Creepy Log #6: The Lazarus Sign

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I’ve seen death, in many forms and shapes.


Some deaths are peaceful. The old man or woman climbs to bed, falls asleep, and never wakes up. Old age. Or the very young child turns over in his or her sleep, presses the nose against the mattress, and suffocates to death. Cot death. Or some house help, left alone in the home, lights up a jiko, then takes it back to the house, and forgets to leave at least one window open. She sits by the jiko and, lulled by the warmth, falls asleep. She never wakes up. Carbon monoxide poisoning.


But then again, I’ve seen some other kinds of deaths that have been truly horrifying. Vicious cuts and bruises by lovers. Victims of car accidents. And high speed motorcycle crashes, where every bone in the body is broken in several places. I’ve seen people rushed to the hospital, crying out in what must be white-hot pain, their guts spilling out of their wide-open bellies. And as soon as they reach the doors of the emergency room, their body finally gives up, and they fall into the eternal sleep, their faces still twisted in unspeakable pain.


All these, I’ve seen in the past. Some are heart-wrenching. Others are horrifying.


But rarely, if ever, had I ever been terrified by death.


That is, until I saw death itself animate an expired body.  




Several years ago, as part of my background research for one of my novels, I trained, and qualified, for a short stint as an assistant in the High Dependency Unit of a certain hospital. The training itself wasn’t particularly intensive, since all I needed was to get a hands on experience of the medical world. So I learnt a few basic medical terms, how to keep myself always protected within the HDU units – from any possible infections – and generally how to stay out of the way of the really harried doctors and nurses.


After the training, I then stayed within that HDU department for the next three months. There was a lot to absorb. And I came to see the stark nature of humanity, when an individual faces imminent death. Some people face death with peace and joy. They summon their loved ones, and bade them goodbye. Others face death with mortal fear, and they go into the eternal night screaming and kicking. They wail about all that they’ve left unfinished. And when death comes, it finally silences them.


Walter Ritho was different, though. He not only went into the eternal night with the brightest smile ever, but he also broke the death barrier, and came back.




Ritho, Walter:


Age: 57 years. Male.


Condition: Brain tumor.


Those were the main details provided in the card that hung by the foot side of this patient’s bed. Walter had been with the hospital for about three weeks now. He had undergone three major operations to try and extricate the aggressively growing tumor in his brain.


But unfortunately, the tumor was far much integrated with the rest of his brain, and in some areas, removing it would have meant turning Walter into an instant vegetable. So the doctors had conferred with him about the situation (he was still lucid, surprisingly), and he had decided to simply wait for the end. The doctors gave him a further two weeks to live. He died after one week.


As it so happened, I was one of the “assistants” still doing the rounds in the HDU when Walter died. He was hooked up to various machines towards the end: EKGs, respirators, and some other sensors taped to his right temple. The scars for the previous operations were on the left side of his head.


As I walked down the brightly-lit corridor of the HDU, I suddenly heard the unmistakable beep of Walter’s heart monitor. He was clearly coding. So I rushed into the room, to find him arched on the bed, in what must have been extreme pain from a cardiopulmonary arrest.  I was about to rush out and call any nearby doctor or nurse, when the heart monitor stopped making that warning sound, and instead went back to the familiar beep, beep of a normal heart.


Walter collapsed back to the bed, with sweat appearing on his brow. After breathing heavily for a while, he called me over with a weak gesture. He gestured that I lean closer to him. And when I did, he whispered to me:


“My time is up here, sonny. But I’ll come back and wish you goodbye.”


With a sigh, Walter settled deeper into the pillow, closed his eyes, and didn’t move again. On his face, was the biggest smile I had ever seen on anyone.


I didn’t have to touch him to know that he was dead.




The long, incessant sound of the heart monitor must have summoned the medical staff, for soon the room was swamped with doctors and nurses. I stepped away from the body, but stayed within watching distance. The doctors did the perfunctory checks for pulse, before switching off the various monitors attached to the body. No one tried to resuscitate the body. No defibrillation.  I understood. Walter wouldn’t have wished to be resuscitated. Not with the grim alien growing in his brain.


