Scary Spooky Stories: Don't make friends with the portraits

My first-year roommate and I were determined to check off as many things on The Ubyssey’s ‘103 Things to Do at UBC’ list as we possibly could. We decided to check two things off in one night (“18: Make friends with the portraits in that bougie section of IKB – you know the ones;” and “19: Avoid the Halloween Pub Crawl at all costs”) by studying for our chemistry midterm on Halloween.

The library was eerily quiet that night as I entered with my Starbucks drink in hand. There were no sounds of keyboards tapping, no pencils scraping against paper, no quiet sniffles coming from students. The place was abandoned. I didn’t think too much of it — at least it meant I’d be able to find a seat.

I walked by the Chapman Learning Commons desk on my way to the Ridington Room, passing by the librarian. They were sitting with their arms crossed, covering their stomach with their bag. Their skin was pale, almost sickly looking. I can still remember the way their voice croaked out, “Don’t stay too long.”

I turned around to ask them about their comment, but they were gone. I walked into the study room. There was only one light on, illuminating the corner near the spiral staircase. I made my way into the corner where my friend was sitting before shrugging off my rain jacket.

We had just started studying when I felt a whisper of cold air whizz past my head, like someone had whispered something in my ear. I looked around but we were alone. I brushed it off and continued studying.

A few minutes later, I felt a shiver go down my shine, as if someone had traced their fingers over each and every one of my vertebrae. My eyes darted around, but nothing seemed out of place. I returned to my notes, but something still felt off.

Suddenly my coffee tipped over, drops of cold brew spraying across the table like pumpkin-cream-flavoured bloodshed. I jumped out of my seat and my friend laughed. “I just bumped my leg on the table. Are you that scared of the storm?” they asked me. I looked out the window to see flashes of lightning outside. I slowly shook my head and we got back to studying.

Another lightning flash broke me out of my daze and I glanced at the clock. It was nearing midnight. The librarian’s words rang in my head and I began to pack up my things.

As my friend started to do the same, I noticed some movement on the wall behind them. Wait, on the wall? I stopped realizing that I did indeed see movement on the wall. The portraits were moving, like something out of Harry Potter. But the closer I looked, the more I realized these weren’t like the magic movies of my youth — the portraits were ghastly. They had lost all their colour, except for a greenish glow outlining their figures. The once adorned gowns were now torn and the friendly smiles had shifted to sinister smirks.

I hastily grabbed the rest of my stuff and backed away from the walls. I watched in horror as the portrait of Walter Gage leaned out the frame. In slow motion, his hand slowly reached around to cover my friend’s mouth, pulling them backwards. I shrieked and he looked up at me.

“They stayed too long. They’re one of us now,” he said, the corners of his mouth curling into a smirk. My friend’s eyes were wide as they were dragged closer and closer to the frame. I stood frozen as they disappeared into the portrait. There were crisp scratches on the wooden frame from where their fingers had gripped the side in desperation.

The other portraits around me started to move, their laughter closing in around me, surrounding me. The glowing bodies of past chancellors and presidents reached out to me. The bony fingers of Robert H. Lee brushed the material of my sweater, and my legs jumped into overdrive. My heart jumped into my throat as I ran out of the room. I don’t remember releasing my breath until I was outside the library walls.

I can still hear their laughter every time I walk past that room.