And Then I Entered...the Twilight Zone (OS Archives 2011)

~ A true, scary tale ~

The dream haunted me for years when I was a girl, circling around with other recurring nightly visitations that all conspired to prevent a sweet dream from ever gracing my childhood slumber. This particular dream series repeated each time with little variation of detail and no variation in terror, producing an ever-growing sense of claustrophobia in my awake world as well. Each vivid detail kept its sharp clarity, even when the dream quit sabotaging my sleep, through all my adult years to this day.

The nightmarish dream begins as I walk across the luxurious lobby of a sea-going cruise ship, though no ship is ever visible, just a large columned gallery appointed in traditional formal style, the vaulted ceilings soaring toward bright light. I am headed for the bank of elevator doors across the marbled floor, decisively guided by the unseen, heard, or felt "they". 

When we arrive in front of the elevator door that I know is meant for me, the ornate doors open to reveal an old battered elevator car, with slatted,  wooden walls and door that I call an orange crate in my youthful dream-mind, although that isn't exactly how it looks to my eye. Fear springs up in my dreamchild heart, rushing tension flows through my small, skinny limbs, each beat of my pulse racing at the thought of entering that rickety, small enclosure. There is a ship's rope knotted through the slats in the ceiling that looks inadequate for the lifting task, only broken or fraying threads left in the knot to twist around and back. Invisible forces push me in and I begin to panic as the outer doors glide shut, leaving only the rough crate slats surrounding me.

After several heart-pounding moments, with vertical lurchings starting and stopping, horizontal swayings impossible in any real-life elevator shaft, loud clanking sounds, and a growing sensation of damp and cold, the car/crate stops and the rickety doors disappear altogether. A long narrow hall stretches out before me, dark shadows of gloomy door openings marching symmetrically down each side.

I am pushed forward and the elevator disappears. I am made to walk forward, by invisible forces again, although every step threatens to tremble me to pieces. Step by step is taken, each with a stop-jerk sensation, then the hall physically begins to close in. Darker. Danker. Walls pressing. Fear racing. Slowly walking forward, then crouching, then crawling, along.

When I reach my door and peer in, the shrinking dimensions have turned my cruise ship quarters into a coffin-sized black hole that I must slither into. Gasping breaths and tears of panic engulf me. 

It is at this moment in every one of the dream's occurrences that I'd wake up in my own childhood room, each time terrified to close my eyes again, afraid I'd fall back into this dark world that feels as though it will bury me alive in my sleep.

I have sworn since childhood never to take a cruise. 


This week while eating breakfast, I followed my usual habit of checking various news sites, emails, and television news clips before getting Youngest up and off to school. After I'd gone on to other things, the Today show video player stayed on, and during a trek back through the room I found a human interest clip beginning, one of a series where the anchors go on adventures together in a virtual anchor-audience bonding experience. 

This installment's excursion was to a haunted prison, located in the center of Philadelphia, where the quartet, I think, would stay all night to see if they experienced any ghost-y vibes. A Halloween adventure, with anchor-audience fear-bonding. 

I watch as one anchor-as-narrator begins to tell of the Eastern State Prison's 146-year history as the nation's first actual "penitentiary," while the camera pans across the outside of a medieval-castle-looking fortress with greystone walls, then zooms in on its entrance. My heart's pace quickens although I'm not sure why. I begin to turn back out of the room to remind Youngest we have to leave soon, when the anchors walk in the prison and cameras scan the tall-ceilinged, dingy hall that has light pouring down from skylights, showing the main floor of the prison with doors opening onto cells. 

My body is transfixed by a strong sensation, while my mind is vague on the reasons why.

While the video images are not exactly similar to my dream landscape, they are familiar somehow, and my body's reaction is identical to those first dream-moments of apprehension, with claustrophobic pressure closing in. My throat begins to feels tight, as if I can't get enough air, although the oxygen is fresh and plentiful, the windows are open.

More than startled, I shut off the news clips and walk away, then find myself back at the screen again. I watch the whole clip, then google 'Eastern State Prison images.'  I am hoping the decisive differences between this building on television and the dream-ship in my nightmare will solidify as I look further on still images. I am also hoping the trembles running through my not-so-skinny adult limbs will fade with those decisive visual differences.

The subsequent still images I click on serve only to reinforce those trembles.

Cellblock 5's wooden slatted door in one photograph mirrors the 'orange crate' walls and door of the elevator car in my dream. One image of a close corridor echoes the sight of the narrow hall stretching before me when I'd reached my cabin's floor, while the marching symmetry of gloomy door openings is identical.

