Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Haunted Schoolhouses: Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri

Gratiot School near the St. Louis Zoo

Schoolhouse Rock

Schoolhouses have a very ancient and diverse history. The colonial colleges in America date as far back as 1636 (Harvard University), although most learning institutions were founded no earlier than the late-1700's. In fact, a majority were established during the 1830's and 1840's leading up to the newer schools that have been up and running only a few years.

Here in St. Louis there has been a boom of magnet and charter schools, some only 2 to 3 years old. There are many, though, that have been abandoned and left as a skeletal reminder of days gone by. Gratiot School is an example of such a brick and mortar tomb for entities who have left behind their physical bodies many decades ago. They just don't want to leave.

But first, let's visit the state of Ohio where a campus is up in arms over the incredible amount of activity that is being experienced on its grounds. As a native of Ohio, I had to start here.

The Ohio University

Ohio University opened its doors "in 1808 with one building, three students, and one professor". In 1828 it graduated its first black man, the third in the nation, and, in 1873, the first woman graduated as well. Since this time the university has become known throughout the world as a very reputable learning institution.

Although scholastically OU is ranked #129, according to U.S. News and World Report, it is considered to be the most haunted college in the country. The entire campus has had a multitude of experiences with the most famous haunting being Room 428 of Wilson Hall.

The university is geographically located in the center of five cemeteries that form a pentagram. These cemeteries are Simms, Hanning, Zion, Higgins, and Cuckler. It would seem more so that coincidental superstition would drive the paranormal associations behind the events on the Ohio University campus. Of course, it is common knowledge that the center of a pentagram represents the greatest power. By the many eyewitness accounts, it certainly would seem true that these five cemeteries would be an influencing factor. Can it be that the spirits of the deceased gather on these hallowed grounds to either wander for eternity or perhaps to scare the crap out of new students through footsteps, voices, and poltergeist activity? Research has shown that the college was built on a mental hospital grounds and could also be the site of an Indian cemetery.

Wilson Hall is at the center of this pentagram and it is reported to be the most active. The original haunting is said to have begun with the mysterious death of a man in room 428. I haven't been able to find any details about his death, all that we know is that however he died, it has set off intense paranormal activity. Students hear voices and footsteps along with objects being moved about the room. This sounds as though a restless spirit continues to room the property perhaps in search of closure that will never come.

The room has been officially closed off and deemed uninhabitable. This happened after a girl who stayed in the room violently dies after practicing some occult rituals. It was reported that she was involved with sorcery and was attempting to contact the dead. She did this through astral projection, which simply means her spirit left her body to explore the unseen world.

This an extremely dangerous practice and is discussed in depth in H. P. Lovecraft's Necronomicon. Although his work is purported to be fiction, there is at least one version of this book that has its roots in Sumerian and Babylonian demonology. I read it many years ago as a naive teenager and I remember some parts of it.

The book runs you through a series of spiritual gates whereby it is necessary for a candidate to involve themselves in astral projection. It provides a series of chants and rituals that prepare you to leave your body and move through the stages. An entity, called a Watcher, temporarily takes over your body while you walk through the motions. This watcher looks very frightening and is meant to scare away any demons who try to take over your physical body. The unfortunate part is that the Watcher is a coward and, if provoked strongly enough, can be chased from your body. You then will be trapped in the spirit world.

I'm not sure if this kind of sorcery was practiced by the girl in Room 428. However, from the accounts I have found, she did fling her body from the window to her death. It certainly could be a possibility.

Here's a video by the SyFy Channel that will give you a little more insight into the OU campus:

Milton School in Alton, Illinois

Flickr Creative Commons
The Milton School has a very dark story attached to its history. It was built in 1904 and was active for 80 years when it was closed down in the summer of 1984.

A terrible tragedy is reported to have happened in the 1930's. According to the legend, a young female student, who has become known as Mary, was finishing up "a seasonal bulletin for her classroom" late one fall afternoon. As she "stapled the last construction paper leaf on the board", the sun was fast setting in the sky and she knew she had to head home soon. After scooping up her books, she heads down the last stairway and comes around the corner into the gym. Suddenly, she hears a noise behind her. It would be the last sound she would hear with her innocent ears. According to the Alton Hauntings website:

     "Mary was discovered the next morning in the girl's shower room, in the basement of the school. Her small body was bloody and battered, her clothing torn and scattered about. Most horrific of all was that fact that the young girl had been brutally raped."

