A building that has been around since 1906 is bound to have strange stories and unexplained occurrences. Webster Groves High School is no exception to this.
Pat Voss, who has served in the building for over 50 years, has seen some of these oddities in her time.
“That’s 15,000 kids, several thousand colleagues… I’ve watched them through this building… Anytime you have that much diversity in a group, odd things, you know, will happen,” Voss said.
Voss said although she has never been genuinely frightened, she has been unsettled.
“I’ve had days where you feel very unusual occurrences. I have been here in the building at the point where three faculty members had died within the building, all from medically related items; that causes you to stop and think,” Voss said.
Dr. Jon Clark, former principal, unlike Voss, had felt scared in the school before, but not because of any ghosts.
Clark said, “The time I was truly scared was about seven years ago. I was told the window was left open upstairs in the old drama room above the Little Theater, on the third floor. I went in there at night, in the dark, and yes–there was a window that I had to close. I had a bad flashlight, and I looked to the right, and there were 10 skulls (used for the drama department). I jumped, screamed, and ran out with my heart beating. I set the school alarm and ran to my car. It took me about five minutes to realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, but it was scary at the time.”
A few students have also experienced unexplainable events in the building.
Rosie Ryan, senior, spoke of the time when she heard whistling behind her on her way walking to the restroom, but nobody was there.
Ryan said, “I went into the bathroom and shut the door behind me still hearing the whistling, only now it was echoing around the shop hall since it’s new building, and right after I heard the door shut, I heard it open again and footsteps across the bathroom, so when I finished peeing, I looked under the stalls, and no one was in any of them…still, (there was) that whistling, only it was in the bathroom now with me, but all the stalls were empty. It was…10 degrees cooler in the bathroom.”
Eva Berger, junior, spoke of the time she was in the drama basement and got spooked.
Berger said, “So I was going down to the old abandoned locker room just to check it out. It was my first time down there, and it was kind of late at night. It was after a show, and so I go down, and all of the lights are off…(but) the shower was dripping. It was like ‘drip, drip, drip,’ and there was one light that turned on, and it was flickering on and off, and it was really creepy. So we walk in…I’m like ‘what the heck,’ And then something fell and it…crashed… It was absolutely terrifying, and I ran away and I almost cried. And that’s my story.”
The Pool- DEBUNKED
When asked about any conspiracy theories or rumors about the high school the students heard. The number one response was, “There is (or was) a swimming pool in the basement.” However, every source asked denied the rumors.
Dr. Clark said, “There’s never been a pool at Webster Groves High School. I believe that a teacher once shared this rumor during Future Leaders some years ago. They also said I had a private pool only for my use. Again, not accurate.”
Haunted St. Louis
St. Louis may be known for baseball and the Arch, but it also contains a few ‘ghost’ stories of its own.
Alexian Brothers Hospital
According to STLToday, In 1949, St. Louis was home to an event that would inspire William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist.” A 14-year-old boy, supposedly named Ronald Edwin Hunkeler, was supposedly “possessed.”
Before coming to St. Louis, he lived in Maryland, where items would move around by themselves, such as a Bible rising, scratching noises and other strange occurrences. After a few days, words appeared on Hunkeler’s body, and the word “‘Louis” showed up. After asking if it meant “St. Louis,” words appeared that said “yes.”
Hunkeler was then moved to St. Louis, where he was transferred to Alexian Brothers Hospital’s psychiatric ward. At the hospital, Hunkeler was exorcised several times. His room was completely isolated from the other patients, it was locked, and the windows were covered up. It wasn’t until Easter that he was “freed” of the “possession.” The boy has gone on to live a normal life and the hospital has since been demolished.
According to Dangerousroads.com, just west of St. Louis rests a road named Lawler Ford Road, also known as Rock Hollow Trail, which got its nickname, “Zombie Road,” in the 1950s, but teenagers were more likely to be caught partying than seeing ghosts.
Through the years, rumors and ghost stories have built up, with several main ones being told the most. Some say the road is haunted by a man who lived in a shack and would try to scare off teenage couples. Others say it is haunted by Della Hamilton McCullough, a woman killed by a train that runs through the area. Others believe it to be Civil War soldiers who died in that area.
According to Lempmansion.com, The Lemp Mansion has been called one of the ‘10 spookiest buildings’ by CNNTRAVEL. Its walls were once home to an affluent St. Louis family, the Lemps. Immigrant Johann Adam Lemp brewed beer and created the Falstaff beer brand. The company’s popularity grew, and so did Lemp’s fortune. He passed his legacy on to his son William, who soon moved into the mansion with his family.