At that moment, the rising claustrophobia at the very thought of peering into a cell, even in photograph, is enough. The walls were pressing in. My heart raced. I needed air.

Within seconds I was outside, the wet, cold grass on my bare feet not yet warmed by morning sun. I kept walking to the one corner of our fenced backyard where the eastern rays of morning light glowed bright and warm, and I stepped into them and stood. Silently I stood, my mind deliberately empty, until its shadows filled with the light of day. I stood longer still, until my limbs felt strong and solid again, then longer, until the smell of dark and damp faded away.


RATE: 39 

OCTOBER 31, 2011 12:48AM

Geez, that is really really scary. I remember an old dream I had, just once, of walking by a house in my neighborhood, and there were ghosts upstairs in the windows. I woke up, only to see a face peering around the doorframe at me, before moving away. I would dream of our backyard before it was our house, 100 years before, when it was different, and there were two gravemarkers where the garden was. I don't know which was real and which was my dream, it always brought chills to me. 35 years later, I can see it clear as day.
I used to be haunted by a ghost in my dreams. Every time I knew she was there I would go into sleep paralysis and wake up. One night I knew she was there and I was feeling brave so I walked into her and told her to tell me everything. Never found anything out, but stopped having dreams of her, which was a good enough trade.
Oryoki, you dreamed of your backyard from 100 years before, with gravestones in the garden? That would be a little chilling!
I had so many crazy dreams as a kid, some have come true, but this is the first time a child nightmare showed up on television...

Julie, I firmly believe we just don't understand the realms and the levels of our universe, or how or why the veil thins...

Thanks for coming by : )

As this is a family computer, by the time I post there's a line for turns on the computer piling up, especially tonight, so I'm off. I'll return when I can...
Happy Halloween!!!!!!
Oh, one more strange thing. I was born in Philadelphia...
Very mesmerizing. Are you still having these dreams?
This is truly frightening. rated!
The dreamstate is a really vulnerable time...I think we get lots of messages there. Well framed writing and mystifying events.
I've gotten used to coming across locations that I've had recurring dreams in. The dreams usually have nothing to do with the location, but once I see it they quit coming. I kind of like the past life thing because that means I can have future lives. I don't believe one lifetime is enough, though I wish they were longer.
It's awful and intriguing when something so bizarre as this happens. Terrific writing, JT. I have no answers, of course, I just hope these spooky thoughts go away for you. I know they inspired all this fine writing ,but I want the dark and damp to stay far away from you.
That is genuinely weird and your dream description was just so viscerally compelling! I don't dream and after reading this, I am glad.
Whoa. Scary tale. Maybe there is some Past Life Regression therapy in your future?? And yes, I'd avoid cruise ships too ...
Definitely a fitting Hallowe'en story, JT, but awfully strange and seemingly inexplicable.
Wow! A past life perhaps????? Thanks for sharing this~
Reading this gave me goosebumps. There's still much we don't don't know how the subconscious mind works or where it travels and what it encounters when we are at rest. Some of us can remember bits and pieces; some none at all. Fortunately I'm in the latter group who find experiences like yours frightfully fascinating.
Never had a ghost in my dream but have levitated over my body once. I could see myself sleeping. When something is familiar ... it has happened at some point in a past life.
Scary stuff.
Oh. Ever do a past life regression? Somehow I think it would be interesting to do one, especially with this kind of experience. Great writing. Chilling. Very Chilling.
Julie again : ) ...I think you were brave to speak up to your ghost...I would have said something like 'you don't exist' and pissed her off...

Dianne: I haven't had any dreams at all in a long time, or only vague scraps that I remember, but many of my vivid childhood dreams have had some component happen in real-life years on. Fortunately, nothing like this one before...

Jon, it is! Not sure I will go visiting Eastern State in person any time soon...

Linnn, I agree, and I'm happy to keep it all as part of the bigger Mysteries...
Since I was born in Philadelphia, I did wonder if my parents toured this prison or something with their baby/me. That just does not sound like a tour they'd be interested in though, less likely would they have taken me...

phyllis: I'm open to the mysteries I don't understand, and live with a daily faith that only this life matters right now, even if there are...I love to debate about it all : )
Thanks for coming by.

