“I love it when babies come in,” said Anna Mai Taylor, foreman at Fort Irwin’s fast food restaurant, Manchu Wok.
“Even last night, there was a customer with a baby,” Taylor recounted. “They were sitting at the table right there, and the baby’s just looking at the wall and babbling – talking, talking, talking.
“When they get up, I say to the baby, ‘Were you talking to the spirits?’ and the baby starts laughing. And I was like, that is so funny. And the parents are looking at me, and I say, ‘It’s okay, they’re not going to hurt anybody.’”
Anyone entering Fort Irwin’s food court on Langford Lake Road for tacos at Taco Bell, bagels from Einstein’s Bagels, or stir fry from Manchu Wok might notice the large fireplace in a dining area, not the usual fixture for a food court, no matter how large.
The small framed black and white photo on a nearby wall gives a clue. It’s a photo taken in 1944, of the building in its earlier incarnation as Fort Irwin’s officers club.
“I was told it was an officers club, and it was a day care center. It was built by World War II prisoners of war,” Taylor said.
Elmerson Diaz remembered it was close to Halloween last year, about 11:30 p.m. In closing the facility for the night, he went into Einstein’s Bagels, to make sure all the lights were turned off.
“As soon as I turned my back, a little girl said, ‘Wait for me’,” Diaz said. “My body got chilled. I looked through the windows. Sometimes, you can see a family waiting outside. Nobody was there. As soon as I turned my body back, I felt like someone was following me. My body got heavy. I felt I wasn’t able to reach the door. It took me about three minutes. I wanted to run, but for some reason, my body wouldn’t allow me.”
Others have stories about clattering dishes, and chairs being moved when no one else is there. The staff is fine, however, with their unusual experiences.
“I’m comfortable working here, because I can sense if there’s something bad around me,” Taylor said. “I do believe in ghosts, and in spirits, bad and good. There are a lot of people of faith who work here. And nothing is going to harm us. We believe in God, and He protects us from anything bad happening to us.”
Food court manager Diane Pitts shared a story.
“It was 4:30 in the morning, Thursday, a couple of months ago,” Pitts said. “I was listening to my gospel hits, with my little earphones in, because I don’t want to hear all the noise. And I hear someone calling my name. This is not right. I don’t hear this. So I hear it again. Just a faint voice, calling me. It was like, ‘Diane, Diane.’
“So I took my earphones out. I’m sitting in my office. Okay, I don’t hear anything. I put them back in. I’m hearing it again. ‘Diane.’ So I say in a loud voice, ‘Okay, I’m trying to listen to my gospel music, so can we not do this, this morning. Then I didn’t hear anything else. It went away.”
Pitts has discussed such unusual experiences with other workers and customers.
“I was talking about spirits to a customer, who told me, ‘When I come into this building I have a feeling of goodness,’” Pitts said.
“I said, ‘I know,’ because we’re good in here,” Pitts said. “Everything in here is good. You do have people who don’t believe, and some who do. But there is always a Higher Power. We really don’t know, but we don’t mess with them. They mess with us, but it’s okay. It’s a family, what we have here.”