When I started teaching English at
Northwestern Military and Naval Academy near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, nobody
warned me about the ghosts.
Northwestern — a beautiful, old granite
building — was a boarding school. A hundred boys lived there, ranging in age
from seventh grade through twelfth, although the building could have
accommodated maybe twice as many. The school had been in existence for about a
century. The hallway leading to the gymnasium was lined with photographs of
all the graduating classes
The entrance to the school featured two
wrought iron gates and a long driveway that wound through the extensive
grounds. Trees, flowers and shrubs added to the park-like atmosphere.
Northwestern was both a military and a naval
academy, and some of its graduates had served in World War I and World War II.
A couple of those who had been killed in action were buried on the grounds.
Considering the age of the building and its history, I suppose I should have
expected ghosts — or rather, I should have expected ghost stories.
But I didn’t.
Not until one fall morning when my students
came to class so upset that they couldn’t concentrate on their school work.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” one of them
“Yeah, Ms. Ralph. Do you believe in
ghosts?” several others chimed in.
While I was attending the university to earn
my teacher certification, none of the professors had mentioned how you were
supposed to handle a question like this.
“Well,” I said, “I think there are
probably many things in this world that we don’t understand.”
By now, all of my students were giving me
their utmost attention. If only they were this interested in English.
“Have you ever seen a ghost?” one of them
I shook my head. “No. I’ve never seen a
“We have,” said one young man.
“Really?” I said. “And when was
“In our room.”
“We did, too,” said a couple of others.
“What happened?” I asked.
“It was just after lights out. Our curtain
Instead of doors, each of the dorm rooms had
curtains covering the doorway.
“At first I thought it was the sergeant
coming to check on us,” my student said.
Military personnel were on duty around the
clock to supervise the boys.
“Then what happened?” I asked.
“S-sss-some,” he stammered.
“Something pulled the blanket off his
bed,” his roommate finished.
By now, all of the boys looked frightened.
“I don’t want to stay here anymore,”
said one young man.
“I’m calling my mom to tell her to come
and get me.”
“All right everybody,” I said. “Take a
I waited for them to take a deep breath.
“Now let it out slowly.”
They all did.
“What else happened?”
Other boys described pranks of a similar
nature — waking up in the middle of the night freezing cold, only to
discover that their window was wide open when it had been shut and locked
hours earlier; math books that had been sitting on their desks when they went
to sleep were in the bottom of the garbage can when they woke up; uniforms
were switched so that when they started to get dressed in the morning, they
discovered they didn’t have their own clothes.
“Hmmm,” I said. “Who do you think would
play tricks like that?”
My students considered the question for a few
“Well, it kind of sounds like something we
would do,” said one young man.
“Hey…it DOES sound like something we
“You mean you think it’s a real
“Or is it a ghost, one of those guys
that’s buried here…?”
“I think it’s one of us.”
“But even if it’s a ghost, it’s still
one of us — a cadet.”
“Yeah, it WOULD be a cadet, wouldn’t
I smiled to myself as they continued their
discussion. At least they didn’t seem so frightened anymore.
For the rest of the fall the incidents
continued. Then they stopped as abruptly as they had started. Either the
culprit was afraid he was going to get caught, or else. . .
Wait a minute. You don’t suppose there
really WAS a ghost?
Naaa. . .couldn’t be.
LeAnn R. Ralph http://ruralroute2.com;