“Time of death: 1025 PM.”


That announcement was made by one of the doctors. A nearby nurse took hold of the card clipped to the foot of the bed, and noted something there. The various doctors then exited the room, and two male nurses were left to prepare the body for the morgue. I decided to stay behind and watch.


That decision turned out to be a very poor one, soon afterwards.


For as soon as one of the nurses touched Walter’s bed, intending to pull the covers off his body, Walter’s body started to move on its own.




Firstly, a sort of low moan escaped Walter’s mouth. I was startled at this, and my eyes widened a bit. I also took a small step backwards. The two nurses didn’t seem perturbed though. They went on with the folding of the covers beside the bed. I found this distinctly odd. But I kept my eyes on the body.


Suddenly, goose bumps appeared all over the exposed arms and the forehead of the body. As clear as daylight, I could see the previously smooth skin get rough as numerous goose bumps developed all over. This was starting to get really freaky. The smile on Walter’s body was still there, though it seemed to have faded somewhat, as the muscles around the mouth gradually relaxed. Still, I had a very strong urge to simply turn around, and walk out the door. Yet, the nurses either didn’t notice the goose bumps, or they were ignoring them completely.


I was beginning to settle down into this new state of affairs, when things got even more insane.


Walter’s arms started to twitch. Slightly at first, but more vividly soon afterwards.


A small shout escaped my mouth at this. The nurses stopped what they were doing, and turned and looked at me. And I pointed to the body, and said, in a trembling voice:


“That man has just moved his arms. He’s not dead.”


And immediately I said this, Walter produced another low, long-drawn out moan, and then his arms flexed, and he lifted them up into the air, from the elbows. Then they hung suspended in the air for a while.


I banged the back of my head against the wall on my back, as I quickly walked backwards. There was no hiding it. I was utterly terrified. And the next words by the nurse made my terror complete:


“Oh, he is dead alright. This movement is normal for some people, when they die.”



I froze, staring at the two nurses. They still seemed quite comfortable with everything that was happening. Were they insane, I wondered.


“Whaaaat?”, I managed to ask.


And just then, the two suspended forearms fell back towards his chest, crossing each other at the wrists. The final position was like that of Egyptian mummies. I felt like I was losing my mind.


“How is that normal?” I screeched.


And the other nurse, who hadn’t spoken so far, responded this time:


“That’s the Lazarus Sign”




“What in God’s name is the Lazarus Sign?” I shouted. My voice was shrill with real terror. My feet couldn’t move. If they had been capable of movement, I probably would have been miles away from the hospital by then.


“It happens to some people in whom the brain has been the first to die, or where there is a disconnect somewhere in the brain stem”, the nurse replied. “It’s actually the results of some reflex loop occurring after death. As you are probably aware, most reflexes in humans don’t reach they brain. The triggering stimuli hits the brain stem and a response is immediately sent back to a set of muscles, which then finish the loop by moving the body.”


I stared at the nurse. A part of me was trying to analyze what he was saying. Another part was really wishing that I was a thousand miles from there. The analyzing part won.


“So wait. You’ve seen this… this before?” I asked.


“Several times, yes. It’s a rare occurrence, but it happens. Even the goose bumps you saw. All part of that particular reflex. The Lazarus Sign is actually a very dependable way of knowing that the person is completely brain dead. A normal brain suppresses that particular reflex. The low moan you heard was unrelated, though. There must have been some air still left in his lungs, and they produced the sounds when his chest cavity decompressed.”


Despite myself, the nurse’s reassuring words were beginning to calm me down. A part of me could see the sense in what he was saying. I apparently had been worried for no good reason. Still, I wished someone had warned me, during the training course, about such weird events.


It was then that a very frightened yell came to us, from the HDU room next to the one we were in.




I nearly jumped out of my skin. And nearly soiled my pants. My nerves were clearly still very frayed, and that yell cut right through the very thin veneer of courage I had started to build up.


