then it makes sense to investigate during the day as well.
So we walked back to the front door. She went into what I guess is her office and I went and grabbed my kit that I keep in my trunk. It’s got an EMF sensor, a voice recorder– which is basically just a fancier version of what I use for these journal entries– an infrared thermometer, high power camera, other nifty little tools…mostly the basics, they don’t give me the heavy duty kit for assignments like these. Of course…
I made my way back to Mrs. Caller’s former classroom and gave passing greetings to everyone that I passed and made eye contact with, just a little smile and wave, asking “How are you”, as neither party planned for an extensive conversation.
I got over there and introduced myself as I set up the equipment. I definitely felt something. I wasn’t sure if it was her or not but with the way that it felt, well I felt more comfortable– it felt more familiar. So I told her my name, that I was there just to communicate and see if I could help calm her down at all. I explained what I was setting up and what all it would do. I felt my muscles relax as I just felt far more comfortable in this situation than being surrounded by students while talking to Anika.
Nothing against Anika, I felt quite comfortable talking to her back at the restaurant. I…think it was just the whole ‘being surrounded by people’ thing. So I got everything set up and started to poke around the classroom. I started asking general questions, ones that I’m encouraged to ask based on ‘protocol’. “What do you want?”, “How did you die?”, “Why are you here?”, and so on…I hate those questions, what makes anyone think that those spirits would want to answer them anyway?
So, after I got very little response, I sat down on top of one of the desks, criss-cross-applesauce, put the equipment down, and just…chatted. I asked how she was feeling.
I apologized if it was bothersome being pestered with questions– especially if she’d been primarily been being ignored, except for people prying. I asked why she lingered in her former classroom…like, why this place? That was when a small frame holding up what looked like an obituary caught my attention, uh hung up above the door…so, I asked her about it.
I heard some beeps from my pile of tools but I didn’t need to pick it up, I knew that particular beeping. It wasn’t an auditory reception, it was an energy spike. And I could feel the shift in…the atmosphere? The mood of the room? At first I just felt like I was being watched, but then I felt like it was more, um, that I was…encroaching in someone else’s living space, that I was somewhere that I shouldn’t be or doing something that I shouldn’t be doing.
I slid myself off the desk and went to start gathering my supplies, but then the feeling went away.
Seems like she’d just been upset that I was sitting with my feet up on the desk like that. So I muttered an apology and just made my way over towards the door to take a closer look at the obituary. It felt like something was practically breathing down the back of my neck. Not– literally, but..I don’t know, I could just feel it there. I turned around slowly and saw, unsurprisingly, nothing, but I knew in my gut that she was right there.
Then what scared me more than anything was that the classroom door flew open behind me- not enough to slam on the wall or anything, but enough to make a sound. It was just some student who apparently left her notebook behind or something. She couldn’t have been more than…what, thirteen? She was sweet, asked what I was doing back there…I told her a half truth, which is pretty much just my life at this point. I told her I was investigating on behalf of Mrs. Ralsh, which in my opinion is not a lie, just…not the whole truth.
She then went on to tell me about an experience that her dad had last year. Apparently her dad is one of the school janitors that had an incident early one morning when he’d come to clean up the place during the weekend. He was helping wax the floors in the halls by the back door, and at some point he turned to see footprints in the wax finishing on the tile. Her dad got pretty freaked out since he knew that he did not hear or see anyone walk by and the footprints were all too small to be his. He followed the footprints to the back door; he tried the handle but the door was locked, it was a door that needed a key to be unlocked. So he used his key to open the door and discovered footprints leading from the door to the direction of the town’s cemetery, which wasn’t too far away. The same cemetery that Mrs. Caller was buried in.
I asked her if her dad had experienced anything else since then with Mrs. Caller, and she said that he’s seen loads of stuff, but normally he sees the aftermath, like he has to clean up the messes that she makes if the other teachers can’t for whatever reason.
So I thanked her, she grabbed her things, and then she wished me luck before she hurried out.
So once again, I stood alone in the classroom. Well, alone besides the presence of Mrs. Caller, which was definitely still strong. Maybe it was a bit smarmy of me, but I asked her,
“Now why would the girl wish me luck?”
I was told that Mrs. Caller isn’t aggressive towards people, but she definitely wants her presence to be known, and I guess she didn’t like the idea of the disrespect in my tone in her own classroom–
Suddenly there was a blur in front of me and the sound of shattering glass– the framed obituary that hung above the door had been knocked off the wall and landed practically at my feet, which made me jump instinctively. Thankfully, my boots are sturdy enough that I didn’t have to worry too much about getting hurt from the glass, but I noticed that there was something tucked behind the obituary in the frame. My hands are already fairly scarred up from work and I don’t think the nerve endings in my fingertips really work as well as they used to, so I kind of just reached down without thinking. I brushed away the glass and picked up the paper so that I could examine it…
The obituary itself was hardly remarkable, exactly what I’d expect from a beloved school teacher who passed away many many years ago, but what was behind it was odd.
An old…Enclosure business card. I still have it with me. It looks probably as old as the obituary, if not older. It’s the same general logo but it doesn’t look as modern, as if they’ve updated it since then. The colors aren’t as bright, aren’t as jarring…but something about it made my stomach twist. It felt wrong, not like the uncanny valley wrong, but just…I don’t like looking at it.
I pocketed the business card and carefully put the obituary on the desk. I asked what Mrs. Caller was trying to tell me, but the energy felt… tired? Strained? A little concerned. I asked for literally any other message, any other sign, anything that could be helpful with whatever this, this business card is.
Then I saw chairs in the classroom start to move. Instead of them all being pushed into desks, they were all shifted as if whoever was seated in the chairs were all facing me. I was the focus at that point. It suddenly felt like I was being watched far more intensely than I’ve been in a haunting situation. It was like I was standing in front of a crowd who were all watching me with narrowed, scrutinizing eyes.
