The Mystery of 118 West

Can a building reflect an aura of what happened within its walls?

Posted Jun 14, 2019

For more than six years, I have been writing here about communication in all forms, specifically within sex and relationships. I’m not quite sure how this story fits in, but it is about communication of a sort, from somewhere.

About 15 years ago, I went with my sweetie at the time on a road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area. We drove on freeways, through small towns, into the desert, over mountains, and finally into the town of Reno itself looking for a motel with a pool to spend the night. We were tired but happy and in no particular rush.

My sweetie at the time, let’s call him Charlie, took a right turn downtown, and suddenly, as if struck by lightning, I was terrified. I screamed, “Pull over. No, don’t. What was that building?”

A nondescript, five-story brick building in a vaguely run-down city block of Reno filled me with horror. Nervously, I asked Charlie to drive around the block again and the effect on me as we passed it was the same sheer terror. Charlie knew me well enough to know that I was and am not a fanciful person, so he did not tease me about my reaction, just quietly accepted it. The only other time in my life I ever had such a reaction to a building was the Roman Coliseum, a place of horror and slaughter to such an extent that as a tourist centuries later I found it intolerably nauseating to be around.

The next morning as we were leaving Reno for Pahrump, where the legal Nevada prostitution houses were, which I wanted to see, Charlie said he wanted to have another look at what he called “the Terror House” and take some photographs. I was literally shaking with fear as we approached the block. Would he be shot? Would a piece of the roof fall on his head? Would he be hit by a car as he got out of ours? Something awful, without a doubt, awaited him for tempting fate.

He took his pictures outside from both sides of the corner, even going into the lobby, while I sat shivering in the car not daring to look and not daring not to look at whatever terribleness would happen. Nothing did, and we went on with our travels. I have the photos he took beside me on my desk as I write.

Some days after I returned, I had a counseling client, a blind woman who professed to be psychic. I asked her to hold the envelope of Charlie’s photos, to tell me what, if anything, she sensed, but as I handed them to her, she withdrew her hand. “These are evil,” she whispered. “Have nothing to do with them.” I was astonished. “And by the way,” she added, “this man is going to break your heart.”

Well, if I wasn’t intrigued before, I certainly was now! I wrote the Police Department in Reno and asked if there had been any particularly awful crimes in that building. Perhaps, I thought, someone who was somehow connected to me was murdered there. I was passed on to a researcher who, for a reasonable fee, searched the records for the past five years. The usual assortment of passed-out drunks, break-ins, and domestic rows were listed. This was not a very high-class building. However, I could see nothing in the 31 pages of police calls that had anything to do with me.

Every so often, I would take the pages of photos out and look at them. Nothing. When Charlie was killed in an accident a few years ago, I looked at them again. No fear, no terror, only an enormous sadness.

Last week, my sweetheart and I went to Reno for the wedding of an old friend, and I was eager to see what effect the sight of the actual building would have after 15 years. The wedding was delightful. Seeing old friends was fun. And finally, on our way out of town, we programmed the GPS to 118 West Street.

The neighborhood had changed in the past 15 years, much smarter and more commercial. And the five-story brick building? Nothing. Just a five-story, brown apartment building.

After writing the first draft of this piece, I stopped to do a word count. It was 666, the Devil’s number. I am not superstitious, but I wrote a few more lines before posting it here. Make of it all what you will. I’d love to hear your explanations if any are possible.