Happy Halloween! In celebration of this momentous holiday, I’m revisiting my old haunted school to round up a new tale. Make sure you check out the first and second blog posts about this hospital-turned-school for all the background. Unlike those first two stories, though, this one happened to me–in the flesh, so to speak.
The year was 2002, before the age when every student had a cell phone. Instead, the cool kids all had beepers or pagers, which was the next best thing to a palm pilot. Also, it kind of made them look like drug dealers, which for some kids was a cool look to have, I guess.
I was teaching a science class in a special education classroom. Trying to get into the mood (and I think it was even Halloween season), I had green tissue paper covering all the lights to help students imagine they were living in a rainforest. It was either A) super cool because it turned everything green, or B) super creepy because it turned everything green. I assure you my intent was A, and B was just a bonus.
It was a normal day, our first hour block in the morning. I was teaching. Kids were learning. And then at 9:18 AM something happened.
We heard a beep.
I thought it might be my watch, so I glanced at it. This is how I know it was exactly 9:18 AM. In the flow of the lesson, I ignored it and continued teaching. Approximately 25 seconds later, another beep sounded. I glanced at my watch again and it was still 9:18. I ignored the beep a second time.
Around 30 seconds later, it happened again. Now the kids were starting to take notice, so I interrupted the lesson. “I don’t think that’s my watch,” I said. “Who else is wearing a watch? Just check it because I think someone’s alarm is going off.”
Kids in a middle school classroom can act nefarious in their efforts to derail a lesson or get some attention (and sometimes it’s kinda funny), but in this case the only other person who was wearing a watch was Eduardo, one of the nicest and sweetest students I’ve ever had. Certain Eduardo was not being malicious, I checked his watch for him, partly to save him from the evil looks he was getting and partly because if his watch was going off he wouldn’t know how to fix it.
While this was happening, we heard the beep again. Pretty sure it wasn’t coming from Eduardo, I asked everyone to be very quiet. We waited about thirty seconds.
It happened again. With watch in hand, we all became certain the sound wasn’t coming from Eduardo’s watch. It was hard to tell exactly where it was emanating from.
Losing all hope of continuing the lesson, I decided to employ the scientific method. This was science class after all, so why not investigate?
Ironically, hearing a strange noise made the kids quieter than normal. They knew the rumors about the school being haunted, and the entire room was bathed in an eerie green light, so they were looking a little scared—even Edwin, who was the king of bravado and manly posturing. Honestly at this point I still figured it was a student playing a joke, so as we would all be quiet and listen for the sound to try to pinpoint where it was coming from, I was examining faces, looking for that hidden smile or that secretive glint in someone’s eye that would help me pinpoint the culprit.
The strange thing was, as the sound kept happening about every 30 seconds, it was exceedingly hard to pinpoint where it was coming from. I’d move about the room trying to triangulate it, but it seemed to jump around. I couldn’t attribute it to any student.
And then one of my brilliant young scientists had an awesome postulation. The beep was coming from Julio’s pager. Julio happened to be suspended that day, but it is not uncommon for kids to stash an item in a classroom, especially if they aren’t supposed to have it and are afraid of getting caught with it. Prior to getting in trouble for an unrelated offense, he probably ditched his pager so it wouldn’t be confiscated.
That had to be it. So, we played the quiet game, listening. Was it coming from the bookshelf? Well, we removed the books to see if it had been stashed there.
Cupboards? No. Desk drawers? No. The vent? No. My classroom was looking rather ransacked at this point, and still no kid had fessed up or given any inclination that they were playing a joke. Instead, all eight of the students looked spooked.
To this day, I admit to the possibility that someone was playing a joke. However, if they were, I tip my hat to them. This had been going on for at least ten minutes and I have a well-practiced bullshit detector. I would never disparage the abilities of special needs students because many of the skills they develop are beyond impressive, but knowing these kids well, I wasn’t picking up on anything. Furthermore, it is notoriously difficult for someone of that age to keep a joke going for that long without taking credit for it. I wasn’t going to go all corporal punishment on their ass or anything so they would have very little motivation not to fess up eventually, and even if they didn’t fess up at the time I’d generally hear about it at some point from one of the other students who simply cannot keep a secret (which since they are in middle school is all of them).
The sound continued to jump around. We sort of narrowed it down to an area near an alcove in the room, but it was odd because there was nothing around there. It seemed to be coming from midair.
As time continued, we noticed the beeps were becoming more spaced out. It had gone from every 30 seconds to 35 seconds to 40 seconds. My brilliant scientists were giving up on the notion that this was something natural at all. Instead, more than one student arrived at a new theory.
The beeping was slowing down, just like one might hear on a heart monitor hooked up to a patient that was slowly dying.
At this point, I was doing all I could to keep the kids in the classroom. Some of them did not want to be there anymore. Thankfully I appealed to their curiosity just enough to keep them from fleeing. The beeps came at longer intervals, from 45 seconds to 50 to 55, all coming from an indistinct vicinity and seemingly from midair.
At 9:47 AM, we heard the final beep. There was no solid tone like you would hear if someone’s heart had stopped. Just one, last beep that came more than a minute after the previous one. Then nothing. The final thirteen minutes of class the kids were mostly silent. I still remember their wide, unbelieving eyes. To this day I can remember and name every student who was in that room.
We never figured it out. I’m at a loss to explain it. I was only in that classroom for one year, because since then I’ve always wondered what would have happened the following year on that same day at that same time. Would I have heard it again? Were we listening to someone slowly passing away, back from the time when the building used to be a hospital? Was it the anniversary of someone’s death?
I can’t say that I’m a believer. Not fully. But at the same time, I find myself wondering frequently what else it could be. The truth is, I have no idea.
So, did some clever, crafty student pull one over on me and the rest of the class? Or were these genuine ghostly sounds from the realm of the supernatural?