What is it about New York City cops and weird hauntings? Earlier this year saw the release of supernatural horror flick [Deliver Us From Evil](movie:739915), based on the true story of former NYPD detective-turned-demonologist, Ralph Sarchie. And now comes another eerie story about a real-life haunting that involves another former NYPD officer.
After decades on the force, the last 20 of which were in the homicide division, and a devout Catholic, retired police officer Bill Cox isn't exactly the kind of guy you'd mark as being prone to flights of fancy or delusion. As a former homicide detective, there's no need for him to invent terrifying stories when he'd been immersed in real, human horror day in and day out for decades. You'd think that his post-NYPD life would be much quieter...but you'd be wrong.
As the transportation and security coordinator for the Barnegat School District in New Jersey, Cox thinks there's one school that deserves a movie of its own: the Elizabeth V. Edwards Elementary School.
When Cox took the job in 2006, he'd heard the rumors that the school was haunted, but, being the grizzled detective he was, as well as a devout Catholic, he brushed off the stories as being nothing more than nonsense.
I guess I was a little bit of a skeptic.
But now, he believes otherwise.
I'm a devout Catholic, so this is a little tough. I'm not supposed to believe in ghosts.
There's something, if you want to call it paranormal. It's not normal.
According to Cox and others in the community, the school, which opened in 1930, is the site of some very, very strange supernatural happenings, and they even think they know who might be behind it. Original schoolmistress and community fixture Elizabeth "Lizzy" Edwards is the spirit maintenance employees believe is still be walking the halls of her beloved school, even though it officially closed in 2004 due to the old building being too expensive to maintain and upgrade. Still, that hasn't stopped Lizzy from keeping an eye on her school, says Cox - but in a benevolent way.
It's always just been kind of mischievous. We don't know if Lizzy (Edwards) is haunting the school, but if she is, she's a good ghost.
Still, "good" ghost or not, the reported incidents have been more than a little unsettling, with all manner of unexplained phenomena occurring. Lockers and doors slam, lights turn on and off, ghostly music plays, and objects are often moved. Maintenance worker Art Walshe even claims to have seen Lizzy in the flesh...or, at least, ectoplasm. Once, while working at the school, he saw the apparition of a woman he believes is Lizzy dressed in an old-fashioned, floral print dress with hair piled on the top of her head. The second time he saw her, there was the fainter apparition of someone wearing a pair of khaki pants standing next to her, but he could not make out the second figure.
Cox has also experienced spooky events, he says. Not long after he was hired, he went to the school around 2 a.m. to investigate an alarm being tripped in the Board of Education office building, which stood next to the school. As he was leaving, he noticed there were lights on in one of the second floor rooms of the school, recalled Cox.
The room was lit up. It was bright.
Because it was raining and such a late hour, Cox decided to leave it as it was and return later that day to shut off the lights. But when he returned with another worker later in the day to shut off the lights, he discovered that the room that had been so blazingly lit up the night before had no lightbulbs. None.
The lightbulbs had been previously removed by maintenance workers and placed in a pile on the floor...and they had been like that for a week, said his colleague.
Walshe experienced another encounter that unnerved him so much he asked to be moved to daylight-only shifts from that point on. While he was working a 3 to 11 shift, he was high on a ladder, busy sanding a doorframe just outside the auditorium. And that's when something eerie happened:
I started hearing a creaking sound. 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 was so rattled that he ran outside to compose himself. After a few moments when he'd gotten his nerves under control, he went back inside to clean up and retrieve his things. Except when he got back, his ladder wasn't there. He found the heavy piece of equipment had inexplicably been moved to a completely different hallway...and Walshe was the only one in the school at the time.
Still, being moved to a daylight shift didn't stop the mischievous spirits from sending Walshe definite signs of their presence. While working in the building during the afternoon, he heard a phone start to ring, and, following the sound, he realized it was coming from the old principal's office.
When he got there, he did indeed find an old rotary phone in the middle of the floor...but it was not plugged into the wall.
It was letting me know they're there.
Along with Cox and Walsh, Thomas Topoleski has also seen things. He was the former assistant of security and had an office inside the Edwards School back when it was no longer holding classes but still contained offices of the district employees. Like Cox, Topoleski is a retired police officer and understood the allure of the abandoned building, with its haunted reputation, on local teenagers. So when he was in his office late one night and heard noises upstairs, he assumed it was adventurous students sneaking in on a dare.
We had problems with kids getting into the building at night. I went upstairs to check, and there wasn't anything up there.
But once he was upstairs, he then heard noise coming from downstairs. Specifically, he said, it was old-fashioned music from what sounded like the era of the 1940s. As he went back downstairs to locate the music, he realized it was coming from an unlikely spot.
I heard it from down the end of the hall, where the stairway is to the basement. When I opened the basement door, it stopped.
The only problem was, at that particular time, the basement had been flooded. No one could have been in the water-filled basement, let alone having set up equipment to play music loud enough for him to have heard from upstairs.
A chill just ran through me. That's when I decided it was time to go home.
Like Walshe, after his scary run-in with the unexplained, Topoleski avoided being in the creepy building after dark.
Still, despite their numerous goosebump-raising encounters, Cox and Walshe both believe the school should be preserved, both for its haunted and natural history. The spirits they've interacted with are benevolent and protective of the school, they say, so why not work with them? Says Walshe:
I would like to see the building preserved.
It's history, and it's occupied. It's for real. I know they (the school's supernatural inhabitants) want to see it stay around, I'm sure.
What do you think? Could this all be explained as nothing more than a bunch of kids wanting to do some urban exploration, overzealous amateur ghosthunters, or coworkers playing pranks on one another? Or do you believe the spirit of Elizabeth V. Edwards (and some of her former colleagues) watches over her school still? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below!
The Elizabeth V. Edwards school haunting...