The nurses sprang into action, and walked out the door, towards the sound of the scream. They left me alone in the room with the body of Walter. I pondered for only half a second, before following the nurses out of the room too. I didn’t want to chance witnessing a reflex loop that might make him stand up and dance. Or something else equally unacceptable, for a dead body.


Once outside the corridor, I walked in the direction opposite where the nurses had gone. But I walked in that way for only a few steps, before sheer, morbid interest, and probable insanity, turned me around, and I found myself walking back to the room where the nurses had gone. At the door, I looked inside, and saw a frail looking woman, probably in her seventies, looking towards me, at the door.


She looked completely terrified. But I noticed something else too.


She wasn’t really looking directly at me. Rather, her eyes seemed focused on something next to me, at the doorway. Something that would have been slightly behind and to the side of one of the nurses standing there. And her words sent some shivers down my spine:


“Can’t you all see him? He is standing right there, looking at me. But there’s a weird halo all around him.”




“Ma’am, there are three of us standing here. Which of us are you referring to?” One of the nurses asked.


And the old woman replied:


“No no no. There are four of you standing there. And the forth one looks strange. And he is still staring at me. I don’t want him in this room.”




Looking at the woman, I could see that she really was terrified. Whatever she thought she was seeing, or was actually seeing, was completely frightening the wits out of her.


I found my voice and, trying to raise it a bit, asked the woman:


“Describe the fourth man, ma’am”


She described him:


“He is tall. Maybe six feet. Very pale skin, like a half cast. And his head is balding. Sunken cheeks. Very lean body. And why is he wearing the hospital gown?”


By the time she was finishing this description, I could feel my inside melt. And looking at the two nurses besides me, I saw a similar reaction of fright build up in their faces.


For the old woman had just described Walter Ritho – the old man who had just died in the next room.




I didn’t wait to hear anything else. Sometimes, when dread builds up in the body, it turns into a sort of nausea, that comes and goes in waves. That’s how I was feeling at that moment. I quickly walked out of the room, planning to beat it out of that hospital, out of that general locality, and to never come back. Ever.


Instead, I found my curiosity overpowering every single thread of sense I had in my body. And I walked straight into the room that had Walter Ritho’s body.


The body was still there. Still in the same, unsettling mummy posture. Hands crossing each other over the chest.


It might have been my imagination, but that big, enigmatic smile on his face seemed to have returned. A face that was supposed to be completely dead. I shook my head a bit to clear it, and blinked several times. And the smile seemed to fade away, once again.


This time, terror won over. I whipped around, jumped into the corridor, and walked as fast as I could, straight into the parking lot. I only started breathing normally when I got into my car. I quickly reversed the car, got out of parking, and drove out the hospital’s compound.


And at the back of my mind, a certain conviction was forming: I’d never visit that hospital again.


Creepy Log # 4: A Voice from Odessa



In 2004, I and two of my buddies were still relatively young, and reckless. We also had an ardent interest in the paranormal, and had, among our possessions, lots of gadgets supposedly used to connect with the supernatural.


Among those gadgets was an Ouija Board, and its accompanying planchette. We had had it for several months, but had never experienced anything particularly exciting with it, despite several sessions in which we asked it several questions.


But on New Year’s Day, 2005, something did happen:


The board spoke to us.  


For the uninitiated, the Ouija board is essentially just a square board, and on its surface, there are several writings. On the top left corner is the word “YES”. On the top right corner is the word “NO”. In the main, central region of the board are the letters A to Z, arranged in two rows of 13 letters each. And at the bottom, center of the board, is the word ” GOODBYE”.


The planchette itself is just a smaller, heart-shaped board, placed on wheels, such that it can move freely on top of the Ouija board. The pointed end of the heart shape is used to determine which word or letter on the board the planchette is pointing towards. Some planchettes have a pencil on this pointed end, for automatic writing, but ours didn’t.


With the above two gadgets, it is assumed that anything from the other world can be able to express itself fully to humans, by moving the planchette around on the board.


On New Years Day, 2005, at about 3 in the morning, I and my buddies placed the planchette on top of the board, and then held our hands together around it. Then, in a slow, clear voice, I said:


“Is anyone out there?”


