WALWORTH — “No one else was here.”
Linda Vaughn, a teacher at Walworth Elementary School, begins her ghost story like most scary stories start.
“About seven and a half years ago, my husband and I came to school on a Sunday afternoon,” she said. “We were moving desks around. We had brought my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter with us. I set her up playing blocks.”
Vaughn said she was at the school for only about an hour.
“When we left, I got into the back seat with my granddaughter,” she said. “All of the sudden, my husband and I were talking about other things, and Hannah looked at me. She said, ‘Nama, that man at the school hit me on the head like this. Bonk.’”
Vaughn said her granddaughter put her hand up to her own head where she’d been hit.
“She made the gesture like an adult had patted her on the head,” Vaughn said of her granddaughter. “I said, ‘honey, there was no man at the school.’ She said, ‘Uh huh. The man at the school hit me on the head like this.’”
Vaughn asked her granddaughter more about the man who had hit her.
“Hannah said, ‘With you and granpy,’ and that she was playing with the blocks,” Vaughn said. “I asked if he was a good man or a bad man, and she said he was a good man.”
Vaughn said she stopped asking questions about Hannah’s visit with the man, but her granddaughter wanted to keep talking about it.
“The man at the school was waiting for you to come to the school, Hannah said to me,” she said. “I got big goose bumps. That little girl, she couldn’t have made that up. Hannah told me the man left the classroom after he hit her on the head.”
Vaughn thinks her granddaughter actually saw a ghost at the school.
“She saw something,” she said. “She brought it up when we weren’t even talking about the school. We had gotten maybe a mile out of Walworth. That look just came over her eyes like she was dazed and kind of thinking back to relate to me what had taken place.”
Vaughn’s granddaughter, Hannah, is 10 years old, now.
“There are times when you’re here alone (at the school) when you feel something, but it could be because we know all the stories,” she said. “It could be that we psych ourselves out.”
Is the school haunted?
“I’ve seen the ghost,” District Administrator Pam Knorr said. “It was way early in the morning, around 4 a.m., when (Police Chief) Chris Severt and I were here checking the building after an alarm went off. I saw this shiny, shimmery object, and I told Chris, ‘I’m not going down (into the storage area).’”
Knorr, who has been on medical leave since Oct. 4, shared her ghost story earlier this year. Currently, Principal Pam Larson is acting as interim district administrator in place of Knorr, and teacher Brent Wilson is acting principal.
Larson said the ghost plays with her office supplies.
“I think the ghost plays with my scanner,” Larson said. “It would just turn on randomly when I was working on my computer. One day, I just said, out loud, ‘quit playing with my scanner,’ and it hasn’t happened since.”
Knorr is currently on leave, and Larson is filling the administrator position.
Other teachers report hearing noises when the school is supposed to be empty.
Anne Karedes, a language arts teacher, said she’s heard footsteps in the empty hallways.
“In my earlier teaching years, we would occasionally call each other to come in on weekends together,” Karedes said of fellow teacher Sue Brungraber. “Something happened that Mrs. Brungraber couldn’t come in. I went to my room to work. I heard footsteps. They were going up the ramp toward (Brungraber’s) room.”
Karedes said she thought Brungraber had come to the school after all.
“It was exactly where (Brungraber) would be,” she said. “I got up, went down and called for her. I thought, that’s strange. It happened a couple times.”
After returning to her classroom, Karedes heard another noise.
“The second time, I came back, I walked into my room, and the fire doors right outside of my room shut,” she said. “They’re on an electronic system. I was in my room when they shut. I didn’t walk by and bump them. (Brungraber’s) room is on the other side of the fire doors.”
Other bumps and noises in the supposedly-empty school made Karedes’ next decision easy.
“After that, I decided I’m not coming in on the weekends because it’s too scary,” she said.
But Karedes was forced back to school after hours.
“My son was sick ... and I came in really late on a Sunday (to prep work for a sub),” Karedes said. “I needed to have some materials here for my students to work. Let me tell you, as I had to go through the computer lab area, it’s very dark, my heart was pounding. I was having memories of different things. It was very scary.”
Brungraber has heard of similar experiences in the school.
“On a Monday, one of our custodians, Craig Zener, came up to me and asked what I was doing in my room all weekend,” Brungraber said. “(Zener) said he’d heard boxes moving all weekend long, like flipping over and dragging. I told him I wasn’t in the building. He said, you had to have been there, there was so much noise.”
Karedes said she doesn’t like to think about the possible ghosts.
“It’s freaky, it’s spooky,” she said. “At night, when you come here, it sounds like there are doors closing and footsteps. We try not to think about it because it’s freaky.”
Editor’s note: Interviews for this story were completed early in 2013.