Seer: "And who are we here to say what is or is not?" I absolutely feel that way myself, I just live this life as if this the one. Maybe it's not, but that is a mystery to understand after death, I believe, this one is enough to try and keep in order!
And yes, many many of my childhood dreams have either come true later in life, or have had prophetic guidance for my adulthood, or have had situations and people that only came into my life later on...

I don't dream often as an adult, but when I do, I tend to be friends with Brad and Angie and we travel around and play with kids. Huh??? (they do remind me of Husband and I, just not in looks so much... : ))

Thanks so much, fernsy, I love your comments, and I'm glad to keep my mind on sewing for Halloween, and getting a business going as has been going on around here -- my research job I love is winding down : (
...I'm barely sleeping the past few weeks, but loving getting something new going!
Thanks for coming by !

Happy Halloween!!!
Yikes! This made me tremble....
I often wonder if the dreams we had as kids, had something to do with a past life.
We had a member a while back named km bearden who took remarkable photographs at Eastern. Her account is now closed and flickr page private, but the images came tumbling back along with your story. What a wild ride!
Terrific descriptions Just Thinking ~ I wonder if as children, before the concept of perspective is fully understood, whether we believe that things in the distance things really are smaller, that the ceiling & walls of long hallways really do close in ... ?
I wonder about visits to hospitals ... or yes, the prison as a baby with your parents, or with friends of theirs ... ?
No explanation for the elevator-crate though, or the grand lobby, or the ship ...
My own dreamworld is as busy now as it ever was ~ no nightmares though, not for twenty five years, thank goodness :-)
Very chilling story, dream reality. What is it about dreams? They are getting weirder as I grow older! Great story for Halloween.
I was left not just claustrophobic, but in convulsive paralytic agony. :) r
I am one who believes all dreams have meaning to the dreamer and we must unravel the relevance. I also believe we are born with the experiences of some long-gone previous entity buried deep in our sub-concious. So, I think your former self might have done some time, JT! Whatever the case, you wrote the hell out of this story, girl.

Elevator anxiety is indeed terrifying! Happy Halloween...
Hard writing that grabs the reader. Excellent writing. This shall stay with me for a while.
Oh my gosh, I have chills and am freaking out as I glance at our dark hallway! I'm so sorry you had to experience such a vivid nightmare, and then for something like this to happen....

I do believe in past lives, and also that places can have a strong effect on us. I find that when I dream, most of what I dream about are places. Normally they say that dreams about different rooms, etc, relate to our mind's exploration of ourselves - but what does this prison have to do with the terrifying cruise ship in your dreams? Could you have seen images of this prison or a similar one as a child and forgotten? If all this is pointing to a previous existence, what does a prison have to do with a cruise ship? All of this is chilling, but so, so interesting.

The important thing, of course, is that you're in neither of those places now, and if you start worrying about them, try to remember that and bring yourself back to the present.

Thanks for sharing this truly intriguing situation....
Sounds like terror in high definition. Great writing, JT.
Wow! All these views over cool!
Thanks for coming by and checking out my post. : )
I am still rather in shock that one of my childhood nightmares that I dreamed over and over has real life parallels...

I will reply individually to comments a.s.a.p. : )
Man, that's pretty creepy JT. Any chance you might have seen photos of the penitentiary as a kid?
Since you're not having the dreams any more, you could approach this knowledge of the prison as a puzzle to be solved. You have the advantage now. In any case, well told, and rather interesting and complex story.
and my mom attended Antioch College w Rod Serling :) (she really did) rated!
Miguela: Thanks for your comment : ) I rarely dream anymore as an adult, that I remember anyway, and I am usually grateful as a lot of my dreams, especially childhood ones, have been intense. I'm still getting over this one!

Scarlett, nice to see you! I just don't think I need or want to go into this anymore! It was startling enough to have this strange parallel and I need to spend my time keeping this life together I think...but it has certainly made me think.
: )

Thank you for coming by, Boanerges. Inexplicable is the perfect word. The trembles are slowly leaving....and I'd like to keep it that way! : )

Susie: ...but I was a princess! Not a prisoner : )
Who knows why, how, or what, on this one...I'm still just absorbing what I actually saw on the news last week. I purposely left out the photo links and Today show video link, but the images are easy to find. Too creepy for me to look at again!
Husband, who has heard this dream re-telling for years (every time a cruise ship is mentioned, and not even one for us to go on...) is looking at me strangely this week. I think he's a bit disconcerted, as am I. : )

Fusun, thanks for your great comment. I'd be fascinated by this more if it were your dream re-telling. : )
I was just too haunted as a child by this dream so I notice I am staying busy with solid, tangible *this* life ever since I saw that news clip!
Hi Linda! Nice to see you : ) It continues to linger in my mind...I had another also very vivid childhood dream where I went down in a large cave and found a room full of jewels.... 

