The Haunted School House, 1875 – Pickering
I met with Paul and John; we loaded the equipment into the car and began our journey to the site. The location was an old schoolhouse built in 1875, which was now being used as a community centre near Pickering, Ontario. The centre has had numerous reports of strange occurrences dating back to at least the 1960’s. The Hauntings Research Group, who had invited us to join their continuing investigation, had previously investigated the site. We were all to meet there by 16:00 hours.
The Hauntings Research Group is a group of dedicated professional (paranormal) investigators, who I found on my quest to discover associates with whom to share ideas and theories. I was very impressed with them, as they take nothing for granted. They make no claims and as the majority of their group are true believers, they face each new piece of information they have collected with a balanced skepticism. Based in Peterborough County, I truly believe there isn’t anywhere they would not go to find the proof they, like so many of us, seek. The Group was founded by Dee Freedman and Anita Perron, both of whom conduct investigations and are psychic sensitive. Krystal Leigh, a field investigator, is psychic sensitive as well.
We pulled into the parking area, the rest of the team was already unloading equipment near the front of the building. As I was exiting the car I noticed that John was showing interest in a storage shed. I grabbed my 35mm camera and headed over to where he was standing. As I was walking up to him, I checked the camera’s built in light meter and set the shutter speed and aperture. As soon as I arrived to where John was standing, the camera’s batteries died. These had all just recently been replaced with new batteries. The interesting thing was that not only the meter and control battery, but also the flash and power winder batteries, were dead as well, a total of eight batteries in all. At about the same time Krystal entered the building and was loading the film into her 35mm camera, when her batteries died as well.
Both Anita and Krystal reported a heavy feeling upon entering the main hall, which would have been the original schoolhouse section of the building. A video camera was set up at an exterior gate leading to a marshy bog on the property line to the rear of the school. In the previous investigations conducted by the Hauntings Research Group, this gated area was the scene of paranormal activity.
Upon her arrival Dee picked up on a name, coming to her out of the blue, like so much of this information does. “Beth” or “Bertha”. This name would stick with her until she could figure out why she had received it.
She went into the building, placed her bag down in the kitchen and began wandering the interior, trying to vibe it out. As she did so, the group began taking dimensional measurements of the inside of the original schoolhouse, so they could set up video surveillance in the most optimum locations. Dee took a temperature reading, which was 66.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dee placed toys around the main hall; each one centred on an X of blue tape. Dee then found some old framed historic photos of students and teachers in the far corner. There, she was drawn to an Elizabeth, who in 1888 was a teacher at this school. She also found a Bertha, who had been a teacher as well, however she had a deeper feeling or connection with Elizabeth.
John, Paul and myself went past the gate and stood there for a few minutes. John felt that something had taken place there. He sensed that sometime in the past a group of people used this spot to conduct some sort of rituals, which involved the killing of animals. Pigs were a specific image that he received and possibly a person was killed as well. He pointed out the circle, which was well defined by the trees. The limbs on the trees within this circle seemed to be weighted and pulled downward towards the ground, something the trees outside the circle did not exhibit. The energy within the spot was heavy, negative. In the very centre of the circle was the gate. Another observation was that there seemed to be a message from nature itself not to pass the gate; the tree limbs bent like elephant trunks hung low to the ground, forming a veil, a natural barrier to the gate. There was also a large pine, which had fallen onto the property, blocking a portion of the gate. John felt that whatever these people had done opened a vortex or doorway and something had come through, something that had never been physical. He didn’t want to call it demonic, he felt it was more mischievous in nature. Whatever this thing was, it fed off fear and the more innocent its victim, the better the meal. This was a disturbing revelation because of the proximity to the schoolhouse.
It was starting to get cold and the sun was fading fast. Everyone had the opportunity to have a good look around the property and inside the building. I was getting gauss meter readings off the scale near the fence line and gate area, readings I didn’t understand. There were no power lines or other sources of electrical energy, however I was getting readings two inches off the ground, then nothing on the scale until I reached the five foot level and higher. As strange as it was, I had to dismiss it to possible high solar flare activity we were experiencing from the Sun.
