The Gartree Ghost
~ The Haunting of a Fenland School ~
As told by James Rogers, ex-pupil, Gartree School
My friend Will told me this story. The first part he mostly got from his science teacher, the bit about the missing pupil. The school hushed that up. Even the prefects were told to keep quiet about it. The tearful parents were too upset to think straight and by the time they were able to go over the events the strange contractors had been and gone. No evidence remained. No body was ever discovered.This all happened when the Science Block was being refurbished some years ago. The old cupboards on the landing were a mess and of no practical use. They had been boarded up and were to be properly panelled. The old temporary boards came off to reveal a surprising space, the kind of useful space pupils notice! Jason Elsbury noticed it and kept his smoking things in there, safely out of the way. From time to time he hid in the dark space to avoid PE and Maths lessons. One Sports Day just before the summer holiday he was hiding in his little hole, avoiding trouble and pointless effort. The builders nipped in while the pupils were out on the field, secured the panels and went off for the weekend. Teachers and pupils made a quick and mostly well-earned escape at 3.30pm and the Science Block went silent. By the time Jason started calling out there was no one to hear him. Even the cleaners had gone. Jason must have died some time in the following week, alone and half mad. The second part of the story came from the cleaners. That fatal week they heard no shouting but they could hear scratching. The sound was difficult to locate. Could there have been soft moaning? Then there was silence. Scared, the cleaners did not mention anything. Later they came to fear the landing and the adjoining labs and the area acquired a reputation for being haunted. Other parts of the school, notably the stage, were already said to be haunted by the ghost of a head teacher who had hanged himself there - total fiction, but you know how such stories catch on in a school. In fact the Head died of a heart attack in his office, sad but nothing spooky about that. No one thought much about the cleaners' complaints of strange noises or smells. No one made the connection when Police enquired about Jason's whereabouts on Sports Day. No one could recall seeing him, but that was a fairly usual state of affairs. Jason was good at making himself invisible. The Scratching-sound Story entered school folklore, joining the tale of the Hanged-Headmaster Hauntings. Pupils joined the cleaners in regarding the landing and laboratories as a place with a sinister feel, best avoided even though no ghost had actually been seen, not then. It was much later that something really weird happened, something that has never been properly explained. The Head decided that school security needed to be improved. This followed a series of worrying incidents of trespass plus a desire to exercise some control over pupils' eating habits in the light of campaigns to improve school food. Escape during the day was through a single door near the school office and required signing-out. The rest of the school was bounded by a good, if not totally secure, new fence. Electrically-opened gates were sited at strategic points and could be opened in emergencies and at the end of the school day. One convenient and well-used route had been lost, the one down the side of the technology rooms, through the staff car park and out to the main road. The fence cut across this, unrelieved by any gate. At first no one noted the small figure walking into school along this path, through, yes, through the fence, then up the stairs in the Science Block to the landing where scratching and low moaning had so disturbed the cleaners. Several pupils reported seeing the apparition, some in the playground, some from inside the technology room. The school hushed it up. Even the prefects were told to keep quiet about it. At half-term contractors did some work to the Science Block. They were not from the usual company and spoke only to the Head. No corpse was mentioned, nor any evidence to suggest how Jason Elsbury disappeared. Pupils who sit on the benches alongside that blocked path will tell you that at times they get an unexplained feeling of dread and horror and an urge to rush up the stairs to the Science block to discover the cause of a fearful screaming and thumping, only there is no actual screaming and thumping except inside their heads. Every pupil who stands on the landing will know that feeling of goose-bumps and hair seeming to stand on end from some nameless fear, pulse racing, eyes staring. I am told, and it may well be true, that the Head has specifically instructed science teachers not to send pupils out of classrooms to stand on their own on the landing. Instead, teachers who need to send pupils out must send them to a fellow teacher so they can be supervised. Few pupils realise that this arrangement is for their own peace of mind and possibly their safety. When alive, Jason was not known for being a kind person.
[Please respect copyright and do not plagiarise this story. You are welcome to use this material for your own purposes, or to put in a hotlink to this webpage, but please do not copy and alter it and pass it off as your own; it most certainly is not. I wrote it. Copyright © Roger Parsons 2012 ]
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