A Room From Hell

By Jules A. Staats

Copyright 2014, Jules A. Staats; Library of Congress, USA.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This work may be previewed only.


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In later years, the comfort and assistance of God was always with this Deputy Sheriff.

In 1964 the Baptist and many churches presented and insisted that God was at a distance.  However the Lord waited for many years for acknowledgement and to be finally called for comfort and assistance.  That is how it works, as He knows the end and the beginning and the heart of every person through an entire lifetime.  He protects His children even before they finally know and acknowledge Him.


(This incident was dormant and completely hidden in Jay’s memory for many years.  Shortly after reaching the age of 77, he remembered the day that he almost died in a possible fire or explosion.)




            Jay had completed his FTO training with his training officer.  It was June of 1964. He was working as a patrol Deputy Sheriff on a solo day shift spot and had his work cut out for him.  After writing six burglary reports with a number two lead pencil, his hand felt destroyed.  Still, it was just short of high noon and his shift was to be over at 3 PM.  He was glad to be caught up on his reports, for now.


            As if someone at the Sheriff’s station heard him, he received another call, a possible 459 or burglary call at a vacant house.  It was at a location that he was familiar with, and the response to the house was completed in only a few minutes.


            As he drove to a point that had the location in sight, making sure that a possible burglar would not spot the black and white patrol car, he could see that the entire place was boarded up.  It was a very old house, and due to the poor condition of the exterior, made the structure look ominous, almost threatening.  Something about that dilapidated building gave him an eerie feeling, and he felt a chill down his back, even though the day had warmed up considerably.


            He approached the front door which was now open.  Boards intended to prevent entry had been torn away.  There was always the possibility of a real threat, with a suspect inside.  For this reason, he decided to stand by while another solo assisting unit arrived.  The second patrol unit was manned by an experienced Deputy.  Jay spoke to him and discussed the situation.  Robert the assisting deputy advised that this was an abandoned house, well sort of.  It was owned by someone and the taxes were paid up to date.  The place was rumored to be demolished, but nothing appeared to be currently happening.


            Bob said there were no valuables in the house and the damage to the boards of the front door was probably due to curious juveniles.  He said that he would check the back yard for another open door, and not to worry about it.  Jay waited a while and keenly felt the 100% long sleeved shirt start to bite his arms.  Sweating in this type of a uniform shirt was very uncomfortable.


            He decided to end this now by quickly walking up the rotting front porch stairs and toward the now standing open door.  He had brought a flashlight and observed that he would be needing it due to the windows also being boarded up.


            The state-of-the-art flashlight used three carbon batteries and a not very bright filament type light bulb.  He announced that he was a Deputy Sheriff loudly, and then waited to hear if there was any response. He listened for a few moments for either a verbal response or the sound of movement.  There was no sound, so he felt confident that he was entering the house alone.


            He slowly walked through the dark, musty smelling rooms, ending up in the kitchen by the North side.  Only a few small cracks of light came through one window, and did little to augment the yellow flashlight beam.  He then noticed that the light was becoming dimmer as he had used the flashlight a few days ago on the night shift.


            He decided to end this exploration before the flashlight batteries failed completely.  He thought to himself as he walked down a short hallway with the front door in sight; wow, this the light at the end of the tunnel.

However at that moment, something strange happened, he felt a sense of great danger about him. 


            Jay stopped, and turned completely around, shining the failing flashlight around, but he could not see or hear any threat.  Then his gaze centered on a door knob.  There was a room that harbored something very evil, as he could actually feel it in his bones.  He thought of calling for Robert, but since hand held radios were not part of police equipment, he would have to shout.  Thinking about that, he decided not to call for help which would confirm to his backup Deputy that he was afraid of something.  That was not about to happen, so he turned the rusty knob but the door did not open,  He put his shoulder against the door and forced it open, making a scratching noise against the floor that revealed that it had not been opened lately.  Still, he had the strong feeling that there was a dead body in this room.  He had two visions; one of a mummified corpse or possibly a recently killed dead body that had been dumped by someone.  He braced himself for two distinct odors, one of a dead body or a dried out corpse.  His stepfather was an undertaker, and he had grown up seeing and smelling all kinds of dead bodies, and these visions haunted him as the door creaked open.


            The room was pitch black, no cracks of light at all.  A quick wave of the flashlight confirmed that there was no furniture in the room except a small table.  The old musty room smelled strange, there was no expected stale or rotting corpse odor, but---this made no sense—it smelled as if there were bananas stored here.  His eyes started to water from the strong stench.


            Jay approached the table, the flashlight was almost exhausted.  He turned it off for a few seconds, knowing that turning it back on would give him a few seconds of useful light.  Those seconds seemed to take a long time, and he did not change his position on the floor.  The pitch dark room seemed to engulf him and he half expected to feel something reach out to touch him.


            He switched on the flashlight and peered into the open box on the table.  He could now smell blood in his nose.  He had recognized the contents at once.  It was a 50 pound wood dynamite box half filled with brown full sticks of the very old explosive.  Worse yet, the dynamite was an outdated style, obviously to him that the sticks were using sawdust as a filler, and that box of death had probably been left in this room for many years. 


            Now and fully realizing his dangerous situation, he held his breath, as the failing flashlight beam revealed that the dynamite sticks had leaked the Nitroglycerine probably to the bottom of the box, and that he had seen a brief glimpse of crystals or whiskers on the explosives.  Personal and military experience indicated in a flash of recollection that if just one whisker were broken, the entire box could either explode high order--leveling the entire house--or create a huge low order flash flame that would incinerate him in an instant.  Either way, he was looking into the actual and present face of his immediate death.


            He continued to hold his breath as he walked backwards on his tip toes.  Once inside the hallway, he quickly headed for the open front door, leaving the room door ajar.


            Robert was standing by while talking to a neighbor.  Jay pulled him aside and then told the other Deputy of the danger inside the house, then approached the neighbor and asked if he could use the phone.  In the meantime he quietly informed the Deputy that no one should enter that house due to the great danger of a huge explosion and significant damage to the neighborhood along with loss of lives and injuries.  Using the Sheriff’s radio would alert the news, causing a frenzied media circus and a significant police containment problem.  So the request for the Bomb Squad was made via land line through the Sheriff’s Station personnel, with nobody eavesdropping.


            The Bomb Squad arrived within an hour, and were subsequently advised of the threat.  Removal of very old sawdust type mining dynamite is even today, very difficult and can only be done with specialized personnel.  It took nearly a week for experts in mining and explosive engineering to address, neutralize and finally remove the ancient dynamite.  This police work and removal was done without the media and the public ever knowing about the threat.  Jay was approved for three consecutive days off and moved to another reporting district so he was unaware of the details such as evacuation, if any and how the explosives were finally made safe to remove from the house.  He had seen enough of that old box and tried to forget the whole thing.  He remembered it only recently, how he almost died that day.


            It was just part of a Grand plan.  Jay had explosive training, and during training had been informed about the old sawdust filler explosive.  He had been sent to protect some adult or juveniles from a future certain death had they tampered with this material.  He was sent to the absolutely wrong place, a room from hell, at the exactly right time.


Author’s Note; Dynamite is an explosive material based on nitroglycerin, using diatomaceous earth  or another adsorbent substance such as powdered shells or clay. Dynamites using organic materials as fillers such as sawdust are considerably less stable and such use have been generally discontinued,


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