When Darkness Falls: Haunted Schoolhouses
A Brief History
The story of Calgary's haunted schoolhouse is one that has been debated in the paranormal circuit for decades. That being said, the exact dates and circumstances of what took place there are mired in mystery. Some accounts refer to a fire that destroyed the school in the 1920s, while others reference the 1950s. After delving into the history, I tend to believe that the latter is more likely.
The number of victims who supposedly perished is also uncertain. The figures range from a lone child to the entire student population. All of the evidence that I could garner leads me to the conclusion that three lives were probably lost.
The second tale, which I have heard many times over the years, has always held a fascination that isn't easily explained. Perhaps it is because my mother is not a believer in the paranormal, per se, that I put a lot of credence in her stories. Even as she voices her doubts, she freely speaks of encounters she has had with the spirits of those who are no longer living.
My mother's high school experiences with a spectral being were never related to me with an ounce of fear on her part. Rather, the stories were told in a matter-of-fact manner reserved for people like my mother who is not easily rattled.
With all of that out of the way; let's begin.
The Devil's Playground
The city of Calgary lies nestled in the Canadian province of Alberta. Boasting a population of over a million people, it is a destination in which culture and nature collide. It was also once home to an institution of learning that would be forever marred by a tragic event from which it would never recover. Afterwards, what had once been a safe haven for children would be known as "The Devil's Playground."
As legend has it, the schoolhouse was ravaged by a mysterious fire that tore through the building one summer in the mid-20th century. Some reports claim that only one student was able to escape the inferno while all others died in the flames. It is more commonly believed that three students who were attending summer classes perished as they huddled together in the basement. At any rate, lives were lost and the school was no longer operational.
No one seems to know for certain how the fire started. One possibility that is often mentioned is that a passing vagrant poured an accelerant around the establishment before lighting a match and tossing it behind him as he fled the premises. If that was the case, why someone with no ties to the school would have committed such an unprovoked act of malice is unknown.
Another theory is that a nun who acted as headmistress at the academy had turned her back on her faith, choosing instead to align herself with Satan. It is thought that she set fire to the school to prove her devotion to the ruler of the underworld; the young girls who lost their lives were simply sacrificial lambs in the deal she had orchestrated.
What the wayward woman of the cloth received in return for burning the victims alive in the school is yet another mystery in this bizarre case. One theory that has persisted is that she had taken a lover who dabbled in the black arts. It was with his guidance that she carried out the dastardly deed.
In the years following the tragedy, what remained of the schoolhouse became a place to be avoided at all costs. Passersby claimed that they could hear the screams of the girls who had been trapped in the basement as the flames engulfed the building. The acrid smell of smoke was also said to occasionally rise up from what was left of the foundation, forcing anyone in the vicinity to cover their noses and mouths as they fled the area.
Residents who lived in close proximity to the school reported seeing children's handprints materializing on the windshields of their cars as though a child was trying to get their attention. No children would be visible to the naked eye when these incidents occurred. The ghostly impressions would then disappear as quickly as they had appeared.
The sounds of children's laughter could also be heard erupting from the area that had, at one time, been the playground. Curiosity seekers would regularly visit the grounds in hopes of hearing disembodied voices or catching a glimpse of one of the spirits who reportedly haunted the place in which their lives had ended on that fateful summer day.
Over the years, several attempts had been made to remove the foundation, thus putting the rumors to rest once and for all. Each time that machinery was brought in to demolish what remained of the building, the workers' efforts would be thwarted.
Bulldozers and other equipment that had been in perfect working order would suddenly shut down for no apparent reason. Try as they might, workers could not get any of their machinery to function on site. It was only after being hauled away from the structure that the equipment would once again function normally. It was around this time that locals began to believe that something was preventing the last remnants of the school from being unearthed.
The owner of the land on which the school had once stood reported that the property was constantly being besieged by trespassers who were far more frightening than any ghosts or goblins. He was determined to get rid of what was left of the building so that he could develop the land whether the resident spirits cooperated or not.
After several efforts were made to raze the property, the task was finally completed in 2017. It was only then that The Devil's Playground, which had become a landmark and local attraction, was closed off to the world for good.
No activity has been reported on the grounds since the removal of the last bits of the school. Perhaps healing began as the final remains of the facility were demolished and buried allowing the ghosts of those who lost their lives there to move on and find peace at last.
- CBC News
My mother was born and raised in a small community located in the glorious mountains of West Virginia. She attended a one-room schoolhouse before graduating to a somewhat larger high school in the late 1940s. It was there that she encountered the one teacher who would make a lasting impression on, not only her, but many of her classmates as well. In life, he was a kindly mentor. However, it was in death that the depths of his commitment truly came to light.
The man, who preferred to be addressed by his students simply as "Professor," was actually named Mr. Eddie. My mother isn't sure whether Eddie was his first or last name since she always called him by his academic moniker. At any rate, he had been a mainstay at the school for years even though he was still a relatively young man of around forty.
My mother recalls him being tall and quite thin with slicked-back hair that was as black as coal. He was not overly talkative or demonstrative but managed to instill a respect for academics that would carry many of his pupils on to facilities of higher learning.
My mother recalls Mr. Eddie as having a relaxed style of teaching. He cared more that his students experienced life than that they knew every geometric configuration. He was the only teacher anyone had ever heard of who would allow his students to look up answers in the middle of exams. His methods were not the norm, but keeping his classroom as stress-free as possible seemed to work for both teacher and pupils alike.
