Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Ghost Story

Today and tomorrow I am going to publish a ghost story, since every Halloween I am asked if I know of any haunted places in the county.  I did NOT write this article; it was published in a national magazine of which the Society has a copy  in their collection.  I do not offer it for its truth or veracity, only for your entertainment.  

"Perhaps a 35-year-old school building in a small Midwest community that lacks any great historical significance seems an unlikely habitat for a ghost. But the high school in Lawrenceville Illinois has one – – as the whole town learned after Friday night, October 31, 1975.

That Halloween night the Lawrenceville Indians won a rough and tumble football game 14 – zero against their arch rivals, the Bridgeport Bulldogs. Bridgeport is a scant 5 miles from Lawrenceville and the team rivalry, possibly fostered by ambitious coaches, has existed for generations. This time the battle was fought on the Bridgeport gridiron.

The triumphant team returned by bus to their own school in Lawrenceville. Reluctant to end a happy evening – it was the last game of the season – the boys dawdled in the locker room, stowing their gear and rehashing the game. They were the only ones in the building and as usual when the team plays out of town the school building was only dimly lighted.

Rick McDonald, who decided to go to the water fountain before he left the building, was the first to see the ghost. Later he said, "I went upstairs to get a drink. I heard a noise and turned around to see a lady standing behind me. I took off running – but when I stopped and looked back I didn't see her anymore."

Rick returned to his teammates, Jay Shidler, Joe Turner and Leonard Wheland, and breathlessly reported what he had seen. The four boys returned to the water fountain and peered into the rooms nearby. Whenever they thought they saw something the boys bolted out of the building but then chagrin over their skittishness and an inner skepticism forced them to return to investigate further. They couldn't believe they were actually seeing a ghost; there had to be some other explanation.

Leonard Wheland described his experience: "We thought we saw something move. It looked as if it tried to hide. Then we saw something move from window to window. It was a tan-ish figure. I saw it at least five times that night. I got scared and ran out, and then had to go back in to see if I was going crazy. One time she was so close I could see her eyes. They were shiny and – weird. You couldn't really tell it was a woman. I guess we just felt it was."

Two other students said they saw a grayish – tan image in a teacher's room. Then it jumped to the library on the floor above and stayed there for a while.

J. C. Stone said, "I was outside. I saw the blinds going up and down. I saw the lady moving back and forth in the band room on the top floor."

Some of the parents were waiting in the parking lot to take their sons home. They too were rehashing the game and no one noticed anything unusual about the school until Rick McDonald rushed out shouting for them to come inside. When they learned what was going on most parents attributed the ghost sightings to the fact that the team members were overstimulated after the tough game. Eventually, however, that adults realized the boys' erratic speech and extreme agitation betrayed a far from normal excitement.

Six adults – Mr. and Mrs. Don Hesher, Mr. and Mrs. Dick Shidler and Mr. and Mrs. Benny Cochran – went into the school to see for themselves. Adult inhibitions kept them from relating their experiences in any great detail but they all admitted they had seen something.
Leonard's parents, Mr. and Mrs. James Wheland, arrived at the school and learned of the ghost from their son. Mrs. Wheland studied the building and said, "The window blinds moved up and down. From the outside you could see the lady moving back and forth by the Windows."

Coach Clarence Ready was summoned and found all the doors to the individual classrooms still locked. The custodian, Robert Meeks, said he had locked all the doors as usual at the end of the school day.

The doors were still locked the next morning Saturday when a few skeptical students returned to the building to search for evidence of trickery. Mrs. Bonnie Stone was working in the school that morning to ready tables for the Little League banquet to be held at night. She had entered the building apprehensively, having heard about the ghost from her son J. C. Later she said she nearly jumped out of her skin when Don Sutton, the janitor, appeared in the dining room doorway to warn her the students were in the building so that their noise would not disturb her.

Some of the students thought perhaps a clever comrade had produced the floating apparatus apparition with a film projector but ruled this out eventually. The figurehead appeared in too many places too rapidly – and with so many persons wandering through the halls any student moving photographic equipment would've been seen.

The students also realized anyone manipulating the window blinds had to use a long pole with a hook on its end. Many schoolrooms with high windows are equipped with such a pole. However at the times when the blinds were seen moving, no pole was in evidence.

The students searched many rooms – gymnasium, locker rooms, and storage rooms looking for faulty electrical connections which might cause the lights to blink off and on. The plumbing was inspected to see whether it might cause the sound of footsteps in the auditorium. All these lines of investigation were fruitless and finally the possibility of a'haunt' had to be admitted. 

For some years rumors had flitted around more rapidly than the ghost herself. This was not the first time she had been seen, the previous witnesses afraid of ridicule, told a few friends. Thus the rumors spread. There is little hard evidence for past sightings so possibly the ghost had been only imagined. No one can say. But this time everyone agreed that imagination played no part. Reputable citizens saw the ghostly figure in the school, wandering through the halls, searching the rooms. Who could she be? ........................continued tomorrow