A creepy first-hand look inside the abandoned Elizabeth V. Edwards School, featured in an upcoming October episode of "Ghost Hunters." Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
Amanda Oglesby, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press 12:31 p.m. EDT October 3, 2014
BARNEGAT, N.J. – Little evidence of life remains inside the Elizabeth V. Edwards School. The building has remained mostly vacant since its last class of students left in 2004.
But some school officials believe the building — which served as both a high school and an elementary school since its completion in 1930 — is still inhabited by something, or someone, otherworldly.
"It's always just been kind of mischievous," said Bill Cox, transportation and security coordinator for Barnegat schools, of the supernatural experiences. "We don't know if Lizzy (Edwards) is haunting the school, but if she is, she's a good ghost."
People who've worked in the building in years past say the "good ghost" — and maybe a few of her late colleagues — pass the time slamming lockers, turning lights on and off, and playing 1940s music for no one in particular. The Edwards School's ghostly reputation has attracted the attention of the Syfy network's Ghost Hunters, famous for investigating suspicions of paranormal activity across the nation.
Art Walshe, a maintenance worker in the school district, thinks the haunting might be authentic. He said he saw an apparition — the image of a translucent woman wearing a floral print dress with her hair piled up high onto her head. Another time, he said he saw the same woman and a pair of khaki pants next to her, but he could not make out the figure wearing the pants.
"I believe I saw Ms. Edwards," Walshe said.
Edwards was Barnegat's original schoolmarm, and was a prominent educator in the town until her death in 1965, Cox said.
He's not the only one who's seen something unexplained — if not paranormal — at the school.
Today, paint peels from the Edwards School's walls. Lockers stand open and empty. A pile of tangled chairs are some of the last things littering the school's quiet hallways. The phrase "help me" is written across two of the school's windows.
Cox, whose office sits next door to the abandoned school, had heard rumors that the Edwards building was haunted when he took his job in 2006. At the time, the retired New York City homicide detective shrugged off the notion.
"I guess I was a little bit of a skeptic," Cox said.
Today, he's far less skeptical.
In 2004, Cox said Barnegat school officials stopped holding classes at Edwards because the building became too expensive to maintain. Eventually the school was boarded up to prevent vandals from entering, he said.
Not long after Cox joined the district's staff, he came to the property about 2 a.m. to answer an alarm that had triggered inside the old Board of Education office near Edwards. As Cox was leaving, he noticed the second-floor lights were turned on inside the empty school. Because it was rainy and so early in the morning, he decided to come back and shut the lights off later that day.
"This (room) was lit up," Cox recalled. "It was bright."
When he returned hours later, Cox said he went upstairs with a colleague to turn out the lights and found that the room that was illuminated the night before had no light bulbs installed. The fluorescent bulbs were piled on the floor, and had been that way for about a week, he said.
The experience was "spooky," he said.
Other employees have experienced other abnormal events in the building.
Walshe spent two years working mostly alone while renovating the inside of the Edwards school. One evening in 2006, he witnessed something so chilling, it made him run from the building in a panic.
Walshe said he was working a 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, and just after 10 p.m., he was standing on a ladder above a door outside the school's dark auditorium.
"I started hearing a creaking sound," Walshe recalled. "I look downward, and I started to see the door moving below me. That really scared me. I couldn't even climb down the ladder. I literally slid down."
Walshe ran out of the school and stood outside until he felt composed enough to begin cleaning up for the night. But his frightening experience was not over. When he went to retrieve his ladder, it had been moved to another hallway.
"That was it," Walshe recalled. "I said 'Okay, this place was haunted.' "
Afterward, Walshe asked his supervisor at the time to move him to an earlier shift. But working during sunlight hours did not prevent him from having other unnatural experiences inside the school.
One afternoon, Walshe said he was working in a hallway when he heard a phone ring in the empty building. He followed the sound to the former principal's office and saw an old rotary phone lying on the floor. The phone was not plugged into the wall, Walshe said.
"It was letting me know, they're there," he said.
Cox and the South Jersey Paranormal Research group met last year to investigate the unnatural activity inside the empty school. Susan Bove, founder of the research group, declined to be interviewed about the investigation's findings, but Cox said he heard voices on recordings made at the time that were not from anyone in his group.
The Edwards School also caught the attention of filmmakers from Ghost Hunters, who filmed an episode there in January. The episode, called "A Textbook Case," is scheduled to air at 9 and 11 p.m. Oct. 15 on the Syfy Channel.
"I'm a devout Catholic," said Cox, "so this is a little tough. I'm not supposed to believe in ghosts."
But now he is a believer.
"There's something, if you want to call it paranormal," Cox said. "It's not normal."