William Lemps’s son died in 1901, his child’s death affected him so much that he took his own life three years later.
The company was passed on to William, Jr., (aka Billy), but he ran the business and his family into the ground and later killed himself. The cycle continued with Charles, a son of William, Sr., who took his own life. The mansion has been turned into a restaurant and hotel, but the oddness doesn’t end there. Some visitors to the mansion claim to have heard footsteps, visions appearing and disappearing, doors locking and other strange happenings.
House on Plant Avenue
According to Prairieghosts.com, located in Webster Groves, on a street not far from the high school, sits the Henry Ghem House, also known as the House on Plant Avenue. The house was built during the 1890s by Henry Ghem, who lived in the house until he died inside it in the 1950s.
The tales of fear began with the residents who moved in after Ghem- the Furry family. Mrs. Fannie Furry had begun to wake up at night time, feeling shaken awake by an unknown entity. Along with the shaking, she had heard noises, like something banging the windows during night time and phantom footsteps.
The Furrys also had a young daughter, and one day, the daughter said, “Who is the lady in black who comes into my room at night?” This question abolished all want for the Furrys to stay in the house, and they moved out soon after.
According to smithsonianmag.com, Ouija boards have the alphabet, numbers, and the words “yes” and “no.” They have been used since 1890, primarily used to communicate with spirits.
What started out as a novelty family game soon turned into a possessing tool when word spread that “The Exorcist” was based off a child possessed after using the Ouija board. The hysteria spread from house to house, one Ouija board owning family to the next, and Ouija boards have been known as demonic gateways since.
However, there is a seemingly scientific reasoning behind the movement of the planchette called the Ideomotor effect, which basically means the unconscious of one’s brain. These are involuntary movements that happen without a person even recognizing they are doing it.
When using a Ouija board, all participators are engaged in the game, but at the same time having unconscious thoughts that lead them to spell something out they are unconsciously thinking of.
Charlie, Charlie, similarly to the Ouija board, has a makeshift board used to summon a spirit.
The “challenge” became more known during 2015, mostly due to the social media site, Vine. It consists of an “X” drawn on a piece of paper, with a “yes” in two quadrants and a “no” in the other two. Then, two pencils sitting atop each other are put on both axes, and someone says “Charlie Charlie, are you there?” and then asks a question. The game has been known to attract strange results, such as lights flickering, glass breaking and others, according to theWashington Post.
According to hauntedrooms.co.uk, legend says if a someone chants “Bloody Mary” into the mirror three-13 times with all the lights turned off, then a spirit will show up. The spirit, who is said to be the spirit of Mary, a supposed witch in ancient times, was said to have kidnapped young girls of a village and used their blood to appear youthful. She was then tied to the stake and burned by the villagers.
After beckoning “Mary,” she will show up and take the summoner’s soul, in exchange for her own, in order to obtain a younger appearance.
According to nytimes.com, Slenderman is tall, dark, faceless, and… slender. The urban legend of a demon that lives in the woods and preys on children started from a 2009 forum that consisted of photoshopped images of Slenderman standing around playgrounds and woods. The photoshopped posts soon turned into a story that created an uproar of video games, YouTube videos and conspiracy theories.
However, the once seemingly innocent story turned sour when two Wisconsin teens lured their friend to the woods to kill her in order to prove their loyalty to the Slenderman. The teens were charged as adults.
Afraid of ghosts?
One may believe, one may not, but there are a few ways to help cast “spirits” away from someone or something.
One of the natural ways to clear a house or building of a certain type of energy is to smudge. To do this, one must light a bundle of dried sage and then waft it around the room(s). Some words may also be expressed while doing this ritual. According to site angelsghosts.com, “This sage is cleansing out all negative energies and spirits… all negative energies and spirits must leave now through the windows and not return.”
Anne Reith, director at the Institute for Mediumship, said, “ I teach my students how to communicate with connecting with angels, guides and deceased loved ones. I focus on helping people feel completely safe when working in this field. I help them understand that we are all more powerful than anything ‘dark’ that they might encounter. I know from personal experience that if something frightening happens, then all we need to do is use our personal power to say, ‘Go away.’ Due to the Law of Free Will, they must leave, so no one ever needs to be frightened.”
This will be Elise Keller’s second year on ECHO staff, but she made several contributions while taking journalism class her freshman year.
Rosa Parks, senior, is a second year ECHO student, and has made contributions to the paper during Journalism and the ECHO newspaper 2017-2018.
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