I am a former Sailor.
My ship was decommissioned back in 2007. The Navy gave her crew an option to transfer to another ship, or to go ahead and get out of the military. Fed up with the treatment, I opted for the latter.
The USS Saipan, LHA-2, had been in service since Vietnam. It was 40 years old, and held together with rust and paint. Anytime we deployed, something broke, and we would have to limp to port, and we, the ships engineers, would fix it while the rest of the crew could take a leisurely leave wherever we pulled in to make repairs.
I worked with nearly a dozen other men and women in what was called the Main Space, where the ships engines and Main Reduction Gears were kept. It was a large, open space, with two floors. The floors were covered in industrial metal sheets, secured in place with rivets. The plates had three kinds of rivets, broke, bent, and missing. The plates rattled like crazy, with every step you made. The stairs (ladders, we called em) were secured in place with a pot metal pin at the top and the bottom. Everything in that place sounded like you were throwing pots down stairs when you walked.
At the head of the Main Space was our Center Console. It was an isolated room, with air condition, where the brass could sit and drink soda while the rest of us worked in 100+ degree temperatures, and tell us how we didn't work hard enough, or didn't make them look good enough for their bosses. While in port, when the brass wanted to go grab a beer with their buddies, when the fires of the boiler were out and the space was relatively cool... We sat in the console for Watch Duty.
From the console you could sit in the CHENG (Chief Engineer's) chair. A chair reserved for the well... Chief Engineer. It was for the big cheese to sit in, not some enlisted nobody! But hey, he's on shore! You could also see the entire upper level of the Main Space from that chair, making it ideal for watch standing. Nobody got in or out of the space without your knowledge. It was your job as watch stander to make sure that nobody messed with your space.
The strange thing was, I would talk to other watchstanders over the years, and they would mention things that didn't quite add up on watch. One fella told me that he heard someone running in the space. Like all-out booking it back and forth on the deck plates. He said at first it sounded like one guy, then several. He was convinced someone was messing with him, but this didn't make sense to neither him nor myself, as the space had a six foot bilge on the lower level... It would be a considerable drop if someone were to just hop the railing (also rickety, and held together with copper wire in many places) and you would hear them hit the bilge. All the entrances and exits to the place were dogged, mechanical hinges that operated with a lever, so it wasn't a quick exit. If anyone entered or left, the pressure in the whole place would have changed. We were on the very bottom of the ship. I'm not sure the mechanics of it, but anyone opening a door to that place made a huge vacuum, you could FEEL them open. Thing is, I had similar stories from other no-nonsense types that they felt a presence, or saw people walk by the front windows of the console (there was a super narrow catwalk by one window where the walkway was elevated, where you can see someones feet if they walked by, but there was really nowhere to go from that catwalk... It was for fixing insulation on steam pipes that ran over the console).
Also common, folks told of a Chief that would wake you if you fell asleep on watch in the CHENGS chair (which, surprisingly enough, was comfy, so falling asleep at 3am with the droning buzz of the console was easy to do!). Thing is, its the job of ALL khakis (Chiefs and Officers) to wake you if youre asleep on watch, but this one, no one had ever seen before. People would think we had a new chief, or after he left question just who he was, and why he was in our space.
Our Shaft Alley (yeah, I said it) was generally creepy as hell, you never quite felt alone down there, and people reported seeing spectral shadows moving about down there as well. The shaft alley was a six story ladder (a real ladder, not a stairs-ladder) down into a space that was maybe the size of a double wide trailer with the ships shaft (attached to the propeller) running through it. The path to the shaft alley was a rickety catwalk right smack in the middle of the ships hangar bay. It was shoddily constructed even when it was in its prime, and once you navigated this gauntlet of tetanus, you had the reward of your six story climb. However, whether due to design flaw or someone with a sick sense of humor, the light switch that controlled all of Shaft Alley... Was at the TOP of the six foot ladder. So just anybody could come and flick that switch and your happy butt was in the dark, and good luck climbing up that ladder. Thing is, no matter how ninja footed you were, you were making sound if you were trying to goof with someone. People reported having someone turn the lights off on them, and they start climbing the ladder, and demanding they cut the light back on. The light comes back on... They finish their climb, and there's no one around.
I never felt comfortable in certain parts of the ship. I told folks that there were places on the ship that I just WOULD NOT GO. Something just weirded me out in these locations. Without telling others what these places were, people would ask me...
"The lower V?" (Sort of like our ships basement, but this is where Morale Welfare and Recreation put our fun stuff... So the place was well-lit, open, and designed to be a warm and inviting environment...)
"Behind the fuel oil pump?" (Oddly, this was in the mainspace, and it was literally just on the other side of a machine only mildly larger than your oven... It, too, was well-lit...)
There were other places on the ship where I just didn't feel welcome, or I felt like I had an extra presence watching me play Playstation over my shoulder.
The O-2 deck took them all, though...
During your time as a Sailor, youre expected to mess crank. What that means is, that since the Galley workers cook your food and feed you, you're supposed to help lighten their load by helping them out for a few months. Staying overnight to chop onions, making sure things are clean, things like that. Granted they never came down and thanked us for making the ship move through the water by fixing the engine, but that's neither here nor there.
I lucked out. I got to spend my crank time taking out officer's trash, and keeping their hallways clean. It was long and thankless work due to the tyrant watching over the process.
The Navy is saturated in tradition. The O-2 level stood for Officers, level 2... It was the second floor for officers, and where they slept and did whatever else officers did. Enlisted personnel were not supposed to be up there for any reason. Often I had to explain why I was on THEIR level to passers by.
One night, as I was finishing my cleaning (I still had things to do before I was "done") I was struck with an overwhelming compulsion to run. To just haul it as fast as I could out of there. I saw nothing that caused me to want to run, I didn't hear anything. It was just an urge... The same urge I think that rabbits feel when they know a fox is near, but cannot see it. That was the most scared I had ever been in my life, and do you remember what I said earlier about all the doors having dogs? Could you imagine having to run from something that you are SURE was right on your tail but could not see, and having to undog and redog every door in your way? The strange thing was, I ceased to feel that urge, like a weight being removed, the SECOND I crossed the limit to the O-2 level and crossed into enlisted territory. I did not experience that again during the rest of my time cranking.