Earlier this month, I wrote a post for Mysterious Heartland called “Top 10 Most Haunted Schools in the Midwest.” While I’m happy this list went viral and attracted over 40,000 views in its first week, many readers took issue with several of the tales on the list, particularly #8, Churchill High School in Livonia, Michigan, and #5, Moorhead High in Moorhead, Minnesota. The legend at Churchill High concerns a shop teacher who haunts his classroom, and the Moorhead High story concerns two high school seniors who died in an accident while driving to prom. I found both of these stories in the book Haunted Schools: Ghost Stories & Strange Tales by Allan S. Mott, which was published in 2003 by Ghost House Books.
Danielle, a 2015 graduate of Churchill High said, “Where did this info come from? I graduated from Churchill and have never heard this story, nor could I find any other info on it.” Sher wrote, “I think someone made up the story from Churchill (#8), there are no news stories about the event of a shop teacher dying there, plus none of my family ever heard of this and family members attended this school for decades.” She added, “The school opened in the 70s and my sister in-law went there at that time. No this is not before I was born, it didn’t happen.” Likewise, ladiabla13 commented, “I went to Churchill in the 1980’s and never once heard this story in all 4 years there.” Ken agreed, saying, “I graduated from Churchill in 96, my aunt graduated in the early 70’s and her parents still live behind Churchill to this day. None of us have ever heard about this. So, that it for what it is worth…”
While it is not unusual for a ghost story to be pseudo-historical, or based on events that are believed to be historical but never happened, it is unusual for no one to have ever heard of the legend. This seems to validate one reader’s assessment that, “Allan S. Mott’s book Haunted Schools (Ghost House Publishing, Edmonton, Alberta: 2003) is a work of fiction.” The story, that of a shop teacher who accidentally cuts off his own hand and bleeds to death, leading to his ghost haunting his former classroom, is a typical of the genre.
While possible, I find it hard to believe Allan S. Mott, a Canadian writer from Edmonton, Alberta, simply picked American high schools at random to use as settings for his ghost stories. If it is purely literary fiction, and not a retelling of a legend, why wouldn’t he just make up a school as well? The fact that it is included in a book with other schools and their legends suggests it is similar to the other tales. The lack of collaborating accounts, however, does throw the story’s validity into question.
This raises a different, more important question: Who cares if the story is true? Ghost stories, like all other stories, are meant to entertain. Ghost stories, when set at specific locations, are legends. Legends may be based on some distant historical event, but are often not. Sometimes stories are localized versions of legends found all over the United States. Does that make them any less entertaining or meaningful? At the very least, I would argue that a ghost story–whether you believe it or not–is nothing to get upset over. It is a harmless distraction from the mundane, ordinary, and routine.
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