I didn't know it at the time, but Cascades Job Corps Center used to be a mental hospital - Northern State Hospital, to be precise. There were, when I attended, four dorms. When I first arrived two were co-ed and two were males only. Later one of the males only went to co-ed and I moved into it. Not everyone was happy with having people aged 16-24 running around the old mental hospital and they weren't afraid to let us know.
The clearest memory I have of the night I arrived - we were picked up at the bus station at some point close to midnight - was when I got there how oppressive it felt. It was in June but there was a definite chill to the air that I don't believe had anything to do with the weather. The dorms were dimly lit because everyone was in bed. I remember going into the New Input Bay and shivering as I got into bed. There was something there and it wasn't sure if it liked me.
Over the next few days, I found out about the center's history. At first, I blew off the descriptions of the ghosts and weird occurrences as overactive imaginations. Then I had my first encounter with a ghost and that changed my perspective very quickly.
I had just gotten out of the New Input Bay and was in a room with two other girls. Both were nice enough, though it was very obvious English was not their first language. That didn't stop us from becoming friends. One thing Isabel would insist upon though was that the door had to be left open a crack at night. We weren't supposed to do that but she wouldn't go to sleep unless the door was open a crack. It took some effort to get the door open a crack and to keep it that way because the RAs would come close it. But we still tried. Isabel said something bad was in the room and the light from the hallway kept it out.
One night, after the RAs closed the door on us again, I woke up. I noticed the darkness and decided I'd get up to open the door again. As I started climbing out of my bunk bed, I saw her. She was standing in the middle of the floor. Pale hair, pale nightgown, and holding something in her hand. She was a pale blur to me at that moment. I pulled my glasses on and I got a better look at her. It was a little girl, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, holding a red ball. She looked at me for a moment and then vanished. I sat there in the darkness shivering for a few minutes and then I went and opened the door a crack.
The next morning I asked Isabel about the evil thing that she didn't like. She told me it was a voice she heard when she stayed up late studying. Isabel was in college and was often up later than Martha and me. She said it was a man's voice yelling something. It frightened her and she didn't like being alone in the dark because of it. I told her about the little girl. She told me she'd seen her too and that the little girl was nothing to be frightened of.
I encountered the little girl several times over my 7 months at that Job Corps center. Sometimes she'd just be standing there, staring. Other times she'd be bouncing her ball. I never heard her speak but she was always around. She existed only in my dorm. None of the others I talked to from the other three dorms had seen her, though they had their fair share of ghost tales from their own dorms.
I also encountered the angry man with Isabel. I was up late with her one night. She was studying, I was reading. Martha was gone for the weekend. Isabel and I had been talking until she went back to work on her paper and I went back to my book. All of a sudden, I heard a voice. It wasn't any voice I recognized and by this point I knew all of the RAs. I looked up and Isabel was white and shaking. She kept muttering something in Spanish over and over again but I couldn't understand her, my knowledge of Spanish having dwindled to barely anything over the years since high school. I listened to the man's voice. It was getting louder and closer. I couldn't understand what he was saying but it was obvious he was upset about something.
Isabel got up and quietly closed the door. She turned on every light in the room and sat down, her rosary in her hands. She whispered what could only be prayers as the man's voice grew louder and louder. Our door rattled, as if someone were trying to get in, and then the rattling stopped and the voice faded away as if the speaker were walking away from us. I looked over at Isabel and asked her if that was the evil thing. She nodded, still clutching her rosary.
I saw other ghosts, in the abandoned buildings students weren't allowed to enter that stood behind the dorms. I saw pale figures in the broken windows and heard the voices on a quiet night. I knew the story about the nurse who haunted the old nurses' quarters where she'd hung herself, and the ghosts of those who'd been lobotomized. I heard the stories of Frank, a male ghost that caused mischief in one of the other dorms. He would turn on the showers when no one was there. He'd appear in the mirror standing right behind someone. He'd mutter and move about at night. He'd turn the lights on and off.
I never encountered him, or the ghost in the other co-ed dorm who would open the doors to the college students' doors. Or the nurse that would come talk to you to soothe you when you were sick. There were so many restless spirits there. I came to find out later that there were over 100 unmarked graves back behind the rec center, and it is my belief that many of those poor souls still walk the grounds of their former prison to this day.