Paul and Krystal met me at the gate. As we stood there talking, we picked up on a noise from beyond the fence. Paul and I went into the forest, trying to follow it; we traversed bog holes and fallen trees about three hundred feet out. Krystal called from the yard, “It’s moving this way, along the fence line.” We circled around and headed in towards the fence, trying to catch up to whatever it was. The going was slow as we forged a path with our flashlights. As we neared the gate, Paul, who was in the lead, stopped abruptly. I caught up to him. He just looked at me for a moment, then pushed ahead. When we arrived at the opening by the gate he looked at me again and told me that, as he was nearing the circle, something hit him in the centre of his chest. He described it as if someone had put a hand out to hold him back. It was brief and then it was gone.
Dee noticed small lights moving amongst the trees, she described them as resembling fireflies. We were fairly sure there were no fireflies so late in November, especially with a temperature of minus one degree Celsius. Others were reporting strange light phenomena around the property; lights that would dart in and out of the trees, standing still and moving at various speeds. I moved to the edge of the building, looking towards the gate, the others went to the entrance of the driveway. I caught a glimpse of a very bright flash of light at the fence line, about three inches off the ground, next to the fallen pine. I checked with Krystal, as she had equipment in that area. There was nothing set up that would have produced such a flash of light. We all ended up down by the gate again. Krystal had goose flesh and felt she was being watched, as did I. She only felt safe within the group and didn’t want to venture off by herself.
The lights kept moving in and out of the trees, circling the property, disappearing, then reappearing behind us. I had a feeling about it, but I didn’t realize I had spoken aloud until I received acknowledgement from Dee, who was standing beside me. It was like an animal circling its prey, looking for a vulnerable side.
I hadn’t seen Anita go into the forest, but I saw her emerge through the gate on her way back to the yard. She reported feelings of disorientation when walking past the gate and into the opening of the forest, a phenomenon that had been reported often over the years.
Dee pointed out the full moon, hanging low in the sky; the lunar eclipse had just begun, adding to the eeriness of this place.
There was a mini-mag light turned on with the lens removed, affixed to the gate. The light, running on two AA batteries, should not have surged, however everyone saw this light intensify like a lighthouse beacon for almost two minutes, then return to normal.
Paul wanted to go back into the forest, Anita agreed to go with him and they walked past the gate. The rest of us stood on both sides of the gate and watched their flashlight beams move deeper into its heart. The light beams disappeared, as if they had moved beyond a solid wall of blackness. Dee called Paul on the two-way radio and had a difficult time with communication as we were faced with a heavy static, static that hadn’t been there a few minutes before. We called out several times, until we heard a “We’re okay” in return.
There were noises in the trees above their heads. They searched for animals with their flashlights but found none, yet the noises persisted. Anita fired her digital camera up into the trees. Paul spotted something at ground level; he had to pause, unsure of what he was looking at. “What the hell is that?” he said, pushing his flashlight beam at it. Anita looked at it and they both realized that what they were looking at was a human head lying on the ground under several fallen trees. They pushed aside their fear and tried to get in closer. They couldn’t see a body, just the head; eyes and lips black, a crooked mouth, face leathery. Anita fired her camera several times at the scene. Then, lights came up out of the trees, drawing their attention, orange lights, like eyes floating. It was hard to tell because of the distance and elevation, but they felt they were probably 9 to 12 feet in the air. They followed the lights with their flashlights until they disappeared behind a tree. They looked back to the head and it was gone. That was enough for them, they quickly made their way back to the gate and the rest of the group.
