life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

The Ghost School

by Tom Paré

A 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.

The 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 over their
plan meticulously, and in order not to arouse any suspicion, he insisted on absolute silence until they reached their destination – the old abandoned school.

A 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.

The 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 the monster?

On 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.

"Are you out front so you can get away quick, Paul?" sneered Tommy Beauparlant.

"Yeah Paul, there might be a gang here you'll have to chase again," Romeo chimed in.

Ignoring 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.

"OK 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 Creek."

"Why do I have to be the scout again? Why not you or Ronnie or Alfred or Phillip?" complained Kid.

"Because 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."

The other gang members agreed enthusiastically, including the Beauparlant brothers, who were pleased with their outside guard duties.

Once 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.

Uneasily, 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.

The 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.

Once 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.

Philip 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.

Paul dropped the flashlight and dashed out from under the door, mumbling something about checking on the guards.

"What do we do now, Kid?" whispered an obviously shaken Alfred.

After 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.

Most 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.

At 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.

Their 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, Alfred! Help me. I can't move. Get Paul, quick. Alfred! Hurry up. Something’s attacking me. Help! Help!"

There was no answer. Alfred was gone too.

Kid 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.

"Are 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.

"Was it a spirit?" he thought. "Could it be a ghost?"

When 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.

"Help me please! Don't hurt me!" screamed Kid.

There 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.

He 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!

Now he was out and running toward his bike. Running blindly, and not looking back. His was the only bike there. The gang was gone.

He 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.

It 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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