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School Spirits
The Legends of Alton's Milton School

Stories are based on the Book Haunted Alton by Troy Taylor

Another of the area’s haunted schools is the former Milton School building, located on the east side of the city. The strange tales that surround this old building tell of a murdered student, and the man who took her life, still attached to the place where the tragic events of the past took place. Myth or truth? You'll have to decide that for yourself!

Milton School was built in 1904 and remained open for 80 years, serving students until it closed down for good in the summer of 1984. After the school closed, it was abandoned for some time and then re-opened in the early 1990’s as a factory for Intaglio Design, a company that manufactures items of decorative glass. The company still operates here today and includes a warehouse, a showroom and an antique mall. Other businesses have also taken up residence in the old building, including a martial arts academy. While some believe that only old memories still haunt the corridors of the school, the legends of the place tell a different story.

According to these stories, an event occurred in the late 1930s that cannot be found in the newspapers of the time. Some believe that this shows the entire haunting to be the product of overactive imaginations, or an outright hoax, but this may not be the case.

While the stories may be merely legend – something, or perhaps more than one something, lurks in the dark shadows of this building. Could the story of the murdered girl be simply a piece of Alton “ghostlore”, an elusive tale created to explain why a place is truly haunted? Or could the events have been covered up to keep fear from running rampant through the community?

According to the legend, the events began one fall afternoon, a few hours after school had dismissed for the day. The building was deathly silent by this time and the shadows began to grow longer as twilight was now coming earlier with each passing week. The teachers and students had all left for the day, except for one, a young girl (who later generations of students would dub "Mary") who was finishing a seasonal bulletin board for her classroom.

By the time that she had stapled the last construction paper leaf on the board, the sun was beginning to dip low in the sky. Mary knew that she had better get home, before her mother started to worry. She gathered up her school books and hurried down the shadowy corridor to the doors by the gymnasium. She knew that she could push them open and leave the building and they would lock behind her. As she skipped down the last stairway and rounded the corner into the gymnasium, she heard a noise behind her. Curiosity about that noise was the last conscious thought that she ever had.

Mary was discovered the next morning in the girl’s shower room, in the basement of the school. Her small body was bloody and battered, her clothing torn and scattered about. Most horrific of all was that fact that the young girl had been brutally raped.

The hunt was on for the culprit, but the police had no leads. What sort of animal would commit such a terrible act? During her last moments, Mary had managed to scratch her assailant, as his bloody skin was still under her fingernails. The authorities warned school officials to be on the lookout for anyone with scrapes or scratches on their hands or face.

Several days passed before someone realized that a janitor who worked in the school was missing. He had not shown up for work in nearly a week, so police officers went to his house to ask him a few questions about where he had been on the night of Mary’s attack. Not surprisingly, they found scratch marks on both of his hands, although he claimed his cat had left them there. The man lived with his elderly mother, who maintained that he had been sick with the flu and had been at home with her on the afternoon of the murder. The detectives did not believe his story, but had nothing to arrest him for. He was moved to the top of their list of suspects. Police officers began driving past his house at night and the janitor was kept under constant surveillance. Rumors began to fly and teachers and staff members at the school began to talk of the janitor’s strange habits and of his inappropriate attention to some of the children.

Did the harassment of law enforcement and the gossip of the staff at the school drive an innocent man to take his life? Probably not, but we may never know. A few days later, the body of the janitor was also discovered in the school. He was found hanging, the end of the rope around an exposed beam above an upstairs hallway. Beneath his dangling feet were an overturned chair and a scrawled note which read simply:  I Did it!

Was it the confession of a depraved pedophile? The rantings of a man who had been driven to madness by the hounding of the police? Or, as some have hinted, an obvious clue left behind by someone carrying out their own brand of vigilante justice?

As the years have passed, these questions have continued to be asked, although no answers are forthcoming. Rumors, stories and whispered legends floated about the school for years and while many students would never learn that the building had a dark and tainted past, others would not be so lucky. During the years when the school was still open, many students spoke of strange encounters in the building, odd events, unexplained sounds, and strange shadows that didn’t belong. Many of these stories would be dismissed as nothing more than a creepy old building settling on its foundations, or the overactive imaginations of elementary school students but others would not. Many former students can tell stories of strange experiences in the old school and also tales of their friend’s encounters with “Mary”.

Years later, when Intaglio Design took over the building, some of the employees of the company began to notice some very peculiar things were going on in the place as well. Footsteps were heard in the dark hallways at night when no one else was there, items began to appear and disappear around the offices and soon, one of the staff members even spotted the apparition of a small girl. Was this the ghost of Mary?

This little girl even reportedly became very attached to one particular employee of the business, a young woman named Vickie(name changed). The spirit began to make frequent – and sometimes unnerving – appearances in her office, which was located at the bottom of a stairwell outside of the gymnasium. It was not uncommon to find that things in the room had been moved from place to place. She would also sometimes catch a glimpse of the girl out of the corner of her eye, playing quietly or sitting on the stairs near her office. On other occasions, Vickie would come into the office and find that someone had been tapping on the keys to her computer keyboard, leaving behind patterns of X’s and O’s. There had been no one in the office at the time.

While the ghost of the little girl was completely benevolent, and was in fact welcomed by Vickie – the problem was that she did not haunt the school alone! Another presence was also in the building and this one was described by Vickie as being very threatening. The staff believed that this other ghost was the janitor who had taken the girl’s life so many years ago. He was apparently still trapped in the building where he had committed this terrible act.

Vickie, who had grown attached to Mary, now nervously found herself being stalked by the janitor’s more malevolent ghost. According to reliable witnesses, Vickie became absolutely terrified by the unseen presence in the building. The majority of her encounters with the ghost took place on the stage area of the gym and down in the hallway behind the girl’s shower room. Near the shower room, other staff members also reported an unsettling presence that could cause them to become short of breath and feel a panicked sensation. On many occasions, glass items that were left near one particular former shower stall (which tradition holds is where Mary’s body was found) were reportedly found to be shattered into pieces. No explanation could be found as to why this was occurring.  Eventually, Vickie became so frightened by the things that were going on that she simply refused to work in the building at night. Eventually, she left her job and although this was several years ago, strange things continue to happen at Milton School today.

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© Copyright 2007 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.