It would have been sometime around 1949-50 when fate dealt a blow that would irreparably change both the school and its students. Mr. Eddie had taken one of his classes to a local watering hole for the day as part of a nature study program. It had been a welcome respite from the classroom for both the teacher and his students.
Sometime during the course of the day, as Mr. Eddie was escorting his students through the woods and pointing out the various flora and fauna, he was stung by what some of those present identified as a wasp. As the teenagers watched in horror, he suddenly clutched his throat and collapsed on the ground.
In a panic, a couple of the boys ran until they reached a farmhouse where they summoned assistance for their teacher. By the time help arrived, Mr. Eddie lay pale and motionless in a clearing. It was later determined that he had suffered an allergic reaction to the wasp venom.
My mother had not been present on the day that Mr. Eddie met his fate, but she heard the story many times from friends who had witnessed the tragic events. Many of them were left scarred by the fact that they had been unable to render aid as they watched their teacher die in front of their eyes.
Following the tragic loss of Mr. Eddie, not much was done to ease the grief of the staff or students. Things were a little different back then. No counseling was offered to the teens who had been present on the field trip that day. No one discussed the matter with the pupils who had lost one of their favorite teachers. Instead, classes continued as usual with little or no mention of Mr. Eddie. The logic at the time seemed to be that it was best to put the matter to rest and move on. Everyone involved would soon learn that things wouldn't be quite that simple.
Not long after classes resumed, the instructors and students alike began to notice some odd occurrences taking place at the school. In the middle of class, a window would open for no apparent reason even when all of the students were seated and the teacher stood at the head of the class. When the offending window was closed, another would open in its place. Sometimes, this bizarre game would go on all day.
This was significant because Mr. Eddie had always kept at least one window open, regardless of the weather, due to his strong belief that fresh air would ward off illness. Even though many of the students were alarmed by the fact that windows were opening by themselves, the teachers refused to acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary was happening. They would simply proceed with the day's lesson as if nothing was amiss.
Many of the students, including my mother, claimed that they heard Mr. Eddie's voice in the hallway on several occasions. In life, he had been in charge of monitoring the comings and goings of students during break times and, apparently, still was.
She recalls a time when she had stopped to use the restroom one morning before school started and, fearing that she would be marked as tardy, was running to class when she heard a stern voice caution her to slow down and walk. Even though she was the only one in the hallway at the time, she immediately recognized the voice as being that of Mr. Eddie. Other students, too, reported that they had heard the professor's voice in the small corridor.
Mr. Eddie had been known around the school as somewhat of a ladies man. In keeping with his role as a Casanova, he would douse himself with a strong-smelling aftershave that was popular at the time. Long after his death, the aroma was said to waft throughout the building. My mother says that at times the scent was overpowering to the point of making her choke. She likened it to the days when Mr. Eddie would be walking up and down the areas between the students' desks as he lectured.
On lunch breaks and after school, the students would get together and compare notes on all of the odd things that had occurred since Mr. Eddie's death. They soon learned that many of them had shared remarkably similar experiences.
One girl, who was struggling during a test that she desperately needed to pass, claimed that someone had whispered answers into her ear. Startled by the voice that seemed to come from nowhere, the girl had nervously copied down the words as they were being spoken. When she received her scores, she found that she had answered every question correctly. She had not a shred of doubt that her savior had been Mr. Eddie.
Other students also asserted that their fallen teacher had given them assurances when they were on the brink of giving up on their studies. Although no one reported ever actually seeing Mr. Eddie, his distinctive voice would encourage them and guide them through even the most difficult of projects.
There was only one memorable occasion when Mr. Eddie's presence seemed to be of a darker nature. This disturbing event occurred one day during lunch break. As my mother and several other students sat in the grass, a wasp suddenly landed on one of her friends. Before anyone could react, another wasp and then another began to light all around them.
Everyone in the group, as well as others who didn't even know what was happening, jumped up and ran screaming for the safety of the building. Strangely, no one was stung during the melee even though dozens of wasps had descended on the unsuspecting students.
Wasps have been known to swarm with devastating consequences for anyone who gets in their path. On this day, however, they seemed to have a common goal which was to frighten the students and force them to retreat into the schoolhouse.
Later on, it was rumored that a "be on the lookout" had been issued for a man who had escaped from a penitentiary in a neighboring county. Gossip swirled that Mr. Eddie had sent the wasps in order to protect the students from the dangerous escapee. Of course, this was all conjecture. My mother can't recall if anyone ever found out for certain whether or not such a man had even existed. It was strange that the wasps spared all of those involved from the wrath of their stingers.
Whatever the case, the wasps had been a very real and terrifying threat that the youths would not soon forget. My mother, for one, has been terrified of wasps ever since to the point of panicking if she so much as hears the slightest buzzing sound when she is outdoors. She still says that no one who wasn't there can imagine how many wasps surrounded them that day.
After my mother graduated from high school, she lost touch with the school and the goings-on within its walls. She stayed in the area for a few more years before moving to a larger city. In that time, she says that she would occasionally hear that Mr. Eddie's ghost was still up to its old tricks.
It is hard to say what force bound the teacher to the place he had been devoted to in life. Perhaps his death occurred so unexpectedly that he could not accept or understand what had happened. This could explain why, after his passing, he returned to the school and attempted to resume his duties.
Over time, he may have come to grips with the situation and accepted his fate, thus allowing him to move on to the afterlife. It is also possible that he remains on the property, forever trapped in a world of his own choosing; one in which he plays the role of professor for eternity.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.