Barnegat school's ghost goes big time on 'Ghost Hunters'
BARNEGAT, N.J. - The maintenance man stood on a ladder and sanded above a door inside the empty school. It was 10 p.m. on an October night in 2006. Art Walshe was working alone. The surrounding auditorium and classrooms were pitch black, and the dim light from the hallway's high ceiling barely reflected from the floor.
BARNEGAT, N.J. - The maintenance man stood on a ladder and sanded above a door inside the empty school.
It was 10 p.m. on an October night in 2006. Art Walshe was working alone. The surrounding auditorium and classrooms were pitch black, and the dim light from the hallway's high ceiling barely reflected from the floor.
He heard a creaking noise and stopped his work. He looked down, searching for the source of the sound. Suddenly, the door beneath him swung open.
No one was behind the door.
Walshe hurried down the ladder and ran out of the building. Outside, he collected his thoughts and regained his composure. He returned inside, only to find his fears and superstitions justified.
His ladder had moved halfway down the hallway.
"At that point I knew the place was haunted," said Walshe, 46. "Nobody was in the building. I was working alone."
This is Walshe's ghost story of Elizabeth V. Edwards School, on Route 9 in Barnegat. And it's not just a Halloween tale. He has others, and so do a few employees of the Barnegat Township School District. Urban legend has it that the 83-year-old building, closed in 2004 but still used for office space, is haunted by the school's namesake.
All this got the attention of Syfy channel's Ghost Hunters, a reality show that follows paranormal investigators, who filmed there in January. The episode at the school building - "A Textbook Case" - will be shown Wednesday at 9 p.m.
Thomas Topoleski, 60, a former assistant security director for the school district, remembers lockers banging upstairs. As he investigated upstairs, he heard music playing downstairs. He found it coming from the basement. When he opened the door, the music stopped.
"I decided then it was time to go," Topoleski said.
Walshe, meanwhile, was so spooked by his paranormal encounter that the next day he called his boss and had his shift switched. But broad daylight was no shield for what awaited him.
Like encountering an old desktop rotary phone ringing on the floor, the cord not plugged in. And other incidents over the year. Hearing the slow horns of classical music. The footfalls of someone stepping up and down the stairs. He'd even smell cigarette smoke, even though all the doors and windows were closed.
Eventually, Walshe got to see a ghost.
Spackling and sanding in the center hall one day, he felt as though he were being watched - and he was. He turned and saw a woman in a floral dress staring at him. She was transparent, and didn't move for about a minute before disappearing.
"I said to myself, 'This must be Miss Edwards.' "
Born in 1874, Elizabeth V. Edwards was Barnegat's original schoolmarm. She began teaching in 1903 in the Barnegat Public School, a one-room schoolhouse that served Grades 1 to 12 before the Edwards School, then called Barnegat High School, was built in 1931. Edwards eventually became principal of the public school.
MaryCatherine Kennedy, the state-required historian for Barnegat, had Edwards as teacher and principal. Kennedy, 85, said the educator had a passion for her work. Edwards never married, knew everyone, and was extra helpful when needed. But she also disciplined her students.
"We had closets with doors on them for hanging our coats in," Kennedy said. "If you were bad you were put in the closet."
Edwards never worked in the school that is named after her, though she was still in the building for teachers' meetings from time to time. Edwards died in 1965 at age 90. Ten years later, Barnegat High School was renamed the Elizabeth V. Edwards School.
Bill Cox had heard the ghost stories, but was not afraid of the Edwards School. Cox, the security director and transportation coordinator for the school district, is a former detective for the New York Police Department. Cox, 57, had seen his fair share of creepy places.
One night, Cox's cellphone woke him. It was 2 a.m., and he received word that an alarm had gone off at the board office behind the Edwards School. It turned out to be a false alarm, but as Cox returned to his car, he noticed lights on in the second floor of the school.
"It wasn't just a lightbulb," Cox said. "It was bright. It was really lit up."
It was late and raining, so Cox decided against entering the building. The next morning, he and the building supervisor went to the area where Cox had seen the lights. All the ceiling tiles and fluorescent bulbs were piled on the floor, as they had been for a week.
Cox will be featured on Wednesday's episode, along with Walshe and Topoleski. He was the one who tipped off Ghost Hunters about the school.
"If you want, you can call it paranormal," Cox said. "It's definitely not normal."