HI Sheila, thanks for coming by! I've not gotten into past-life regression. If this is what I'll find, I've seen enough : ) I hated that dream...I think I'll skip the prison tour next time I'm in Philly visiting family too : )

Fay! Sorry to make you tremble -- and you were missed around here : )
I am still enjoying the sunshine more particularly this week...thanks for coming by!
Nice to see you, Kenny...Edgar Cayce certainly made the best case for it, to me....but geez, I've got enough to worry about in this life : )

Thanks, Stacy, I purposely left out the visuals, but they are easily googled as I found out. There are some haunting and interesting shots of that prison, the exterior that looks like a castle, Al Capone had a cell...
I just don't know about the rest. Kind of disconcerting as that dream has stuck so vividly all these years before this current sighting! and not in a good way...
Nice to have you come by, Stacy : )

Kim, thanks for the compliment -- this was so vivid the words just tumbled out, not always the case.... I really like and have thought awhile about your comment on perspective...that is intriguing and makes a lot of sense. The claustrophobia thing has had a trail into my real life from this danged dream, but I tend to ignore my phobias as much as possible and go do something risky : ) Or I used to. 
As for my parents ever going to this prison, it seems slim but possible, I suppose. I would definitely not have been taken along. Not quite Nursery level, but very separate adult and kids activities/lives back then in our family.
The whole thing is fascinating if I objectify, but I'm not so great at that and end up with a headache. Why a cruise ship? Why an orange crate? Why now to come leaping back into my consciousness? Who knows, but I'm milking it for all the hugs I can muster around here
: ) 
And the freakin' views!? Our middle son noticed the count last night and congratulated me then kept me grounded with, "But it IS just views you know, maybe nobody's actually reading all those words."
Thank you Son.
I will say, if there is such a thing as a past life and this is an echo leaking across the time space continuum, then I'm SURE I was falsely convicted.
Thanks for coming by, Kim.

Line's piling up for the computer again...night all.
So you thought you were on a cruise ship and you were actually in a prison? Geez, no wonder you weren't satisfied witht eh accomodations. : )

This was kinda interesting. Thanks for posting this.
Well done. Fact or fiction doesn't matter. You had us all going along with your dream.
Vivian: Thanks for coming by, nice to have you come read : )
I'm not sure what you are wondering is fact or fiction, but I don't write fiction here on Open Salon, and when and if I do, I will state it in the tags or the title.
Cathy: I agree, what is it with dreams? Some are so embracing and divine, some so strange, some so ethereal...
This one I thought was long gone in childhood, and the dream itself I've not had since then, so thank goodness for small blessings : )
Nice to see you!

Ron: Wow. What a cool, descriptive comment! Although I do hope you are not, in fact, in paralytic convulsive agony...
Claustrophobia is bad enough.
Appreciate you coming by : )

Lezlie: " wrote the hell out of this story, girl." 
I am floating with that outrageously fabulous compliment, that is just the best to hear from you, and why I first wrote here on OS, to see if I could write at all, and to learn and get better. As I mix tenses, don't know the proper way with grammar rules and I tend to toss commas around, I know I have a lot more to learn, but thank you !! 
This was an easier one than some I've written, the words just flew out as the images from that dream were so near -- although I haven't had the dream itself in a long time, I have re-told that dream many a time since, and to physically see parallel images in real life kept those trembles coming and the piece wrote itself.
As I've mentioned in other comments, if there is such a thing as past lives, I already prefer this current one. : )
Nice to see you, Lezlie ~
It is possible to be reamed by a dream. Whoaaaaaaaaa.........
I see you didnt reply to alysa specifically.
I agree with her comments.
past lives are like ripples in a pond. emotional resonances through time and space.
your dream reminds me of the Titanic. another explanation is that you had two past lives that had strong overlap in some theme of being trapped ... at death ...
Thanks for coming by, ChillerPop, hope your Halloween was fun! 
I don't get claustrophobic in elevators, strangely, just small rooms...but not like a big phobia. I like the windows open, mostly 
: )

Thanks, scylla, I so appreciate your writing compliment! All these days later and I'm still thinking about the whole thing...I am purposefully chalking it up to another mystery in life. : )
Thanks for coming by!