At first I just gave a huff and said, “Oh haha, very funny”. But then, the smell of something sweet–
It was…it was a mild smell, not like anything I’ve ever smelled before, but as soon as that smell hit my senses my chest hurt and my stomach churned.
I looked back at the obituary on the desk and saw Mrs. Caller’s smiling face, then looked up to see the words “Do Your Homework” written on the whiteboard in neat handwriting and one of the markers uncapped on the little storage ledge thing. So I told her…okay, I would, but I had to leave. I felt sick, which has never happened in a situation like this before. I normally have a gut of steel but something about that sweet smell just shook me to my core.
I hurriedly capped the marker, wiped off the whiteboard, and then rushed over and started to power down my equipment that I hardly even used–
I have been chased, drowned, attacked, and so many worse, worse things than having empty chairs turned to face me, but my heart was thudding in my chest and my palms started to sweat. I needed to leave. The sweet smell still lingered and I couldn’t stand it–
I packed up my equipment and just got out of there. As I made my way back towards the front door, I knew I couldn’t be seen by anyone like that, I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone’s eyes on me at that point. I ducked into the bathroom, I tucked myself into a stall…I put my box down on the floor and just sat on the toilet before I just…stared at my hands. My scarred, now nicked-with-glass fingers, the creases in my palms, the swirl of my fingertips. I just reminded myself that I was there. The sweet smell was replaced by the smell of cleaning supplies and other musty smells. While it wouldn’t normally be a pleasant smell, it was far better than whatever I had smelled previously. After a few deep breaths, I finally stood up and started to prepare to leave. That was when my bathroom stall flew open to reveal…nobody. It was more like Mrs. Caller was telling me to skedaddle on home and get working on my ‘homework’.
I don’t know why I couldn’t fully see her like the ghost at the Chronicle Inn, but I could surely feel her presence strongly enough.
I’ll admit, I got a little huffy with her. I told her it was rude to barge into a stall like that and I was getting ready. Considering I hadn’t actually used the bathroom, I just grabbed my stuff and headed out, thankfully I made it to the front entrance without really catching anyone’s attention. I was actually even able to slip by the front door without anyone noticing me, or at least they didn’t call out to me. I felt a little bad without saying goodbye to Anika, especially after only being there for like, what, an hour? But I just wanted to get home—
And now I’m home. And what was my ‘homework’? Well, I decided to look more into this Alice Caller. She had a husband who passed away not long before she did. The husband worked in town and apparently had some ties with The Enclosure. Not an employee, they don’t really hire townsfolk. But seemingly a friend of a former employee. I did hours of digging after I got home, and found a mention in a newspaper of him and a Dr. Severin Kelder. I don’t know why that name stuck out to me, but it did. I don’t know if I’ve seen it on a research file before, or what. But I’m going to look more into it when I have my work computer at the lab tomorrow.
Maybe Mrs. Caller saw the Enclosure logo on my equipment or something? But why was that business card even there? This business card isn’t even for a particular person. I mean, it has a phone number on it but no name. I don’t recognize the number and when I looked through my roster of numbers it didn’t match anything. So perhaps, it was an older, no longer used number?
Also, Todd said that Mrs. Caller died like a hundred years ago. Well, if this business card from The Enclosure was there, then that’s impossible. The Enclosure settled here in like the 1930s. I think Todd was just exaggerating. Also both Anika and the obituary said that she taught and then died in like the 80s. So…whatever. Not that that really matters…
I put the old Enclosure business card away in the back of one of my drawers. I don’t want to look at it anymore than I have to, it reminds me of that sweet smell in the classroom and I hate it. I normally love sweets and sweet smelling things, but something about that particular smell, it…I don’t know, it triggers flight or fight down to my very core. Even if I know logically that I’m safe.
(shivers) Just thinking about it is sitting me on pins and needles.
Oh gods, and I didn’t even tell anyone about the broken glass, a janitor probably had to clean it up…totally forgot. Now I feel like a jerk…should I send an apology? Should I call in the morning?
(vague tapping in the background)
Ohhhh, I hear you!
But you’re not coming in, not after last time! I don’t want to have to replace my couch again. I told you to just please…please leave me alone. Why’d you even want in my place so bad? There’s other houses for you to knock on!
(Deep inhale, shaky exhale)
(to himself) They’re just kids, Jared. They’re just doing whatever it is that they do. There is no need to shout at them. They don’t know better…
Sorry. I’m gonna stop the research for tonight and get some rest, I’ve stayed up way too late and I think that the black-eyed children are drawn to my house due to the fact that my lights are still on. I’m gonna call Anika in the morning and see if I could come back Friday after school, have the place relatively to myself, examine a bit further.
It also gives me time between now and then to do some more research. I know Todd wanted the files on his desk by the end of the week, but I could always go in Friday afternoon and drop off the files Saturday…still at the end of the week, he never specified what day.
So, till next time, I guess…
This is Dr. Jared Hel, signing off.
“Jar of Rebuke” is written and produced by Casper Oliver, who is also the voice of Dr. Jared Hell.
Dr. Todd Carmen is voiced by Conrad Miszuk.
The intro is read by Vanessa Rosengrant, and credits are read by Ashlee Craft who has created the podcast’s official graphics.
Music was created by The Menniss (spelled M-E-N-N-I-S-S), who you can find and support on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Twitch.
Find us on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for updates. You can support us on Patreon or PodHero by following the links in our episode description.
And special thanks to our Patreon supporters Becky Thompson, Perry Bruns, Tristan Froude, and Nico Allen.
And now, if you’ve been enjoying “Jar of Rebuke”, check out this other queer horror podcast.