My daughter just finished her back-to-school shopping and is racing through her summer reading in preparation for the on-coming academic year. As all the kids go back to school, those buildings will shake off the summer dust and buzz with the energy of hundreds of young people working their way through learning, social, and even physical challenges.
When you consider the challenges of puberty, athletics, school dances, bullies, young romance, stress, and decisions that may affect the rest of your life, it’s no wonder school buildings overflow with energy that sometimes manifests itself in rather spooky ways.
In a recent episode of my New England Legends podcast, we explored the story of Emily, a ghost said to haunt the halls of a dormitory at Marlboro College in Vermont. Emily’s story pre-dates the college. It’s said she committed suicide after her father forbade her love with a traveling salesman. The legend goes her family buried her in an unmarked grave on the property because of their shame.
Decades later, the family sells their farm to a man named Walter Hendricks who is opening a new college. The farm house and barn are converted to dormitories and classrooms, and years later as earth-movers come in to build newer and larger dorm buildings, they crack open the forgotten casket of Emily. And she’s haunted the dorm ever since.
It’s a story told to incoming freshmen each year to the point where this spirit is as much a part of the school as are the buildings and clubs. You can hear the full story here: https://ghostvillage...ghost-of-emily/
So many schools have ghostly legends attached to them that one must wonder what is it about these buildings that’s different from other types of construction? As with all things ghostly, it comes back to people. With no human activity, there are no ghosts.
Then I started thinking about the research by Dr. William Roll from the University of West Georgia. Dr. Roll studied psychokinetic (PK) activity in people. What many call a “poltergeist,” Dr. Roll believed was caused by the living, not the dead. Dr. Roll found teenagers were especially prone to PK activity, likely because of all the physical and emotional changes they’re going through.
With poltergeist activity, a living person may be unaware that their mind just caused a glass to fly off the shelf and shatter against the wall. Or that the same person caused a loud thump from within the wall. Most people grow out of this phase (though not all, as he found PK activity in adults and young children as well), but during teenage years, the activity seems to be highest.
Add that phenomena to the school building, combine it with an overly-gossipy population, combine a true tragedy or two such as an accidental (or intentional) death on campus, and it’s no wonder “school spirit” has so many meanings.
This month we’re going to dive into stories of school spirits a little deeper in our Message Board of the Month.