He should never have opened that door. He probably thought it was a good idea at the moment; he was unaware of the appalling consequences his decision would have.
The authorities had been looking for him for months. He had disappeared without a trace. Everyone feared the worst: had he been abducted, or had something even grimmer happened to him? When they finally found him, the truth turned out to be something more gruesome than anything they could have imagined.
When this story took place, Wade Steffey was a 19-year-old freshman at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana. He was a gifted Engineering student who was at Purdue on a full academic scholarship; at that time, everyone believed he was going places.
But when it happened, he was immersed in the frenzy and excitement of his first year of university. Little did he know what would happen to him just a few months into it.
It all happened one Saturday night. Wade Steffey was at a frat party in one of the student dorms. It wasn’t his dorm, but some of his friends lived there. The music was loud, drinks were flowing, and everyone was having fun.
Nobody could know that such a cheerful night would soon be darkened by an event that would be equally tragic and bewildering.
After some hours, people started leaving and returning to their dorms. According to the party’s hosts, Wade was the last to leave the building. Other students had called a taxi, as some university dorms were farther than others.
However, Wade decided to walk back to his room, since the building was reasonably near. After making sure that he was in the right condition to make it home, his friends said goodbye and let him go on his way. This would turn out to be the greatest mistake of their lives.
As investigations revealed later, Wade left the dorms in a worse state than his peers would have guessed. CCTV footage shows him staggering around the campus, in an obviously intoxicated state.
In hindsight, watching this footage is even grimmer and more sinister when one knows about what was about to happen to him just a few minutes later.
As he was wandering through the campus, Wade realized something: he had forgotten his jacket at his friends’ dorms. In the CCTV images, he can be seen walking around in a T-shirt on a cold November night.
Also, Wade’s friends stated that his jacket was still in the dorms the morning after. He would have been better off just leaving it there.
Right then, Wade made a decision that would turn out to be fateful: he went back to his friends’ dorms to recover his jacket. However, he soon found an obstacle.
The dorm doors were already closed. It was late at night, and it was part of the university’s policy to close all dorms after midnight to anyone who didn’t live there. Wade didn’t have the keys to that dorm, so there was no easy way for him to return for his jacket. What could he do now?
An easy solution would have been to call his friends and tell them about it; but Wade didn’t have his phone with him at that moment. It was found days later in the vicinity of the campus.
The authorities suspect that it fell from his pocket while he was walking back home, but he probably thought he had left it in his friends’ dorms. Unable to call anyone for help, Wade started walking around the building, looking for an open door.
After a while, he spotted something. There was a door on one side of the building that didn’t seem to be intended for regular use. As a matter of fact, it was placed on a lower level than the doors leading to the main hall, like it was the door to a basement of sorts.
It was also surrounded by metal bars. Clearly, it wasn’t a door intended for residents of the hall to enter the building. But this didn’t stop Wade.
Wade jumped over the metal bars and landed in front of the door. He tried pushing it; it was open. Thinking that he had finally found a way to recover his jacket and his phone, he entered the room.
He didn’t know anything about the gruesome fate awaiting him. That same night, he vanished without a trace.
For the next two months, Wade was nowhere to be found. His friends saw his jacket in the dorms the morning after his disappearance. They tried to call him, but no one picked up the phone. The following week, his phone was found in one alley on campus.
Soon enough, the police stepped in. The first thing they did was check the footage on the CCTV cameras set up around the campus. After pondering the footage from that night, they came to an unnerving conclusion.
The footage didn’t answer the question of what had become of Wade. He could be seen wandering about through the campus’ main pathways; but at some point, he got out of the cameras’ field of view to never be seen again.
Everyone was fearing the worst. It took two months for someone to find out that Wade’s fate had been even grimmer than even the most dreadful speculations.
On Monday morning, a maintenance worker was walking by the same door Wade had opened and crossed two months before. He reported hearing a “pinging” sound coming from the other side.
He knew what that room was: it was the dormitory’s electrical vault. It contained some huge transformers destined to convert the high voltage they receive from the main electrical power grid into lower voltage, usable electricity for the dorms. But he noticed something new about the room: some strange smell invaded its atmosphere.
It didn’t take him long to find out where that smell came from: Wade Steffey’s body was lying between two transformers. Immediately, he called the authorities.
Just a few hours later, a team of detectives and a coroner had examined the body. They determined that Wade stepped in there and, in his stupor, thought he would get to the rooms by walking between the transformers. He made it for a few meters, but something terrible happened.
“Wade apparently gained access, and, in trying to find his way around the room, was accidentally electrocuted,” Deputy Coroner Martin Avolt said. “Because of the voltage involved, he would have lost his life instantly.”
But that door should have been closed. So even after Wade’s disappearance was solved, there was still one question in the air: who opened it and why? In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.