A Haunted Halloween Pop-Up Store

Written by Amanda R. 


The year Hurricane Sandy hit was the first year I worked for Spirit Halloween. I had applied to the one in Hoboken, NJ and was surprised to find it was the one I had trained in when I worked for Blockbuster (yeah I know, old school shout out! Holla!). In fact, my (Spirit) store manager, Liz, was one of the assistants from the Hoboken Blockbuster and someone who I spoke to numerous times a week, though I had never met her face to face. Until then.

Spirit Halloweens pretty much start out the same way every year: empty building and you physically build the whole store from the bottom up. As a side note, every Spirit I've worked in always looked spooky at night, it doesn't matter if it's empty or filled with stationary animatronics.

All through set-up and in the early days of operations, I kept getting weird stories from my coworkers — motion sensors going off by themselves, costumes swinging as if someone just bumped into them, the motion detectors setting off the alarm at night. We had those keychains that you press a button on the top and it screams, the pumpkin one would go off all the time—small things, really, but nothing major... Until that day...

I wasn't there, but as I heard it, one of the cashiers had gone to the bathroom just after closing (I should point out here that the store was two floors, but as a Spirit we only used the top floor and the bottom was used for storage. There were tons of side rooms, there was a side room where they held meetings and you'd watch training videos during the Blockbuster years. There was also the "creepy back room" which even it's in Blockbuster days was empty. It was basically a stone-walled room with a big hole in the floor and tons of pipes). Anyway, back to the cashier with the full bladder. She heard a knock at the door, and called out that she would be done soon. There was a second knock, followed by a third. Understandably upset, when she was done, she pulled open the door as the knocking continued, to no one.

I should say that she wasn't a meek or small young woman, by any means. This was a born and bred Jersey girl and we don't take shit from anyone, so to think of her as wilting, shuddering flower, or someone who makes things up for attention, is doing her an injustice. This was a badass woman who was now terrified and on the verge of tears.

Fearing someone had hid in one of the many rooms downstairs, the other assistant jumped into momma mode and covered the cashier as she brandished a box cutter. They both slowly made their way back upstairs to where Liz and other cashiers on duty were. As the cashier relayed her story of what had happened, they all heard footsteps running up the stairs towards them and they all turned to look.

As Liz frantically told me that night over the phone, it was a "tha-thump, tha thump,thumpthumpthumpthumpthump" and they all turned in terror to see nothing. Whatever had run up the steps had stopped just before reaching them. Whatever had run up the steps was also in full view of everyone the entire time and it was very audible and also, very invisible. They left immediately.

I listened to Liz as she told me the story. I was opening the next day and she was so scared that I wondered if she was even going to show up to close. She asked if there was anything I could do to "get rid of it." I was involved in a ghost hunting web series at the time called "The Boo Squad." (Totally look them up, a few things are still up on the Youtube!) I told her I doubted there was anything I could do about it but I'd keep an eye and ear out for anything.

When I arrived the next day, I was a bit on edge, but come on, after that story, who wouldn't be? Everything was normal, and I had a lot to clean up since everyone ran out the night before. I opened the store, got everything ready, and headed downstairs to do paperwork. Everything was normal (personally, I was a little worried that maybe there was a crazy customer hanging out in the basement). Again, there was nothing that stood out, and everything was pretty much business as normal.

I turned to go back up the stairs where I saw footprints in the dust leading up the steps. One set of barefoot prints, side by side on the bottom step. Followed by: right foot, step, left foot, next step, right foot, next step. Clear barefoot footprints that started to elongate, the foot becoming longer, the toes sharpening, looking less and less human with each step, blurred as if it was running, until finally, a single long, clawed print, and then nothing. Just two steps to the top and the prints just stopped.

Everything was normal (personally, I was a little worried that maybe there was a crazy customer hanging out in the basement). Again, there was nothing that stood out, and everything was pretty much business as normal. I took pictures, because, obviously, and I showed it to them, because, obviously. Of course, the cashier never stepped in the basement again. The strange sounds and calls from the alarm being tripped off continued. Hell, I even included the real life event into a screenplay I wrote for a screenwriting competition. (The idea being that as they read a made up ghost story there was a true ghost story in it, hardy-har-har.) But damn it, as cool and calm and collected as I always am, that shit gave me pause and you better believe I looked over my shoulder once I saw those footprints.

A few days later, on the day before Sandy hit, the store was open and hopping, filled with customers getting their costumes and decorations. Everyone was smiling and happy, completely unaware that the motion sensors, lights and keychains were completely going off by themselves. I can still see Liz's horrified face and I just laughed, "They're Halloween shopping in an actual haunted store and they don't even realize it."

I bought the keychain pumpkin that the ghost seemed partial to, and left it as a peace offering in the room where I saw movement in most often (no not the "creepy room" but the one next to it, because, obviously, that would be the room). I'd often hear the keychain going off by itself while upstairs. Another time, the radio refused to work no matter how many times I'd restart it or unplug the speaker. Finally turning on as that Police song was playing, and I could hear Sting's smooth voice sing "every move you make, every single day, I'll be watching you." Yeah, ghost, I heard you loud and clear that time!

After Spirit closed, it was immediately turned into an Anthropologie. Years and years passed before I found myself working in Hoboken again. I decided to pop in the store and see if I could see my "friend." I walked in like I owned the damn place and headed straight downstairs. Seeing clothes instead of Halloween or movie stuff seriously disoriented me. I had to close my eyes to orient myself before finally walking up to the dressing rooms. I picked the second one, the closest I could find the room where I had once left a pumpkin keychain.

I was stopped by an (obviously) confused employee asking if I needed help. I told her I used to work here, first as a Blockbuster and then as a Spirit. I wanted to see what had changed. She gave me a placating smile—you know—that "Oh, that's nice" look, and turned away. I did, too, and then I don't know why I said it, but I turned back to her and said, "Have you met the ghost yet?"

She turned, wide-eyed, "I KNEW IT! No one believes me! I see it all the time! There, in the second dressing room."

"Yes, that's where I saw it too."

Then I turned away, said a mental goodbye, and walked out of the store.

So, if you're ever in Hoboken, stop by the Anthropologie. Head down the steps and towards the second dressing room door. Maybe you'll see my friend, most likely not, but leave him a pumpkin keychain anyway and you just might get a hello.