10 Most Haunted Schools in America

An abandoned school in Illinois (photographed by Terence Faircloth)

Anyone who has attended college has probably heard of a resident ghost (usually that of a former student who has hanged himself) who haunts their alma mater. Our list excludes these alleged hauntings because, let's face it-- every college claims to have at least one haunted dormitory or gymnasium. Instead, our list of the Most Haunted Schools in America focuses on schools where full-bodied apparitions have been seen in full view of numerous witnesses, or the ghostly activity can be traced to a proven tragic incident. In fact, some of the schools on this list had to be shut down or demolished- merely because of paranormal activity.

While there are hundreds of "most haunted school" lists on the Internet, ours is unique because we exclude those marginally-haunted institutions where paranormal activity consists of nothing more than urban legends, a few unexplained groans in the night or phantom footsteps in the hallways. In other words, the schools on this list are the real deal.

10. Warrenville, Illinois: "The Matthews School".

On January 10, 1912, the Matthews School was the site of a gruesome crime when a wagon driver named Sylvester Adams shot and killed the teacher, Miss Edith Smith, before turning his gun on himself. After hysterical children reported seeing the smiling face of the slain teacher peering at them through the window, the decision was made to tear down the building. Others reported seeing shadowy figures flittering around the schoolhouse, unexplained noises, and other strange activities.

Muskogee Times-Democrat, February 3, 1912, "Haunted School Scares Pupils"

9. North Braddock, Pennsylvania: "North Braddock High School".

Abandoned in 1901, the North Braddock High School stood on Jones Avenue and was believed to be haunted by just about everyone who lived near it. These spooky claims led one adventurer, William Richards, to investigate. On a June night in 1902, Richards explored the abandoned building and gave the following account to the local newspaper:

"I heard the steady tread of a man pushing a wheelbarrow up the stairs. All at once the contents fell out and after a lapse of five minutes I heard a faint sound which appeared to be the breaking of glass... followed by the appearance of a cloud of black smoke... Gradually the features of a man appeared. His limbs appeared first, then the outline of his head and finally his body... After a moment, with the same preciseness, the featured disappeared. I turned to leave, when a hand was laid on my shoulder... When I started out I felt a cold hand clasp my throat... There was a sizzling noise. Then I proceeded to the door and after much difficulty left the building."

That was probably a good idea.

Reading Times, June 23, 1902, "Fear Haunted School"

8. Sherrill, Iowa: "Sherrill's Mound Schoolhouse".

Formerly known as Sherrill's Mound, the tiny village of Sherrill in Dubuque County once housed a small school that had to be closed down in 1881 because of a bothersome ghost.

According to newspaper accounts of the time, the ghost had a fixation on a 14-year-old girl who claimed that the invisible spirit would pinch, punch and slap her on her elbows and ribs. These attacks became so frequent that the teacher called in a pastor. During his visit the spirit apparently began running around the schoolhouse, jumping over desks and creating a nuisance. The mystery was increased when the name "Teufel" suddenly appeared on the blackboard, startling everyone who was present. This event led the teacher to call for the closing of the school.

While the identity of "Teufel" may never be known, it was reported that the spirit followed the girl to her home and continued to torment her and her family.

Nebraska Advertiser, March 10, 1881, "A Haunted School House"

7. Tipton, Indiana: "Stringtown District Schoolhouse".

When a school is closed because teachers and students refuse to enter the building due to ghostly activity, it's a good guess that the school will earn a spot on our list of most haunted schools. And that's exactly what happened in the winter on 1893 in Tipton, Indiana.

Witnesses reported hearing strange animal noises in the schoolhouse, such as the cries of a quail, the barking of a dog, the neighing of a horse, and the call of the whippoorwill. In each instance, the noises were investigated but nothing was found.

Animal noises don't sound too scary until one considers the Stringtown District's bloody history; the very spot where the school stood was the site of not one, but two, Indian massacres in pioneer times. The first ambush killed all three settlers, but one man escaped the second ambush. According to the lone survivor, hostile Indians had lured the white men to the spot by barking like dogs and making quail and whippoorwill cries.

Bismarck Tribune, March 4, 1881, "A Haunted Schoolhouse"

6. Newburyport, Massachusetts: "Charles Street School".

In 1873, a one-story schoolhouse on Charles Street became the talk of Massachusetts after more than fifty pupils and their teacher, Lucy Perkins, reported the mysterious appearance of a "ghost boy" who would appear regularly at the school for more than a year-- even though the boy was identified as a pupil who had died a year earlier. In February of 1873, the Merrimack Valley Visitor reported:

The teacher's desk brought her back to the window, where the puils told her a strange boy was playing his tricks, sometimes putting his head up the glass and at other times looking in. They described him, and when seen, he has always been in the same dress and appearance. To verify statements she changed her seat to face the window, and by and by the face appeared... she took her ruler- the emblem of her authority- and made for the entry, and there she found him standing quietly in the corner... She advanced to him, and he dodged to the attic stairs. She followed- is now near enough to take hold of him- reached for him but he is not there. He seemed to sink through the stairs... He was gone.

Athens Post, December 6, 1872, "A Haunted School House"


Second Ward School, Frankfort, IN

5. Frankfort, Indiana: "Second Ward School".

Residents of Frankfort's Second Ward realized something was unusual when they were kept awake all night by the sound of somebody playing a fife in December of 1894. The fifing continued day and night and was eventually traced to the roof of the Second Ward School, where it was said that witnesses had recently seen the ghostly form of a man walking near the edge of the roof.

