At Mysterious Heartland, we know adolescence can be a particularly hard time in a person’s life, and that most of that time is spent in school. At some Midwestern schools, however, homework, grades, and bullies aren’t the only thing students have to worry about. Some locker-lined hallways are stalked by the unseen. Which school will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. Paola Middle School
Paola is a small town of 5,600 residents in eastern Kansas, near the Missouri border. In 1918, a modern, 16-classroom high school was built in the building now home to the Paola Fire Station. After decades of growing enrollment, however, the community decided to build a larger high school in 1970, adjacent to its new football field, track, and locker room. It was (at the time) the most modern school building in the state. In 1992, however, the Paola School District built another high school just east of there, and the old high school became home to Paola Middle School. During its 22 years as a high school, a legend was born. The legend concerns two competing band members, one of whom tripped and fell and broke his neck as he was trying to push a rival down a set of stairs. The boy, who was a terrible trumpet player, wanted desperately to occupy his rival’s seat in the front row at football games. Ever since, students have reportedly heard the sound of an off-key trumpet echoing down the halls, particularly in the month of September.
9. Urbana High School
Built in 1914 and designed in the Tudor style, Urbana High School has undergone repeated renovations in the past 96 years. One of those renovations inadvertently gave birth to a ghost story that has endured at the school for several generations. Between 1914 and 1986, a small area known as “the Tower” was home to two classrooms, one for art and one for music. The Tower is located in the central portion of the school, and was accessed by a narrow set of stairs. During the renovations of the 1980s, the tower was closed because it couldn’t be made accessible to handicapped students. Students at the high school have their own explanation for the closing, however. They believe the Tower was locked up after a love affair between a teacher and a student ended in tragedy. The teacher reportedly hung herself from the indoor fire escape. According to Troy Taylor, the door to the Tower is said to open without cause, and lights can be seen in the windows at night. Once, when staff members called police to investigate whether someone was trespassing in the Tower, they heard loud, unexplainable tapping.
8. Churchill High School
Located off Newburgh Road in Livonia, a western suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Churchill High School is home to a gruesome legend. Storytellers say the ghost of Mr. Wayne Fairfax, a stern but caring shop teacher, haunts the classroom where he worked diligently for many years. Ignoring his own safety precautions, he accidentally severed his hand and bled to death while crafting a birdhouse for his wife in the school after hours. Wanting it to be a surprise, he was only able to work on the project Tuesday and Thursday evenings, while his wife was not home and would not notice his absence. Consequently, janitors report strange activity in the school shop only on those particular days. Machines turn on and off by themselves, but the band saw many believe to have inflicted the fatal blow remains silent.
7. Newaygo High School
Newaygo is a small town in west central Michigan, near the Muskegon River. Home of the mighty Lions, Newaygo High School is located off East Street, next to a large pond. Students whisper that a very unconventional phantom haunts the woods behind this school. In 1985, a 16-year-old punk girl died after being bitten by an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (otherwise known as a “Michigan point rattler”). Not as poisonous as other rattlesnakes, the girl never the less succumbed to its venom after it bit her on the hand and she collapsed just out of reach of aid. She used to come to the woods during free periods to read, smoke, and listen to music. A social outcast, her absence went unnoticed by other students. To this day, the ghost of a girl with spiked hair wearing black is seen in and around the woods, distant and unreachable as ever. Visitors to the woods have also smelled the faint scent of a burning cigarette.
6. Old Milton School
Once home to a decorative glass company, from 1904 to 1984 this building served as Milton Elementary School. Locals whisper that during the 1930s, a dark event left a stain on the history of the school. According to legend, a janitor raped and murdered a girl in the gym locker room. Suspicion fell on the janitor after he failed to report to work the next day. Not long after, he returned to the school and took his own life. Since that time, female visitors have experienced very negative feelings in that area of the building, even if they have never heard the story. Up until the school closed in 1984, one educator in particular reported seeing and hearing the ghost of a young girl in her office. Others encountered a more hostile spirit—that of the murderous janitor. A psychic reportedly exorcised this negative presence. Milton School appeared in an episode of SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters on October 6, 2010. It is now a thriving small business incubator and no longer abandoned.
