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School Spirit at Shady Spring

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Back in December of 1953, the Beckley Post-Herald ran a rather interesting article, written by Bill Childress of the Shady Spring High School newspaper, the Panorama. In what they called a ‘publicity stunt,’ Bill, accompanied by two other members of the school newspaper (editor Jack Wills and sports editor Robert Cole) spent an entire night, locked in the dark and empty school. Their mission—to record evidence of the Shady Spring school spirit.

Built in 1924, the original Shady Spring High School was referred to as ‘the Shoe Box on the Hill.’ Over the years, the school would go through various enlargement and improvement projects. It would also pick up a reputation for being haunted. It was noted that visitors to the school after dark would hear strange noises. ‘Several reputable persons,’ as quoted in the article, reported hearing both phantom whistling and footsteps within the hallowed halls. 

On a windy, rainy night in December, the three young men went spook-hunting, armed with nothing more than a tape cassette recorder, intent on capturing these ghostly sounds. After several unsuccessful attempts at capturing anything paranormal on tape, by midnight, the three decided to go ahead and make their efforts thrilling to their fellow students by creating some ghostly sounds of their own to be played back later. Interestingly enough, shortly after they faked their own phantom sounds, the boys DID experience a tapping sound that they could not debunk. 

A full night’s effort was put into the investigation, lasting until classes began the next morning. Unfortunately, aside from the unexplained tapping sound, no other ghostly experiences were reported or recorded. The article doesn’t state the opinion of the school principal, John Saunders, concerning this little foray into ghost hunting, but he must have been an awfully cool guy. I can’t think of too many school principals who would approve of such an adventure! As a side note, I found an article from March 1953 stating that money would no longer be kept overnight in the school safe, as the school had been robbed 5 times in the last three years, the safe being targeted each time! I wonder if that had anything to do with the phantom noises heard at night…or the decision to let these boys come in and investigate.  Anyway….

School of Harmony

The Shoe Box on the Hill would serve as Shady Spring High until the 1966-67 school year, when a new school would be built. The Shoe Box would serve as an area junior high for several decades, before finally becoming home to The School of Harmony, teaching music to young children. No word on whether or not those ghostly footsteps and whistling are still heard to this day…but at least a whistling ghost would fit right in at a music school, right?  

Information for today’s blog came from the 17 December 1953 Beckley Post-Herald article, written by Bill Childress. Additional information and photos came from the wonderful Facebook group, Our Southern WV Roots, posted by Joe Green. Stay spooky, y’all! 


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