by Robert Hamilton
In the small town of Heber, California, the old school still stands today. The classically styled Carnegie building opened its doors as the Heber College of Agriculture in 1910. The first class had twelve students. The college closed in 1912 due to financial hardship. After the college closed, the grammar school was relocated there. In 1915, an earthquake struck the area and damaged the Heber grammar school. After repairs, the building was used for forty-four years until finally being closed for good.
The school has always had a reputation of being haunted and has been a hot spot for teens to try to scare each other. Many times, sheriff’s deputies responded to calls of a woman screaming out at the old school building. In the 1980s, most of these calls came on Halloween. These particular screams came from the teenage girls who dared to enter the Heber school and did not count on the teenage boys waiting inside to play tricks on them. After the girls calmed down and a stern lecture from the responding deputies—a talk on trespassing and the dangers of an old building—the youngsters were sent on their way. Laughing, the young ladies warned the young men to be ready for payback. The deputies told them they were on their own and wished them luck. These calls were fun, knowing no one was in danger.
Yet, other calls were not as easily explained or as funny. On a cold, dark evening, Lydia, our dispatcher, received a call from the caretaker of the Heber school, Mitch Wallace. Mitch said he had a trespasser in the school. When I arrived, Mitch told me he saw a woman staring out of a window. Mitch had called to the woman, but she would not even look at him.
The caretaker was a little annoyed that someone had gotten into the school. The place was locked up. No trespassing allowed. Mitch said he went in, checked the locks, and saw that the school was completely locked up. He was baffled. How did she get inside? It was seemingly impossible. That’s when he called the police. Again.
The night before, Mitch had also called the police for a similar incident. That night, Deputy Ray Harvey, who has been with the sheriff’s office for nineteen years, arrived. Deputy Harvey is a facts-only type person. Deputy Harvey conducted a search of Heber school accompanied by the caretaker. After a while, Deputy Harvey radioed Lydia advising that no one was located inside the school, and it appeared vandals had been inside. There were beer bottles and graffiti on the walls, but not another soul. I was writing my incident reports at the sheriff’s office. The reports are from calls I handled during my shift. I noticed that Deputy Harvey’s voice was low and unsure when he radioed the dispatcher listing the call as unfounded.
Two weeks later, Deputy Harvey had a get-together at his house. The swing shift came, including me. I struck up a conversation with Deputy Harvey about the call he handled at the old Heber school. I told him that I had handled a call at the school the night after his visit. My call also came from Mitch, but this time a woman was seen on the first floor, looking out a window. I had met Mitch at the school, and he said that he saw the woman just before he called. He let me into the building. When I walked into the old school, the hair on my neck stood up. I checked the first floor, and everything was locked up as Mitch had said.
But I realized something as I walked; The floor is made of wood; I did not hear a single noise from the floor. No creak or groan while walking. It was weirdly silent. I told Deputy Harvey that, like him, I did not locate anyone in the old school, but I did see his shoe impressions on the floor in the dust from the night before. Just his and the caretaker’s shoes. No others. I classified the call as unfounded.
Deputy Harvey became quiet and, after a moment, said he wanted to talk to me about his call at the school. Deputy Harvey said he checked the first floor, and no one was located. When he checked the second floor, he thought he heard a young child laughing. He said the laugh seemed distant. Following the laugh, he continued to check the second floor; he swore he heard several children giggling as he went into one of the abandoned classrooms.
Deputy Harvey seemed nervous when he told me he thought he heard the soft voice of a woman telling the children, “Don’t laugh at the man, it’s not polite.” But no one was in the school. Deputy Harvey said he found his way out and cleared the call.
These events unnerved Deputy Harvey and me, but as officers, we were used to strangeness. Mitch, on the other hand, was speed packing his furniture the night of my call. He threw all his stuff in the back of his pickup truck and his travel trailer. Mitch told me that he had heard stories of the ghosts and was convinced he saw one. Mitch said that he was going to quit! He’d call his boss in the morning, but when he got everything in his vehicles, he was gone. Two hours after I cleared the call, I drove by the school. Mitch and his vehicles were indeed gone.
After these incidents, several more calls came from caretakers regarding trespassers at the school. For years while I was still on the force, every now and then, a call would come in of a child or a woman looking out the “second story” window of the old Heber school.
Robert Hamilton was born in Poughkeepsie, New York and grew up in a small village called Wappinger Falls. After his parents divorced, he moved to Florida before making Southern California home. There, he fulfilled his dream of becoming a deputy sheriff. Fifteen years later, his career came to a crashing end after experiencing a job-related injury that caused him to be honorably retired. As a deputy, Robert saw and heard things that were without explanation: ghosts, evil, and just strange events. This was not new to him, as he had seen and heard things as a small child. Psychic? No, he’d be rich. Robert enjoys reading stories of the unexplained, and flying his drone.