Keeping with the spirit of the season, I thought I’d write about the time my mom worked at a haunted 24 hour wedding chapel. Yes, you read that right.
In case you’re not already in the know, Reno is a 24 hour town. This means you can get your drink on 24/7. If you’re in need of tampons at three in the morning, we got you. Also, you can get hitched pretty much any hour of the day. There’s just nothing more romantic than a drunken shotgun wedding at one AM, followed by greasy meatloaf from The Gold n’ Silver.
Back in college, my mom worked nights at The Chapel of the Bells. This 24 hour wedding chapel is, surprisingly, still in business in Reno.
When I went to get some pictures and possibly a story or two, I introduced myself and explained that my mom worked there in the 70’s. The older lady who greeted me blandly said, “Oh, yeah. I think I remember her. Dark hair? Not petite?” My mom was thrilled to hear they remembered her so well.
The lady who so accurately recalled my mom was not super friendly, but she allowed me to come in and photograph as I saw fit. I was hoping whomever I met would instantly start regaling me with tales of terrifying ghost encounters. Not so. She went back to wherever she came from, and I went on taking pictures of dusty Princess Diana plates (super random…) and outdated, saggy furniture. I also hoped that maybe a creepy face, or a strange mist would show up in one of my pictures. Nope. I majorly struck out.
Here are the pictures I got:
So, I guess I’ll get to the good stuff already…
My mom got to work the overnight shift. As a broke, busy college student, it was the ideal work situation. She got to sit around and do her homework or even sleep when it was slow. And, I’m sure it was slow a lot. I don’t know how often people really felt the need to get married at a drive-thru chapel in a seedy part of town.
It wasn’t long until my mom realized that during the quiet, seemingly solitary night shift, she was not alone.
It was the basement.
She would be the only living soul in the place, but the sounds from the basement would prove otherwise.
She said it sounded like a party going on-glasses clinking, murmuring voices, footsteps.
Any time she had to go down in the basement, she made it quick, and she would run back up the steps, her feet barely hitting the wood, she ran so fast.
She’d always make double sure the door was latched and locked.
Yet, the next time she’d walk by the door to the basement, guess what? Yup, that bitch would be wide open.
I’d just like to say that had that been me, that would have done it. I’d be out of that place so quick, you’d never have known I’d worked there for all of eight hours. It really doesn’t take much for me to say, “Hell to the nope!”
After calling, complaining, and just plain annoying her boss, Frank* (a man who, apparently, had no time for silly stories about doors opening on their own) for weeks, he just ripped the door off its hinges.
His reasoning-doors can’t open on their own if they aren’t even there to open.
Why my mom didn’t just quit then and there, I’ve no clue. How she was able to work there, with an open, come-on-in-doorway leading from the depths of Hell just makes my blood turn ice cold.
Nope to infinity.
Eventually, my mom shared her concerns about the mysterious goings on with her immediate supervisor. This man, Larry, was a student at the university. He and his wife were hired, before my mom had started, to live and work at the chapel.
They lived during that time in the basement.
I believe they were transferred to a different chapel, and that’s why my mom was hired. Or, they were scared away by whatever was still lurking around in the dead of night.
My mom’s concerns were not brushed off as usual “woman hysteria”, because Larry and his wife had also experienced things that couldn’t be explained.
He told her that after they had locked up for the night (if someone wanted to get married after the daytime hours, they had to pick up a phone on the outside to be able to be let in), and were in bed, they heard loud footsteps, music, and raucous, party sounds from upstairs. When they went to go see if someone had gotten in somehow, they found every single door and window wide open.
There was no sign of anyone.
This actually happened to them more than once.
While I’m sure knowing this made my mom feel less crazy, it only made it blatantly clear that something otherworldly was going on at the chapel.
My mom worked at The Chapel of the Bells for more than a year. Creepy, make-your-hair-stand-on-end events weren’t the only interesting things to ever happen there.
My mom said that every day that she worked there was a new experience. It was such an interesting concept-the 24 hour wedding venue-that she wrote a paper about it in her sociology class at the university.
One of my mom’s fondest memories is of the day they hosted a traditional Jewish wedding. Despite the fact that her boss was running a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am-type affair, he took what he did seriously, and made it a point to give every couple that came to call an experience they would always fondly recall.
This was the first Jewish wedding my mom ever took part in. Her favorite part was when she had to hold, with another assistant, a sheet that served as the chuppa, or wedding canopy, over the couple during the ceremony. She said their arms started shaking about 20 minutes in. Frank would frantically gesture and make a face that would indicate they were about to drop the sheet on the marrying couple.
Before the ceremony was over, Frank had my mom run down into the basement for a glass to put in a cloth bag. She had no idea what it was for, so she picked a nice heavy glass, thinking it would be given as a gift. When she returned to the altar, she was surprised to find that the glass was for the groom to break. What I haven’t mentioned is that the couple was quite elderly, and the glass was thick. The poor old man could not break the glass to save his life. My mom said, “You should have seen the look Frank gave me. Had he not been a holy man, he’d have killed me, right then and there!”
It was moments like these that made her job at the chapel worth doing, but eventually, the obvious haunting going on drove her away.
My mom said, “The night the music came on, I was freaking done!”
The record player that was used to play the processional was an old school record player that would only start playing if someone lifted the arm and placed it on the record.
Out of nowhere, one night, the music started playing and my mom promptly locked herself in the flower room. She called Frank, Larry, her parents, her friends, and the cops.
Obviously, Frank was not amused, neither were the cops, but when my mom said to Larry, “I’m not making it up. It happened!”, he responded, “I know it did.”
Come to find out, the chapel used to be a farmhouse back when the area used to be farmland. A man, possibly the farmer who owned the house, hung himself in the basement.
Did I already mention that working at this place would have been a big nope?!
I’ll leave you with this super random picture I took on accident while I was photographing the chapel. What.the.fuck.is.my.leg.doing? Is this supernatural, am I secretly a contortionist, or is this a fake?
*Not his real name
‘Chapel of the Balls’ was what my mom’s guy friends called the place, and obviously it has stuck. I think it has a nice ring to it.