by Tom Paré
member of the Josephine Avenue Gang in the 1940s, Tom remembers
that fateful day when the gang decided to investigate the
old abandoned school between Josephine Avenue and Bridge Avenue.
Josephine Avenue Gang breathlessly raced their bikes up the
alley from London Street [University Avenue] to Wyandotte
without saying a word. The leader, Paul Chevalier, had gone
plan meticulously, and in order not to arouse any suspicion,
he insisted on absolute silence until they reached their destination
– the old abandoned school.
few weeks before, Paul had disgraced himself by fleeing a
scary situation out at Devil's Creek when some kind of a monster
apparently rose from the slimy green depths and tried to attack
the Beauparlant brothers who were standing guard on the creek
bank. Paul later explained that he had left his post to chase
a gang of older boys who he thought were creating the disturbance
at the water's edge in order to steal the gang's supplies.
On a five to two vote, the gang decided to allow him to retain
the title of gang-leader.
Beauparlant brothers cast the nay votes, claiming that Paul
had just run out on them, and there were no other gangs in
the area, and they didn't even have any supplies, and besides,
hadn't Romeo been pulled into the slime and almost ate by
this night in the fall of 1943, the Josephine gang pulled
to a stop across the alley from the dark, boarded up school.
Paul wheeled his blue Racer into a position facing back down
the alley, slammed down the kickstand, and ordered the rest
of them to line up behind him.
you out front so you can get away quick, Paul?" sneered
Paul, there might be a gang here you'll have to chase again,"
Romeo chimed in.
the two brothers, Paul went over the plan again with the gang;
it was a very simple one. Two guys stayed outside and stood
guard while the rest entered the school building through a
secret basement door under the front porch. Once inside, they
would investigate the whole building, and take any good stuff
that was in there. Each man had a box of kitchen matches,
and Paul carried a ball of twine, and a flashlight belonging
to Phil Power's dad. Paul said that he should hold it because
he was the leader, and how could he lead if he didn't carry
a flashlight? The Beauparlant boys declared that Paul only
wanted to use the light so he could find his way out of the
old school in case he got scared again and wanted to get out
in a hurry.
boys, here it is," announced Paul. "The Beauparlant
brothers will stand guard outside and sound the alarm if anyone
comes by who looks suspicious. The rest of us will crawl under
the porch, and Kid Paré will pry open the secret door
with this crowbar and then go inside and give it a look-see.
He will be the scout and report back just like at Devil's
do I have to be the scout again? Why not you or Ronnie or
Alfred or Phillip?" complained Kid.
you’re next in command, Kid," said Paul. "After
all, you are the second oldest and since you already have
scouting experience, you should be the first guy inside."
other gang members agreed enthusiastically, including the
Beauparlant brothers, who were pleased with their outside
Kid was inside, he would use kitchen matches to light the
way and would tie the twine end to the entry door and unwind
it as he found his way through the basement of the school.
Then he was to tie the other end to a door knob or something
further inside. That way, the gang could find their way out
in case there was an emergency or something.
the gang crawled along the building through the waist high
weeds and slithered under the porch. Once underneath, Kid
Paré and Alfred Bensette pried the boards off the old
door. Alfred insisted on helping in this job because his father
owned the crowbar. Also, it was the same father who told the
gang about the monster thing in Devil's Creek, and he was
certainly right about that, wasn't he? The gang agreed.
door itself had spring hinges and an old barn clasp with a
door pull. It had been boarded up for so many years that the
door warped at the jamb. And there was decades of dirt and
weed-roots which needed to be cleaned out before the door
would pull open.
the debris was removed from the bottom, a musty, dingy smell
seeped from the old school; heart beats and imaginations raced
almost out of control. At this point, Ronnie Ruta volunteered
to go back and help the Beauparlant boys stand guard.
Power agreed that maybe it would be good if he and Ronnie
guarded one side of the building and let Tommy and Romeo watch
the other side. Left under the porch were Alfred Bensette,
Kid Paré, and the leader, Paul Chevalier. While Kid
yanked and pulled the warped door, the other two got as far
back under the steps as possible, until suddenly the resistance
gave way, the top door hinge broke off, and the door collapsed
on the three of them as if someone or something on the inside
had pushed it out.
dropped the flashlight and dashed out from under the door,
mumbling something about checking on the guards.
do we do now, Kid?" whispered an obviously shaken Alfred.
all, both boys had heard the rumours about the ghosts and
mysterious goings-on ever since the school had been closed
and boarded up. Some folks said they heard strange noises
like whimpering children, and some claimed to see eerie lights
coming out right through the brick walls.
people who walked by at night crossed over Wyandotte Street
and didn't even peek at the school, and they held their breath
because it was common knowledge that certain odours were there
that could only come from the spirits. Apparently, these were
the ghosts of all the little children who had attended the
school, and they were protesting the closure.
least that's what the Josephine Avenue gang thought. Kid tied
the twine to the door latch, took a deep breath, and nervously
the two boys started into the schoolhouse. As he stepped into
the foul smelling, dungeon-like room, Kid tripped over the
threshold and fell face first into a huge sticky spider web
causing him to drop the flashlight. He screamed in terror,
and Alfred backed out and fell over the broken door.
screams echoed through the dank basement as Kid groped on
the floor for the flashlight. Suddenly, he felt something
crawl across his hand and up his wrist. Scrambling to escape
from whatever was on his arm, Kid jumped to his feet, slipped,
and fell flat on the floor with his cheek in a slimy puddle
of foul smelling water. When he tried to stand again, he found
that he couldn't move. Something had his legs. And now there
were things flying around his head.
Alfred! Help me. I can't move. Get Paul, quick. Alfred! Hurry
up. Something’s attacking me. Help! Help!"
was no answer. Alfred was gone too.
was alone with the things that were attacking him. The smelly
wet things. Things on his arm and things flying around his
head. And wherever he rolled he was in more slime. It seemed
that now he could feel the crawly attackers all over him.
these ghosts?" Kid thought. "Get away from me,"
he yelled as loud as he could. "Let me go. Let go of
my feet. Please!" he pleaded.
Suddenly he was aware of a light. A pale light to his left,
as he lay trapped on the cold concrete floor.
it a spirit?" he thought. "Could it be a ghost?"
he tried to cover his face with his arm, he succeeded only
in rubbing the spider web into his eyes and mouth. The light
was still there, but it didn't move and it didn't speak.
me please! Don't hurt me!" screamed Kid.
was no answer. His eyes focused on the light. It was the doorway!
He reached for his feet and found what had held his legs.
It wasn't a thing after all. It was the twine! And then he
lunged for the light of the door, in a panic, crawling, scram-bling,
groping, crying, yelling, and doing anything he could to ward
off the fears and terror.
threw himself out of the opening and on to the broken down
door and screamed for the gang to help him. Nobody came or
answered. Even Alfred was gone. As crawled over the door and
back out from under the porch, he felt a breeze go past his
ear and face. It was a bat. And then another, and another,
and another, and then many more. That's what had been flying
in the room. Bats!
he was out and running toward his bike. Running blindly, and
not looking back. His was the only bike there. The gang was
would find them later. He would ride his bike slowly down
the alley to their hideout. He would tell them how he had
gone all through the haunted school. He would tell them how
he had even scared the bats out of the basement. He would
tell them how he first cleared out the spider webs. He would
be considered brave by all of them.
was good to be a hero. But he thought it would also be a good
idea to just leave the haunted school alone.
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