In Mary's last moments of life she was able to scratch her attacker because the police had found bloody skin under her nails. At first no one had a clue what sick animal would commit such an atrocity. But then it was realized that the janitor had come up missing and eventually two and two were put together. The police found this man living with his elderly mother and he indeed have scratches on him, although he said it was from his cat.

After faculty began discussing the janitor's weird and nearly pedophilic behavior, it became very clear that this was the man. A few days afterward he was found dead swinging by the neck in the basement of Milton School with a note at his feet that read "I Did It". Some say suicide, others say revenge.

The photos above and to the left are of this basement where Mary was murdered. Notice the presence of orbs that we captured during our investigation of Milton School.

The night was very active with loud bangs, whispered voices, a strong sense of someone watching us throughout the basement, and little bit of shadowplay. This janitor still roams all of the rooms, a soul forever in unrest.

Milton School, much like all of Alton, Illinois, is a very haunted landmark. Although I have not been able to find the footage yet (I seem to be quite challenged lately), I believe that when the TAPS Team visited this location, Amy Bruni fled the premises in the middle of the investigation. This is certainly not her personality. Something really scared the crap out of her.

Gratiot School in St. Louis, Missouri

This schoolhouse, which has now been abandoned for several years, was first built in 1882 and had two wings built onto it in 1899 and 1919. Research information on this property is very sparse, however, I was able to find out that Charles Gratiot was a very active member of the now Dogtown community. He was the first presiding judge of the town of St. Louis and owned vast amounts of property in the area, including this school. At one point in history, as well, it was used as a school strictly for pregnant girls. Back in the early 1900's a pregnant young lady would be shunned by the public and classmates would bully and ridicule her as well. Gratiot School served as a sort of safe haven for these girls.

This school does not have a dark history like Wilson Hall or Milton School, but it has had quite a fascination for me throughout the years. I first made an attempt to enter the building, however, it is boarded up tight. I suppose if it weren't, then it would be full of homeless people. A good move on the city's part.

I also discovered in my research that there is a lot of asbestos in the building just like in Molly Stark Hospital. I do not own a respirator, so going inside is definitely out of the question.

 The Investigation

As I walked through the south entrance of the schoolyard and approached the building, I saw movement in the first floor window. At first I dismissed what I saw as nothing but then after thinking about it for a minute, I did see something dressed in tan garb move to the right of the window and disappear into the interior. I'm pretty sure someone saw me coming.

I walked all around the building shooting photos of the windows and any areas that I thought might capture either an orb, a mist, a shadow, or some sort of light anomaly. I hadn't found any evidence in my research that Gratiot School had any tragedies on its grounds, I was just hoping to catch something.

I did capture light anomalies in three different photos, two of them are here. It is very difficult to see the white balls of light in the windows with these pictures, since they are so tiny. They might possibly be debunked as a reflection off of something in the building since the sun was still beaming outside. I caught four of these lights altogether - not exactly sure what to make of them.
Middle window, top of large lower pane

A Ghostly Conclusion

All three of these schools have a very different story and dark pasts. Usually when we think of intense paranormal activity, our first thoughts lead us to insane asylums like the Mansfield Reformatory or mental hospitals like Molly Stark. Brutal bloody murders in country homes and Satan worshipers practicing sorcery in a city basement will also top that list.

Perhaps now you may think a little different about these preconceived notions of what constitutes a haunting. Whether it is a grade school or a college campus, you never know who lurks on the grounds or what sinister story lies behind the entities who torment the students and faculty of your local school!!! Have a spine-shivering All Hallow's Eve!

And....if you're's part II of the Ohio University video. Check out how real the demon face looks in the door....

Sources Cited

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween Update: Paranormal Schoolhouses

Milton School in Alton, Illinois

I had hoped to be able to publish an article this month about all of the paranormal activity that has gone on in my house for many years. We have had a lot of experiences that have left us wondering and a bit scared at times:

  • Multiple voices heard either individually throughout the house or in muffled groups primarily in our basement.
  • Shadow people of all sizes appear and disappear periodically.
  • The dining room ceiling fan turns off  and the lights flicker, many times turning off.
  • Mild and sometimes rather chaotic forms of oppression can hit the household and then leave just as quickly.
  • Children and an adult have seen an ogre-like creature in their room.
  • Consistent banging, knocking or the sound of objects dropping in the house, mostly in the basement
There is other activity that has gone on in our little haunted house, but I'm having trouble finding the photo and video evidence. So...I've decided to wait until later to write this article.

Instead....I will be publishing a special article on haunted school houses right in time for the celebration of Halloween.

I hope it will make you think twice about your kids' schools. Mu ha ha ha ha ha....!!