Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ghost in the Post Office

For several years, custodian Ed Nelson looked after the labyrinth of stairs and hallways that make up the grand old 1930s-era San Pedro Post Office. In fact, he still frequents the place. Employees see him regularly. The awkward and disquieting fact is that he’s been dead for more than 27 years.

A lift to the hereafter? Ding Santiago, left, and Brian Bundy
 peer out from an elevator alcove at the San Pedro Post Office
The facility’s General Clerk and Historian Brian Bundy says that all of the office’s employees know about Mr. Nelson — or at least they know the legend, which goes that the former custodian died in the building or had a heart attack there and died later. (The truth, as it turns out, is even more melancholy, but more on that later.)

What many agree on, is that Mr. Nelson still seems to be coming to work. Or perhaps he’s made the Post Office his afterlife address.

Bundy himself has had some unusual encounters. On one occasion he felt a sharp tug on the keys at his belt. When he turned, there was no one there. But his keys were strewn across the floor, and the key ring, which he has kept for demonstration purposes, was bent open and misshapen. Another time Bundy was standing and looking down at some paperwork when, just above the tops of the pages, he saw shoes and pant legs. But when he lifted his gaze, the apparition vanished.

Maintenance employee Kathy Reyes has had an even more unsettling experience. She was on the phone in the basement maintenance shop when she looked over and saw a man in a blue uniform standing in the doorway. She acknowledged him and he nodded slightly in response. Then suddenly he was gone. “I was so scared,” she says, “it’s like I was frozen. I couldn’t move.”

Custodian Lance McCall tells a similar tale. Looking up into a stairwell, McCall saw a man in a uniform doubled over. But he only got a fleeting glimpse, because when he asked the man if he was OK, he disappeared. While closing up the Post Office, McCall has also heard doors opening and closing and seen lights that he’s turned off pop back on. “I’m a little shaky about being here by myself,” McCall confesses.

Distribution Clerk Ding Santiago feels the same way. Santiago has heard equipment rolling and footsteps when there was no one else in the building. “It makes the hair on my arms stand up,” he says. For that reason, Santiago never liked working Sundays by himself. “Sometimes I would bring my wife, just to keep me company,” he admits.

This is not to suggest that the haunting is malevolent, or even mischievous. Business Mail Acceptance Clerk Rosie Rivera will confirm that fact. She knew Ed Nelson.
“We both started as carriers back around 1977,” recalls Rivera. “He was in his 60’s back then, and when his eyesight started to fail he switched to the custodial craft.” She describes him as about 6 foot 2, slim, with thick glasses and clean shaven.

“He was a very, very nice man,” she explains. “He had never been married and he wasn’t close to his family, so I think he came to work here for the companionship. And he never missed a day — at least not until he passed away in 1983.”

In fact, it was a postal employee, Sandy Johansen, who found Nelson when she went to his home to find out why he had stopped coming to work. The biggest surprise of all came later, when attorneys contacted three San Pedro Post Office employees to reveal that Ed Nelson had left each of them substantial amounts of money. One of those people was Rosie Rivera.

“I was dumfounded!” says Rivera. “I was also very grateful. I was a single mother and the money really helped us.” Rivera remembers that one of the other beneficiaries was also a single mother, a letter carrier named April. The third recipient was another letter carrier and Nelson’s best friend, Henry. Rivera doesn’t remember their last names or exactly how much either of them received, but shortly afterward, April quit and Henry retired.

It turns out that Ed Nelson probably didn’t need his job at the Post Office at all. But it was where he wanted to be — then, and perhaps even now. “This was his family,” Rivera concludes.

Another employee who remembers Mr. Nelson is Long Beach Postmaster Ken Snavely, who began his career as a Part-Time Flexible carrier in San Pedro. “I would come in on Sundays to take out Special Delivery mail and the only other person there was Mr. Nelson. I’ll never forget the image of him mopping those long hallways downstairs.”

And, like Rivera, it makes sense to Snavely that Mr. Nelson might still be haunting those halls. “That Post Office had become his life,” says Snavely, “and if you believe in that sort of thing, well... maybe he just couldn’t let go.”

San Pedro Postmaster Teddie Rebollido won’t comment on whether she believes the ghost story or not. “I have enough trouble convincing my custodians to work in that basement,” she laughs. “But,” she adds with pride, “it is one of the things that makes this place so special.”

Story and photo credit, Ted Snyder

Do you have your own Postal ghost story? Click here to tell me about it.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this story!! I love to hear ghost stories, especially when they involve post offices. I hope there are other stories of "haunted" post offices that are submitted!

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if I have a ghost but I have had a few items in my post office disappear with no explanation, just gone!

Anonymous said...

Great ghost story! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Cool story. I used to work in a P&DC and hated when I had to work alone on a Sunday or between Tour 3 & Tour 1 for a couple hours - I always felt there was someone in the "catwalk" watching me. I never encountered any ghosts in a post office but when I was in the Army I was stationed in Germany. Our barracks was an old 4-story building that had housed German soldiers in years past. The ghost of one of those soldiers still lived in the building, mostly in the attic and on the 4th floor where my room was. Our doors would open and close for no reason and footsteps could be heard coming from the attic quite frequently.

Anonymous said...

Very appropriate story for this time of year. I too sometimes had to work in the office by myself on different occasions. I always made sure the doors were locked and then I would turn the radio on for some noise (didn't want to hear any bumping around). It was a big enough office to where there was a cat walk. On one occasion I could smell cigar smoke. Really made me think.

Anonymous said...

Over the past 5 years, I have arrived in the office several times only to find a parcel awaiting customer pick up laying on the floor...adress side always up...about 15 feet from the shelf it was placed on the night before. When I lived in Italy, I would often work late nights. It was not uncommon to hear a woman (wearing high heels) walking across the floor above us. The only way up there was two stair cases, both visable from my desk. People laughed when I told them about it, until one night they worked with me. They went up one set of stairs and I took the one there! :)