For a full 30 seconds, nothing happened. We were almost giving up when, suddenly, the planchette slowly, hesitantly, moved upwards, and to the left of the board.




We were all startled.


We hadn’t really been expecting anything to happen.


We all looked at each other for moment. Then, turning back towards the board, I said, once again in a slow pace:


“Are you a spirit?”


The planchette didn’t move. It stayed right on top of the “YES”. Realizing that this wasn’t a clear response, I refined my question:


” Are you dead?”


And this time, slowly, but gathering speed, the planchette moved. And then stopped at the top right corner of the board.




By now, the three of us were trembling slightly. We were both terrified and fascinated by what was happening in front of our very eyes. And we decided to push on.


I asked:


“Are you in hell?”


At this, one of my friends turned towards me, and said:


” It can’t be in hell. It’s not dead.”


But as soon as he said this, the planchette moved. To the extreme left, top of the board.




This last response from the board puzzled us. But we continued.


I asked:


“Who are you?”


The planchette immediately started moving. No hesitations at all. Whoever… or whatever was controlling it, was clearly getting adept at it. The planchette moved first to the letter “M”, then “A”, then ” S”, then “H”, then “A”.




We had no idea what that meant. Couldn’t tell if it was a name or something else. But we pressed on.


I asked:


“Where are you?”


The planchette moved. “O”, “D”, “E”, “S”, “S”




The planchette stopped moving.


Once again, we had no idea what those letters meant. We glanced at each other, puzzled. Then I asked:


“Are you in this world?”


And we waited.


The planchette never moved again. It remained on top of the S.


I asked it several other questions, but it didn’t respond again. Not on that night, nor since then.


Still feeling a bit scared, we packed the Ouija board and the planchette into their respective boxes. Then we all spent the night together. No one was willing to go home alone, at that hour of the night, after what we had just experienced.


The following morning, we woke up to a bright and sunny day. The events of the day soon had the terrors of the previous night receding from our minds. What remained was a nagging feeling about what exactly we all, collectively had clearly seen. But we decided to keep the event among just the three of us.


Time moved on. Weeks passed. Months.


But two years later, in early 2007, I met MASHA.                         


I was idly surfing the internet, early one morning, in 2007, when two words suddenly leapt at me:






It was the headline of a certain article in the Yahoo News webpage:




Feeling a bit sick, and starting to tremble a bit, I quickly scanned through the article.


Apparently, Masha used to be a Ukrainian teenage girl who had gone missing on New Years Eve, 2004. The background was that she, and her friends, had gone into one of the tunnels in the extensive catacombs of Odessa, in Ukraine. There, the girls had partied the whole night, and had got themselves very drunk.


Somewhere in the course of the partying, Masha must have left the rest of the girls, and wandered off into the tunnels, by herself. Perhaps she had gone to relieve herself. Or perhaps, in her drunken state, she had decided to explore the tunnels alone. Either way, she went, and never came back.


The catacombs of Ukraine are the biggest and most complex in the world. They cover more than 2,500 km in length. The maps that exist for them are very scanty on information, and some of the tunnels are not even documented. Even an experienced explorer, armed with maps and torches, can easily get lost.


So the moment Masha went away from the rest of the girls, she was doomed.


The friends of Masha, upon realizing that she was no longer among them, went and reported to the authorities. Several search teams were organized over the next few days, in January, 2005. But after a week or so, everyone gave up on the search. There was no way that Masha could be alive at that time, alone, without food and water, and in the freezing temperatures of Ukraine outdoors.


It took two years before her body was finally found, by accident, eight kilometers from the place where the girls had had their party. Eight kilometers deep into the pitch black tunnels of the catacombs. To have gone that far, Masha must walked for almost three days, in the impenetrable darkness, alone, hungry, thirsty, and getting more and more desperate as the hours went. Finally, she must have started to lose her mind, and slipped into delirium, before collapsing onto the floor, and slipping into a coma, then death.


But clearly, before she had lost her mind, Masha had reached out, to us.

