What inspired my love for nuns, guns and gasoline

Many people assume that my inspiration behind The Convent stems from a hatred of Catholicism or some strange fetish for nuns, but in reality, it’s not so petty or obvious. Yes, I did a short but oh-so-unforgettable stint at Catholic school, and the director, Mike Mendez, attended one for his entire academic career. But those lovely experiences really just gave us ideas for certain scenes and a few character names—it’s true, Sister Anne Lille, you shouldn’t have given me so much Saturday detention.

The story behind The Convent is loosely based on my teenage propensity for the macabre. I was born and raised in Phoenix, which felt like a small town. Punk rock seemed like the perfect way to unleash my inner rebel, especially when I was going to Catholic school. While I was raised with no religion, thank God, it was known as the best school in the area. I wonder if it was also known for instilling a fear of God in its students? Anyway, I digress.

I was always obsessed with the supernatural and unknown, consulting with Ouija boards from time to time and dabbling in a little witchcraft. I loved the idea of places haunted by the spirits who died there, and I don’t mean Halloween haunted hayrides. I’m talking the real deal—murder sites, abandoned buildings and boarded-up houses.

One building that fascinated me was an abandoned convent-run school on the corner of 19th Avenue and Northern, a Good Shepherd Home for Wayward Girls. It supposedly closed around 1970, for reasons unknown. But rumors ran rampant—the building, always said to be haunted, was the subject of much local controversy and hearsay.

The summer that I discovered Boone’s Farm, I also became obsessed with finding out the truth behind this gated compound. The decrepit, condemned buildings eroded more and more every day—one was a library, another a dorm and then there was the main structure of the school, complete with a chapel in the basement. They were all equally eerie and spooky—it was rumored that they were haunted by girls who had died there and that Satanists and homeless people squatted there since it closed down.

Liquid courage coupled with teenage angst gave me the guts to climb through holes in the barbed wire fence to explore this sprawling entity of evil. I’ve always had the gift of persuasion so had no trouble recruiting accomplices for my creepy little missions. Each night, I’d convince more people to tag along and we’d get a little bit closer to the holy grail—the basement chapel where torture and Satanic rituals supposedly took place.

The place was beyond creepy. People had decapitated the Jesus and Mary statues and it was obvious that homeless people slept there among the squalor. You could see traces of past life in the dorm rooms, and what looked like bloody handprints on some of the walls. And there were so many strange noises—unexplainable crying and whimpering sounds coming from the long dark passageways. All of us heard them.

Each night, some obstacle would prevent our descent to the infamous chapel, where I just knew there was something gruesome yet extraordinary. No one was tall enough to climb over to the winding staircase that had detached itself from the higher floors and the entrances to the basement were buried deeply. So we searched for other ways. The police came several times, dishing out warnings but never making arrests. No matter how scared we got, we kept coming back—the holes in the gate would be boarded up even more than the night before until we finally had to scale the entire fence.

On my final journey to this eerie site, I just knew it was the night. I discovered a lean-to that most certainly led to the chapel. Another girl and I were the first to climb in, but despite being really careful, someone put their hand through the glass of an eroded window pane and it shattered all over us, causing lacerations, and ultimately, a visit to the ER.

That was the last time I ever broke into the building. It felt like some force unbeknownst to us was preventing us from getting down there, no matter how hard we tried. Plus, I got grounded— injuries and potentially felonious arrests are exactly what parents love most.

The building is now an unassuming strip mall, the proud home to an Albertsons, Einstein’s Bagels, State Farm Insurance, and of course, a Starbucks. But the rumors never stop, maybe because they didn’t tear down the original structures. There have been reports by many tenants claiming to hear unexplained crying and finding objects that were moved during the night. Employees of Albertson’s have reported entire shelves of groceries just toppling over without reason.

The eeriest story involves the discovery of the corpse of a homeless man several years ago, reportedly murdered in his sleep—just adding to the legend of this school for wayward girls, run by THE CONVENT. The murderers were never caught. Hmmm…