The Doors Opened on Level 13


Actual Photo of Elevator Death Trap

What Began As An Ordinary Day

There's been a lot of snow in Seattle lately, and any person in their right mind probably wouldn't leave their home and brave the slippery, slushy streets for anything other than essentials. I, however, am rarely in my right mind and I had a sudden and intense need to venture to the nearest Target to ascertain if they still had a few of those hilariously coveted prairie dresses in stock. 

My partner helped me circumvent this ridiculousness by agreeing to go with me so we could also pick up things like green onion and more fizzy beverages. It began like any other weekend trip: coats, keys, masks, and boots. 

Then we hopped on the elevator and pressed P3. It beeped pleasantly from floors 6 to 2 and then, without warning, jerked all the way down to the lobby and stopped with a crash. The impact threw us against the shuddering metal walls of the elevator car and any dust that had been lurking within the cracks of the panels burst out in a furious dance.

We took a few seconds to catch our breaths and look at each other. We were okay, probably, but the button panel inside the elevator was dead, the doors weren't opening and no one responded to the alarm. The call button worked however.

It rang and transferred several times before a voice came over the line and asked, in a very dispassionate tone, what they could for us. Um, hello? We're trapped in an elevator that just crashed and we're a little freaked out. This dispatcher took down our information and then disconnected after promising to "call back" with more information soon.

Here's the thing about being stuck in a small container that may or may not, without warning, fall down the remaining three sublevels: it freaks you out. Your sense of time kind of warps and what felt like an eternity was probably only a few minutes, but my partner hit the call button back and requested that someone please call emergency services or some greater authority.

Did you know? They can't do that - we were informed, matter-of-factly, that their policy prevents these dispatchers from calling the cops or fire crew, but we could do that ourselves if we wanted. Dandy, considering we had no cell service inside the elevator.

Not an Actual Photo of the Elevator Death Trap

But hey - a mechanic was on the way to work out the problem, we just needed to hang in there for an hour until he arrived. An hour. Yeah, you heard that right. The only guy who was willing to brave the cold and snow on Valentine's Day to come rescue us wouldn't arrive for an hour.

At this point, I was sure the worst had passed. The elevator was broken, we were stuck, and I still hadn't gotten to Target to acquire a go**am prairie dress. Full disclosure, I was also doing my level best to stave off a panic attack. (Being both agoraphobic and claustrophobic is a nightmare.)

My partner, genius that he is, had been taking notes this whole time. He'd noted what time we got in the elevator, what went wrong, how many times we used the call button and the minimal amount of information we'd received from...anyone. About forty-five minutes after this whole scary ordeal began, a voice crackled over the speakers. The mechanic had arrived, he was getting set up and he said this: "Don't worry, we'll get you out of there soon."

It Took A Turn For The Terrifying

So, here's what I expected to happen: the mechanic would fiddle around with the control panel for a bit and eventually, the doors would either slide open or he'd pry them apart and we'd make a hasty but safe retreat to the safety of the lobby.

Reader, that is not what happened.

My partner was in the middle of making updates to his notes, so he didn't see it as it happened but I did. The digital display that informed us we were on the first level - more or less - changed from a 1 to --. Now, I don't know what -- means, but it didn't stay that way long. The R button lit up without warning. 

Just a bit of context: our apartment building has a lovely accessible rooftop lounge, complete with fire pit and big screen television. It offers panoramic views of downtown Seattle and the best shot of the Space Needle a resident could ask for. It's also the 18th floor.

With nary a beep nor a warning from the mechanic, the elevator began to climb. It inched all the way up to the very top floor and halted. The doors didn't open and the panel went dead again. Once again, we were powerless and our supposed savior was eerily silent.

Deep down I was convinced we were about to die, so I had wedged myself into the corner of the elevator and grasped onto the rails for dear life. The only thing I could hear was the blood rushing between my ears and the sound of my heart thumping wildly in my chest. 

If the mechanic warned us that we was going to bring the elevator down, I never heard it. Because we dropped and it happened fast. Any attempts to stay calm flew the coop; there was screaming and there was crying. It was terror.

The plummet that lasted maybe a second or two took us roughly down five floors. It stopped somewhere between the 12th and 13th floor and the emergency alarm blared along with my shrieking. This time I did hear that guy's voice over the speaker, but I couldn't comprehend what he was saying. 

By some miracle, the elevator shimmied up to the 13th floor and the doors opened. I didn't waste any time, I shot up and all but flung my body out into the hallway, where I promptly collapsed and sobbed. My partner exited more gracefully.

Before the doors slid closed again, the mechanic's voice carried out to us. Were we okay?

Were We Okay? What Kind of Question....

I think it goes without saying that we were very shaken up. And it probably would have been a good idea to simply sit in the hallway and catch our breath, but I needed a change of scenery so we moved into the stairwell and made the descent to the lobby on foot. 

Down there, we met up with the mechanic, who apologized profusely for the bumpy ride and was grateful that we were okay - physically, at least. And aside from a little soreness, we were okay. I feel very lucky that we did not get seriously hurt, because the situation could have been a lot scarier and more dangerous. 

I have no idea what management is going to do about the rickety elevator. I don't know if it'll stay cordoned off forever or they'll choose to fix it. Either way, I'll be taking the stairs to and from my apartment for the foreseeable future.

But I've been thinking about this for a few hours now and I know it probably means nothing, but we were able to escape the elevator on the 13th floor. I know that a lot of people treat 13 as an unlucky number - so does Hollywood! - but I've always liked the number and there's nothing really nefarious about it. But so many buildings around the world omit labeling the 13th floor yes we escaped a grisly fate thanks to it. Anyways, just something odd I've been pondering.

To wrap this up, we did make our way to Target later that afternoon. Bonus: I didn't get just one Target prairie dress, I got two! And the flat terrain of the American grasslands are looking really friendly right now...

What is the most frightening thing that you have ever experienced? How did you handle it and does it still affect you today? Please share, if you feel comfortable doing so! 


  1. I am glad you managed to get the prairie dresses! I definitely want one but am in the wrong country!

    What a terrifying ordeal! I would have definitely been hysterical! I hope that it's fixed now! Someone could have a heart attack if that kind of thing happens!


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