Hi Alysa, hope I didn't give you nightmares : ) 

Sorry it took so long to get back to you, and the rest of life I struggle to complete things, on OS I struggle to complete, as well. 

My husband is more into meanings of dreams than I, Alysa, I am more uncomfortable with mine, because my childhood dreams were just so...intense, or disconcerting, or heavy with responsibility for my future self I didn't know how to deal with then. I had a ritual each night of lining up each and every of my dozens and dozens of stuffed animals in an oval all the way around me before I could fall asleep each night.
When I stopped dreaming around age 20, I was so grateful that I kept up a bad habit for far too long to avoid any coming back. 
Many childhood dreams I've re-told to family and friends, which was the strangest part this past week, having my family say, "THAT dream was on the news??"
Thanks for coming by!

Thanks, Sarah, for the writing part. The remembered terror of this dream is still a little haunting...
Nice to see you : )

Scanner, when I go back and re-read, I can't believe I wrote it so fast...a strange experience for sure. Glad you liked it!

Abrawang: I don't think so, we moved away from Bucks County/Philly area when I was three, and Philadelphia didn't really exist in the suburbs of 1960s Dallas, TX. : ) There may be a clue in that we did live near Philly and I was born parents didn't really take their baby/me anywhere though, they liked the social life, committee life, civic life -- no social climbing at the Eastern State Prison as I cynically said to my husband this week, maybe selling my parents short a bit with that -- and I had three babysitters in my older siblings : )
Nice to have you come by!
The way you tell this is so full of emotion and frightening images.
Dreams can be the scariest when you sense they may be more real than you could have imagined.
rated with love
Uh oh, empirical proof, perhaps , of past life?
I don't know of any scientific reason that precludes it.
Then again , it could just be some kind of weird telepathic phenomenon...
dianaani: Thanks for your comment, I've been somewhat fascinated at perspectives offered here. I guess I am not interested in knowing how any of these images came to be in my childhood dream and in the real world at Eastern State prison, but I am so glad I wrote about it-- some of the emotion around issues fade when I start to write about them.
I love writing : )
Always nice to have you come by, Diana...

Jonathon: Thanks for coming by! Rod might have been interested in this one...
That show would still do well, surprised no one has tried to re-package it.

Patrick Hahn: Nice to see you here : ) Glad you found this kinda''s taken me awhile to adjust to having another chapter of that d***ed dream come around....
I like your humor! Yeah, why the cruise ship and prison thing? 
My "why?"s could go on all day.

mhold: Thanks for coming by...yeah. I agree. Whoaaaaa.
Once again I'll admit I am somewhat glad my dreams quit somewhat once I reached adulthood, although there are phases where I've had other completely wild night visions. 
Dreams have rarely been cozy for me -- although the one where I shape-shifted into a Raven and began to fly.....that was a great dream! Come back, that one! (but not in real life, okay? : ))

vzn: I tend to agree with you that emotional or intellectual 'pieces' seem to collide and overlap into our minds, our lives, I just tend not to believe it is necessarily my past life that brought it to me, or it's a past life that brings those overlaps to anyone. 
I also am happy to say with definitive words that I don't know! There are some compelling stories out there that make me wonder about the mysteries of life. 
I do know myself, and I don't need the distraction of another life I might have had and am done with to figure out, when I've got this one to live in -- I'll distract myself away from the here and now far too easily !
I appreciate your thoughts, glad to see you here : )
I have had dreams like this as a child and as an adult. The ones as an adult are strange because for the most part I understand I am an observer and I have stopped somewhere in my travels while my conscious sleeps. Frighteningly, I often see what I witness on the news the next day so it seems I dream in "live time." 

Time and space are not what we think and Einstein knew it long ago. Perhaps you were intercepting someone in the past, children are very open. It seems some of us are more open than others. The dreams I still have like this are terrifying and I remember them clearly years later, as if I was physically in those places.

I do believe in past lives but like you, am firmly committed to not remembering mine. I have this life to live and focusing on some dead me will not help me live this one well.
When my son was three, he woke in the night from a bad dream. When I asked him if he could tell me about it, he said, "I was dreaming of the time before I was born." I got goosebumps!

This is a beautifully written true exploration of mystery!!
Thank you, to all the rest of you who commented....and to all who have viewed my story each day over all these months! Just writing about this experience changed something internally for me: I am less claustrophobic now -- I am so grateful for that, it is *almost* worth having had this nightmare for so long as a child...
over 423,000 views!?!?
Thanks to all who have come by out there.....


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