I had a guy come in with a so-so tattoo, not great, not terrible, just needed a little sprucing up. He wanted to add in some background so we made a plan, set a date and we were on our way. When he came back, things went along okay; he was a little high-strung and anxious about the process, which I understand. Some people barely say a word to me the whole time, some insist on grilling me about safety and questioning my every move and whatnot. We get a lot of Eastern Europeans in our place and they're definitely much more type-A than the average American. They're great customers, don't get me wrong. For every one of them we work on, they'll bring twenty of their friends to us later, which is greatly appreciated. They're just a lot more intense about things than the locals are. It takes a little getting used to, but I definitely respect the people who don't come in cringing and cowering and can barely make eye contact. Anyway, the tattoo came out really nice, he liked it, and aside from him being a bit wound up about getting started, there was nothing remarkable about the whole turn of events.
The next day, the phone rang right at open and it was him. I picked up and he sounded breathless and relieved to hear from me.
"Oh, thank you for taking my call, there is big problem," he panted. No artist likes to hear that. I don't want to fuck people up or make mistakes or get anyone sick, so when I get a complaint, my nerves go into high gear.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Well, when I was in your store I did not notice this one detail, but then I am home and I see it and I say, 'Oh, my God..."
"Okay, what?' Now I was starting to panic. I quickly scanned the image of the tattoo in my mind, trying to think what might be the flaw. I couldn't think of one thing that would have been a problem with his. I reoutlined an existing tattoo, recolored it, and added some background. I don't drink or do drugs so, aside from an occasional dip in my caffeine levels, I'm 100% cognizant of everything I do. I'm also not the type who would secretly put subliminal stuff in people's tattoos or anything like that. It's funny in theory, not so much in practice.
"Well," he said, "I'm looking in the mirror, and part of the blue shading...?"
"Yes?" I was about to stroke out right about then if he didn't spit it out.
"It looks like a face. A profile of a human face."
I let out a sigh that could have filled a parade balloon. Ah yes, the old 'I look at the tattoo and I see blahblahblah', happens quite a bit. Someone comes in complaining that they see something that isn't actually there. They usually say 'penis' which tells me that maybe Sigmund Freud was right. More often than not all they need to be told about their subliminal penis is 'you're crazy, the tattoo is fine' and they say thank you, and that's the end of it. Worst case scenario, you're doing a little tweaking to get rid of whatever it is in the tattoo they're hallucinating about, and then you can put the whole thing to bed.
He continued on. "I see this face and I am so scared. I did not sleep all night."
"So...it's like the tattoo is haunted," I replied casually.
"Yes! Oh, I am so upset. I come to show you later."
I got off the phone and almost died laughing. I recounted the story to my co-workers. One of them said she was jealous that no one ever accused her of putting a haunted tattoo on somebody.
The guy never did come back to show me. When he had initially come in to talk to me about the tattoo, his wife was by his side. She seemed to be fairly unimpressed with the whole matter and I gathered pretty quickly that she was the brains of the operation. I can only assume that she came home from work, he went off on a tirade about the ghost in his tattoo and she told him to shut the hell up and quit acting crazy. I also recalled that when I was tattooing him, he told me what the artist who did the original tattoo had said: "He told to me, 'you won't be back'." I can only assume that, for his first go-round, he was such a wacko about the whole thing the artist assumed he'd never be able to recover and do it again. I can see now what he might have been getting at.
So, the blue phantom is still out there, lurking in space, tormenting souls....beware, my friends....he may show up in YOUR next tattoo! Muaaaahahahahahaaaaa...... *flips cape over face, reclines in coffin*