As mentioned in my story "The Staring Man," I worked for several years in a haunted retirement home. This particular incident happened while I was working dinner in the advanced care unit.
There was one sweet little lady there who was completely out of her mind. She wandered around the locked unit muttering to herself about all sorts of odd things, utterly and happily in her own little world. Often she would repeat things said to her, and in general she was just a very pleasant and easy-going woman with advanced Alzheimer's disease.
One dinner, though, she came to me with a little box of a puzzle from the day room. She handed it to me, looked right at me, and told me to give the box to the little boy when I saw him next. I smiled, said of course I would, and she seemed satisfied and went on her way.
I set the box down and went to help the other nursing assistant feed another resident. The other girl asked me what the lady wanted, and I told her, "Oh, she just told me to give that box to the little boy."
The girl's eyes grew wide and she quickly looked away.
"What?" I asked.
She hesitated. "Every time she starts talking about the little boy around here, someone dies within two weeks. Usually just right out of the blue."
I laughed weakly, but she was dead serious. "Really? Every time?"
"Every time. It's all she'll talk about for a while. Last time, it was old Bill. He was perfectly healthy right up until then. He didn't start going downhill until a couple days after she started talking about the little boy. In two weeks, he was gone. Him and two others. You know, because they go in threes, usually. Once they're gone, we ask her about the little boy, and she'll have no idea what we're talking about."
I sat there staring at her. Then looked over at the old woman as she stood around talking to the wall about knitting.
The next day, I walked her back to her room. She asked if I'd seen the little boy yet, and when I told her no, for the first time since I'd started working there, she got visibly and vocally frustrated with me and demanded to know why I hadn't seen him yet. Now, the thing with this lady was she never held the same topic for more than a second. Her memory was just not there anymore. But without fail, whenever the time came to talk about the little boy, she would hound that topic as often as she could. I told her quickly that I would find him right after I helped her back to her room. I didn't work much up there after that. Within two weeks, we'd lost the first resident. A week or so later, we'd lost two more.
Other residents would see little children around that place. Sometimes, it was a little girl lying on the couch in their room or sitting on their bed, staring at them. Every time, the residents who saw the children were showing signs of going downhill into severe dementia. Usually, if they talked of a little boy, it meant the majority of deaths would be men. Every once in a while, a little girl would show up, and the majority of the deaths would be female. It wasn't a perfect science. Sometimes people would just up and die suddenly on their own without the rule of three or any sign of the little children. That's just the way of death, though, I suppose.
None of the workers I know saw the little children. But without fail, whenever the little old lady from upstairs started talking about the little boy, other dementia patients who couldn't hold a topic would start talking about it to. And within two weeks, we'd lose a resident. Or three.
I don't know why they always go in threes. But the little children were always there when they did.