Frederique worked at the small elementary school most of his life. In fact, he has been the school’s custodian for 27 years, and thought he knew the building better than anybody – even better than the contractors that had built the place back in the 50’s or 60’s. The school still held secrets, which he discovered to his dismay in 2009.
“Frederique” is not his real name, he insisted I give him an alias and omit the name of his school, school district, and even the city and state in which he works. I tried to assure him that none of my vast audience (all 18 of you) will likely know him by any of these details, but he insisted that his reputation would be in jeopardy if anyone deduced his true identity. So, “Frederique’s” story will also be paraphrased as he refused to allow me to quote him or his manner of speech… He really should come work for us here at the ParanoidGamer, but that is a digression for another day.
Frederique’s school is a small elementary school, just one class for each grade level and the accompanying support classrooms such as art, music, a library, cafeteria, offices and lavatories. Though it served relatively few children, the school was formed in the shape of an ‘L’ and two stories tall, one ‘L’ upon the other. Frederique starts his shift each school day at 3 PM and works until midnight cleaning the rooms and floors, and straightening things where they need it. His is a simple job, but he takes great pride in doing his job well and ensuring the children and faculty have a clean safe environment in which to teach/learn, respectively.
Each day, though minutely different, was invariably the same with a single exception: teenagers. Frederique explained that he could never understand the fascination that middle-school and high-school age children have with returning to their elementary school on Friday or sometimes Thursday nights to cause trouble. The teenagers would go as far as checking all the doors for a way in, and even a few times over the past three decades Frederique has been the night custodian, a brave teen or a group of macho teens would break a window to climb in and cause trouble.
A quick call to the cops usually sorted this type of mischief up where Frederique’s angry yelling would not. It was rare, but Frederique had a dozen or more stories about the antics the teenage hooligans would get up to; everything from catching a young couple in the gymnasium to chasing off would-be computer thieves. In the last decade though, such instances grew less frequent as the school district installed surveillance cameras, then motion detectors, and finally a full-blown monitored security system. It was Frederique’s last task, before leaving the building empty for the night; he would set the alarm and lock the front doors.
It was a Friday night, like so many others that Frederique had worked in his 27 years at the tiny school and he was looking forward to the weekend with his grandkids visiting from the west coast for the summer. He was making his final walk-through, more to ensure he did not miss something that could be done better than to catch petty vandals. However, on this Friday night, just as he was passing the library (which sat at the elbow of the ‘L’ shaped school) he heard laughter and feet on the stairs behind him, toward the gymnasium.
His standard tactic was to yell, which he did, and approach cautiously with a hammer he kept in the hammer-loop of his pants for just such an occasion. He made it all the way to the stairs without hearing or seeing so much as a hushed gasp, but knew the kids must be trapped upstairs because every door was locked and the only place to go would be the door-less bathrooms near the front office. The front office is where he decided he must go and hopefully catch the kids to scare the daylights out of them and maybe some sense into them.
As he made a quick march toward the front of the school he yelled a couple more times, promising he wouldn’t hurt them or call the cops if they just let him escort them back out. There was no response from the kids, though he wasn’t surprised. The lights in the school were turned off, so there were only security lights in the hallways. They made it a pretty dim place, but still light enough to see from one end of the hallway to the other without a problem. As he reached the halfway mark toward the front of the school he saw a shadow flick across the girl’s bathroom entrance, which stood on the opposite side of the hall from the boy’s bathroom.
He slowly crept around the corner of the girl’s bathroom and peeked in to see the source of the moving shadows and previous laughter. He always entered the girl’s bathroom as if there might be a naked girl standing in the middle of the room (thanks to an unfortunate, but honest mistake in his younger years as custodian) and so it took him a moment to realize the bathroom was empty. All four of the stall doors were open, no one was standing on the toilets, and there was nowhere else to hide. He called out, asking if anyone was there, and though he was not surprised at the absence of an answer, he was beginning to grow uneasy.