Creepy Log # 3: Elevator



I probably should have known that there was something off with the elevator. The moment I entered it, I immediately started shivering. It was unusually cold. Which was strange, since the temperatures outside were fine.


But I drew my coat tighter, and pressed the button for the fifth floor, where our offices were.


It was 11pm.


I was doing the night shift.



The ride up the floors was uneventful.


But for some reason, the hairs on the back of my neck kept rising.


Looking around, I could only see my reflection in the mirrors around.


The usual elevator music was playing.


The lights overhead were bright as ever.


Everything looked okay.


Except that it all felt off.                        



Eventually, the elevator got to the fifth floor, and stopped. The doors opened, and I walked out, and to our offices, down the corridor.


Mike, my colleague, was there, sitting at his chair, by the monitors.


The screens had feeds from the various CCTV cameras installed in the building. There were feeds from the corridors, the various offices in all the floors, and the elevators in all the wings of the building.


Our main job was to monitor all those feeds, and essentially report if anything looked strange.



So I went and sat down next to Mike.


And he immediately made an unexpected comment:


“She’s pretty. You should have come with her to this office.”



I turned to look at Mike.




And he responded:


“The lady in the elevator with you. She looked good.”


I stared at Mike for a long moment. Then I told him:


“Mike, I was alone in that elevator.”



It was Mike’s turn to look surprised. His eyes widened. He said:


“What the….?”


Then he turned towards the bank of screens, and touched a few buttons on a keyboard.


The central screen, much bigger than the others, began playing back the feed from the elevator.


I could see myself in the elevator, pulling my coat tighter around myself.


And behind me, leaning on the mirror at the back of the elevator, there WAS a woman.


A woman I myself hadn’t seen when in the elevator.



I jumped back in my seat, in sheer terror.


“What the hell?!” I yelped. “Who is that?”


Mike looked at me, just as dumbfounded.


“Tell me you saw this woman in the elevator,” he pleaded.


And I said, in a shrill voice:


“That woman wasn’t there, Mike. I was alone in the elevator.”


Mike said:


“Well, clearly, you weren’t alone.”



I got an idea, right about then.


“Mike, play back that recording to the end. Where did the lady go?”


Mike played the feed.


The screen showed the elevator getting to our floor, and I leaving it. The lady also followed me out of the elevator.


I shivered, seeing this.


Mike changed the central feed, to show the corridor, as recorded by yet another camera.


That feed had me strolling towards our office.


The woman was not in this feed.


She apparently had just disappeared between the two camera feeds.


Both of us shouted, almost simultaneously:




Fully terrified, both of us shakily stood up from our seats, and walked out of the room, to the corridor outside.


It was a straight corridor. With four doors -counting ours – that led to other offices. The elevators were straight ahead, on the other end of this corridor.


There was no blind spot, anywhere, for the cameras.


And there was no way that woman could have gone to the other offices without the corridor camera picking her up.


At that moment, the elevator opened, and then closed, as we watched it. No one came out of it.


We looked at each other, and silently went back to our office.


To the bank of screens.


And played back the recording from the elevator camera.



The woman was in the elevator.


Right in front of us, on the central screen, we could see her, in the elevator.


We both yelped in mortal terror.


And the woman, at that exact time, turned, and looked straight at the camera in the elevator. At us.


She smiled.


We yelped again.


Shortly, the elevator doors opened, and she walked out.


The camera on the ground floor, where she had exited the elevator, didn’t pick her up.


Once again, between the two feeds, she simply disappeared.



That night was one of the longest we ever had.


We didn’t dare leave our post, in that office, that night, for fear of meeting that ghostly woman.


We tried calling our boss, but his phone was offline.


So we sat there, shivering with terrible fright, and basically just replaying those two feeds.


By morning, the video clips were pretty much burnt into our memories.


As our shift came to an end, two other colleagues joined us in the CCTV room, and we handed them the recordings, and narrated to them the events of the night.


They immediately sat down in front of the monitors, and tried to play the clips, as Mike and I stood by.


All the feeds for the elevator and the corridor were blank.


Feeds that, less than two hours earlier, had contained glaring evidence for the paranormal.