The mystery was solved (or perhaps deepened) when older residents of the Second Ward recalled a man by name of William H. Entrekin, a carpenter who was killed after falling from the roof of the school in 1874. As it turned out, Entrekin had served in the Civil War-- as a fifer for Company K of the 124th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Maysville Evening Bulletin, December 18, 1894, "Haunted Schoolhouse"

Pocatello High School

4. Pocatello, Idaho: "Pocatello High School".

With a confirmed six deaths taking place inside the school since its opening in 1892, it's no surprise that Pocatello High School is reportedly haunted. Earlier this year, the school affectionately known to locals as "Old Poky" found Internet fame when the school's surveillance camera captured a transparent, shadow-like figure moving in and out of classrooms during the holiday break, as well as lights being turned off an on inexplicably. Teachers and students were not surprised, however, as they have experienced strange things taking place at Poky for years.

John and Lisa Brian, of the Scientific Paranormal Investigative Research Organization (SPIRO), investigated the school and are convinced that the video footage is irrefutable proof of paranormal activity.
“We have watched it multiple times and even slowed it down and really analyzed it. It’s a really great piece of footage,” said Lisa. “You can just see the lights going on and off, the police were called because of these issues going on in the building — all of that just goes to show that it wasn’t something someone just put on there, but instead it was something that really happened.”

Oddly, the investigators lost some of their equipment during their visit at the school, which was found a week later by a janitor. The equipment was found in  a stairwell on a high windowsill only accessible via ladder.


Cortland Normal School

3. Cortland, New York: "SUNY Cortland, Clark Hall"

It's always a good idea to be skeptical of collegiate ghosts, since many seem to be nothing more than urban legends, unofficial "mascots", or marketing gimmicks designed to attract prospective students (some colleges, such as Texas State University, even offer ghost tours, much like a historic tavern or floundering bed-and-breakfast trying to drum up new business). However, SUNY Cortland's ghost is different. 

At first glance, the story of Cortland's "Gridiron Ghost" appears to be just another urban legend: the uniform-clad ghost of a long-dead football player makes his occasional appearance, sporting a gruesome gash on his forehead. Further skepticism is aroused by the fact that no one seems to know the name or identity of this astral athlete, not even those who work at the school.

However, our research has been able to identify the true identity of Cortland's pigskin phantom, but we had to go back to a time when the State University of New York at Cortland was officially known as the Cortland Normal School. On October 24, 1931, Cortland hosted a game against East Stroudsburg State, and a Cortland player named Fred Murphy was severely injured. Murphy died from his injuries at the Cortland hospital on the night of November 3, 1931.


A popular 1887 postcard showing the lynched body of Abner Green

2. Delphi, Indiana: "Walnut Grove School House".

During the fall term of 1900, only four pupils showed up for class at the Walnut Grove School House in Delphi. The following year, it was decided that the now-abandoned school would be auctioned off to anyone who wanted it. The only thing that was wrong with the building, it seemed, was that it was haunted by the restless spirit of Abner Green. Abner's ghost appeared so often that the once-thriving classroom was essentially rendered uninhabitable.

On October 22, 1887, the schoolhouse was the scene of a midnight mob lynching when Abner Green was brought there and hanged for the alleged murder of Luella Mabbitt, the daughter of a popular local farmer. Before he was hanged from a walnut tree in the schoolyard, Green insisted that Luella was somewhere in Texas, even though a badly decomposed body found in a nearby river was positively identified by the victim's parents as Luella. Unfortunately, the locals had egg all over their faces when, two days later, a woman believed by many to be Luella Mabbitt returned from Texas to Delphi safe and sound.

More than a century after the lynching, there are many who believe that that Green was innocent, and the case of Luella Mabbitt has taken many bizarre twists-- including the mystery of Ms. Mabbitt's missing head.
In case you missed it, we wrote about the strange case of Luella Mabbitt last week (view article).

United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

1. West Point, New York: "United States Military Academy".

With a history dating back to 1802 and a prominent role in every armed military conflict since the War of 1812, it's no surprise that West Point manages to grab top honors on our list of most haunted schools.  After all, West Point was once home to Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jefferson Davis and George Armstrong Custer, just to name a few. Come to think of it, if any famous military commander or American President has a ghost, there's a pretty good chance that the ghost started out as a real-life cadet at West Point.

As for the facility itself, ghosts have been roaming the halls of West Point since its earliest days. While the famed hauntings of 1972 were later proven to be a hoax, other events still lack an official explanation. Some of the more prolific hauntings include:

Thayer Home: This brick Federal-style structure has been the focus of many paranormal investigations. Strange events were witnessed by General Norton in the 1970s, who claimed to have seen full-bodied apparitions and reported doors slamming shut by an unseen entity. Also around this time, Major Dowling discovered the presence of a mysterious "wet spot" on a breadboard that refused to dry.

Morrison House: In the 1920s there was so much paranormal activity at this house on Professor's Row that a priest, Father O'Keefe, was called in to perform an exorcism. The ghost in question was so terrifying that it drove two maids out of the house one night, half-naked and screaming.

It may be easy to dismiss ghost stories told by imaginative children or college frat boys, but when the claims come from battle-harded military commanders? Not such an easy thing to dismiss.

There you have it, the ten spookiest schools in America, chosen as a result of factual evidence and credible eyewitness accounts. Some of you are probably saying, "But what about (insert school name here), you know, the one haunted by the ghost of a janitor who hanged himself in the stairwell after chopping up the English teacher as part of a Satanic ritual?" The reason why this school (along with dozens of other well-known haunted schools and colleges) didn't make the cut is because, well, chances are, the backstory just didn't check out.