As he came out of the bathroom into the hallway again, he heard laughter and the sound of running feet on tile floors coming from the direction he had just come. It was impossible for them to have gotten past him unless they had broken a door or window, which was just as improbable since they were now on the second floor. The office entrance had steps down to the bus drop at the ground level, but the rest of the exits were on the ground floor. Besides that, all the other exits were chained and padlocked, as Frederique never could break the habit once modern locking doors were installed in 1997. The stairwells – except for the one door-less stairwell by the gymnasium – also were all locked with a deadbolt, leaving the gymnasium stairs as the only option for the vandals to take in their escape.
Frederique made for the stairs which he had just come up, cursing his age for missing the kids getting by him somehow, and cursing the kids for being punks and causing an old man to track them down. As he walked the hall he decided if he didn’t find them this time he would just be done with it and call the police, he was getting angry and tired and he just wanted to go home for the weekend. He made it from the front entrance of the school to where the library sat, and turned the corner to head down towards the gymnasium stairs. Upon turning the corner he froze as he stared at the bar of fluorescent white light cutting across the hallway from beneath one of the classroom doors which stood in the darkest section between the hall’s security lights.
Frederique had, though not often, forgotten to turn lights off in rooms as he finished their upkeep for the night, but he was certain that had not happened on this night. Additionally, he would have seen this mistake and corrected it when he passed by only moments before – and like the rest of the building, all the classroom doors at this time of night had been locked. He slowly approached the well-lit room, sure of nabbing the trespassers who must have broken the door to get in; though it didn’t occur to him at the time that they wouldn’t have turned the lights on if they had intended escape.
He reached out to turn the door knob, and pushed the door open. Just as the door creaked as it opened he heard laughter from inside the room. He swiftly stepped in; hammer raised (just in case) and asked firmly who was there.
“No one…” a whisper answered back.
Frederique jerked his head in the direction of the voice, to look back out into the hallway through the open door. A sloppy, melted silhouette of a child’s shadow slid past on the hallway wall, clearly visible in the pools of light cast by the classroom’s fluorescent lights, and the security lights of the hallway. Frederique chased it into the hall just fast enough to see it slip at a blindingly fast speed down the hall and around the corner of the stairwell. As it slipped down the stairs he again heard the laughter and running feet on tiles.
Frederique turned the lights off, locked the classroom and made a quick retreat to his car parked in the bus drop in front of the school. He went home and found sleep after finding enough tequila to take the edge of his night off. He had never heard of any ghost stories in his old building, and he had never had any prior encounters with anything similar in his building. Frederique believes what he saw was the ghost of a child who maybe died while attending the school, but over the time the school has stood; many children that attended have died. He has not had any other experiences, but he is always expecting one. He says with a laugh, maybe he will see the ghost again in another 27 years.
Skeptics Scale: 3 of 10 – In my opinion, this is a fairly credible story. I still maintain that the occurrence could be explained in some logical and known fashion, but the details of his story and the confusion Frederique admits to having had at the time lend a certain truth to his encounter. Could his school truly be haunted by an intermittent apparition? Or were Frederique’s eyes and ears simply misinterpreting the information they gathered?
Next Week’s Everyday Paranormal Experiences, Interview #13: “The Watchers”
On the Article Series:
I myself am a huge skeptic of all things paranormal or extra-terrestrial and I tend to take most tales of either with a huge grain of salt – sometimes even an entire salt shaker, depending on the tale that’s being weaved. I have even had a couple ghostly and otherworldly experiences myself, which I may relate in later stories – and I’m skeptical of those! Is what I experienced the truth of the experience or is there an empirical explanation that I simply have not yet unlocked? Regardless of my skeptical nature, ghost stories and alien encounters have always fascinated me as they have all of humanity for thousands of years.
It is this fascination that I wish to convey in a unique and different paranormal or alien experience every week – Thursday, to be exact. I will be conducting interviews with everyday people to hear their stories and relate them back to you, the Paranoid Gamers. Perhaps I’ll be interviewing some of you, as well.
Do you have an experience of a haunted item, place, or person? Have you been visited by aliens or heretofore undocumented intelligent life – terrestrial or extra so? If you’d like to share your experience and possibly have your tale published in this series of articles, please contact me and we can relive your experience.