They explained what had happened and what they had seen. Of course, with such a story, they were faced with skepticism until Anita displayed the photos on her digital camera’s review screen. The image of the head was clear. We headed inside the building to seek much needed warmth. We discussed what this image could mean. Was it a warning? Was it a psychic image, indicating a body was there? Was it something else? We wanted to go back out there to dig in that spot. Someone produced a shovel. Several of us went back into the forest, right back to that spot, and conducted a search of the area. We found that it would be impossible to dig, due to the way the trees had fallen. Several trees were intertwined, and the way they were laying wouldn’t allow for the swing of a shovel. They would have to be cut away first. It was agreed upon to mark the spot and come back when we had all the right tools to conduct a more thorough investigation of that piece of ground.
We walked back to the yard, the eclipse was full and it looked as if there was blood on the moon. We went back inside to warm up.
John, Paul and myself assembled in the entry hall. I didn’t invite the rest of the group for two reasons: First, they had conducted investigative work here and I didn’t want them to influence John. Second, I wanted to keep them separate so I could compare notes on what John picked up to what Dee, Anita and Krystal had put together.
John began using his pendulum: “Are there any spirits here that wish to communicate?”
“Yes”. Indicated by the pendulum.
“We wish to know, when you were physical, were you a student at this school?”
Nothing. No response.
“Did you attend here?”
“Do you have any contact with what is outside beyond the gate?”
“Are you aware of what goes on out there?”
“You know to stay away from there?”
Fear … “Yes.”
John stopped. “What is in here is completely separate from what goes on out there.” He went on, “I get a strong impression of a maintenance man, I want to call him a caretaker, in the area of that outbuilding, the shed, or a structure that stood there previously. Is this correct?”
“You are the caretaker?”
“You watch over the children here?”
“You make sure that no one crosses over into that area, is this correct?”
Directed at us, “He is a caretaker in every sense of the word!” Continuing, “You knew about that area even before your death?”
“Whoever this maintenance, caretaker man was, he knew or very strongly suspected about what went on in that part of the property by the gate. He returned here because he knew there would be influence over the children. He is very much involved here!” “Joseph! I want to call him Joseph!”
“What we have are energies of children in here, he hovers in this area because he realizes there is a very serious danger involved for these children. He believes in this, and what could happen.”
“He died from a cut, tetanus, a problem with his blood, some sort of infection. He came back because he was aware … 1920’s. Some confusion … he either heard of something going on, or had firsthand knowledge of what was going on here.”
“He heard and saw things when he was alive, whatever is out there tried to exert pressure over him to bring the children into the circle beyond the gate.”
“Hungarian or Lutherainian is his background, he has a distinct accent!”
“Joseph …pronounced (Yosef) was very clairvoyant, very quiet and humble. He truly cared for the children very much. At the moment of his death he realized he couldn’t go, he had to return and stay here to protect the children!”
“The circle is still there, it is made up of spiritual energy. What lives out there has free run, but its like a lion in a cage, it needs people to bring it what it needs. Its power is from the circle, as it moves away from the centre it loses its power. It is inhuman, never physical. Will not use the term demonic to describe it, although it can be very malevolent and mischievous. It is old, powerful, clever and lonely. It is the way it is simply because that is its nature, it has no moral sense of right or wrong!”
“Joseph was a spiritual man, he knew what was going on here.”
“The image that I get is, 1917/1918, influenza killed a lot of people in the area, like it did everywhere. A lot of fathers, uncles and brothers were away at war, Joseph felt as if he were a surrogate father figure to a lot of these children!”
We sat with the rest of the group and discussed the collected information, Dee and Anita had picked up, for the most part, the same information that John had. Dee added a last name to Joseph, which she felt was something like Heirnan.
For what it was worth, we had collaboration from three sensitive people, all of whom had picked up the same information from the site separately.
The investigation unfortunately drew to an end. The events of the evening were both intriguing and frightening. We all wished we had more time to spend on this strange patch of ground. As for whatever is out there in the forest, just beyond the gate, we are comforted in the knowledge that Joseph the caretaker will be watching and protecting those souls that still linger within this very old schoolhouse.