5. Moorhead High
Moorhead High is located on 4th Avenue and 22nd Street in Moorhead, Minnesota, which is just across the Red River from Fargo, North Dakota. It is the largest city in northwest Minnesota, home to more than 38,000 people. Every year, as Moorhead High gets ready for prom, the ghosts of Sidney Holtz and Norma Reddy make an appearance, or so the legend goes. The two high school seniors died in an accident while driving to prom, just a few blocks from their destination. They were listening to Elton John when Sidney’s car swerved in front of an 18-wheeler. The two teens were proclaimed prom king and queen posthumously and ever since, their ghosts have been spotted dancing in the school gymnasium, accompanied by the soothing tones of Elton John. Others say that the ghost of a lady who died of a heart attack is responsible for electrical malfunctions in the auditorium.
4. Stivers School for the Arts
Established in 1908, Stivers School for the Arts is located on East 5th Street and is the only public school in the Dayton City School District that has been designated as a grade 7-12 school. It is home to over 900 students, with a focus on fine arts. According to legend, one room is haunted by the ghost of Miss Keller, a former schoolteacher whose body was found in the basement pool clutching a broken pointer in one hand and a locket in the other. There were rumors that she had been romantically involved with one of her students, but he disappeared before police could ask any questions. Years after the incident, the school drained the pool and built over it, intending to use the empty space for storage. A trap door was built into the floor of one particular classroom. To this day, that room will become chilly, objects will disappear, and the television and closet light will randomly turn on. According to A.S. Mott, author of Haunted Schools (2003), Miss Keller’s ghost has been seen once, by Ms. Burns’ class. The phantom could not speak, as a result of water pouring from her mouth.
3. Lincoln East High School
Opened in 1967 and home to Martin the Spartan, Lincoln East High School is located off South 70th Street, adjacent to Seacrest Park, on the far west side of Lincoln, Nebraska. Its relatively recent construction has not stopped rumors of ghostly activity from spreading. According to Alan Boye, author of A Guide to the Ghosts of Lincoln, the girls’ locker room is haunted by the ghost of a teenage girl who slams locker doors, causes showers and lights to turn on and off, makes strange sounds, and stops the wall clock at 12:12. The strange activity occurred as recently as 2012, when a janitor reported the locker room lights inexplicably turned off. There does not seem to be a single explanation for the ghost. Some believe it is the ghost of a girl who died in a slip and fall accident at the school, while others believe it is a remnant from a time before the school was constructed.
2. North Side High School
Fort Wayne, Indiana
First opened in 1927, North Side High School is located off East State Boulevard overlooking the east bank of the Saint Joseph River on Fort Wayne’s north side. Its first principal was Milton H. Northrop. According to legend, the school was built on a Miami Indian burial ground. A tribal chief tried to stop the construction, but was unable to do so. Chief Mac, the school’s mascot, was supposedly adopted to placate his restless spirit, but it continues to return. While the auditorium was being built, a portion of it collapsed, killing a construction worker and injuring several others. The ghost of this unfortunate worker reportedly manifested during recent renovations to expand the school. The most popular story from North Side High concerns the ghost of a former student. Her apparition has been most frequently seen in the gymnasium and indoor track, usually in the morning.
1. JFK Prep High School (Former)
St. Nazianz, Wisconsin
Currently under development as St. Nazianz Christian Center, the John F. Kennedy Preparatory High School operated under various roles and names from 1896 to 1982. It was originally established on the site of Fr. Ambrose Oschwald’s Oschwald Foundation, a German Catholic commune. Most recently known as Salvatorian Seminary, the church and school is located off 4th Avenue south of St. Nazianz and Lake Oschwald. Over the years, wild rumors circulated about the school and its origins. It has been said that Oschwald established a mystic cult that practiced homosexuality, child abuse, and financial fraud. When Father Oschwald died in 1873, locals allegedly heard mysterious pounding on the doors and walls around town. According to another tale, a priest encountered the Devil in one of the dorm rooms and sealed it off to protect his students. Others believe that nuns teaching at the Salvatorian Seminary abused their pupils, and one was so guilt ridden that she hung herself. Her ghost haunts the school grounds to this day. Though there is nothing to substantiate these tales, rumors of suicide are reportedly true. One young woman did hang herself in her room while attending JFK Prep.