I was cross-country sking through the cascade mountains in Washington State, when suddenly, I stumbled onto a small community of cabins, dating perhaps back to the 1930's. There was no visible road. Time and mother nature had reclaimed that which man had once disturbed. Near the center of this unknown town, was a small church and a small two story school. I guess, in some ways you might call it a ghost town, though I never expected to find a ghost.
But old buildings, their history, and what life must have been like back then has always fascinated me, and so, I took off my ski's and walked around. The snows had stopped that morning, and the clouds had parted, revealing a bright blue above. How I wish I had more time to look around, but I had to leave in a short while, for the weather in the mountain's can change so quickly.
As I walked up to the school house, I smiled. It reminded me of the school house on Little House On The Prairie. The windows were broken out by vandals, the porch steps rotted. Still, curiousity made me want to peek inside. As my foot touched the first step, I swear I could hear the voices of small children, who were whispering, as the wind rustled through the tree limbs. Was it just my imagination playing tricks on me?
The front door hung on one hinge, as I lifted it up, and pushed it back in to go inside. I entered a large main room and to the far right was a long chalk board. I counted 24 desks and chairs, with a lid on top of each desk. I felt myself smile as I tried to envision those early days, the teaching of the three "R's"! To my right, there was a stairway leading to the second floor. I held onto the banister carefully and made my way upstairs. There were four rooms upstairs, and three had desks, chairs and chalk boards.
But the door on the fourth room would not open. It had no lock, but would not budge, no matter how much my shoulder pushed. Then it gave way, for just a moment, then closed again!!!! It was almost as if, someone or something didn't want me to open the door and go in. I guess I was just persistent, because in a moment, the door flew open and I fell to the floor, on my hands and knees. The room was small and had no window.
Suddenly, I could hear movement, and I was frightened, then I heard the sounds of children crying. As my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I saw the small children huddled in the corner. There were six... no, seven small children clinging to each other, their faces pale, bruised, as if they had been beaten.Slowly, I got up on my feet, and as I did, I whispered, "it's ok". "I'm not here to hurt you", but there was fear in their eyes as they shook their heads "No".
Then, before my eyes, my jaw dropped, "when they all vanished". I stood there, trying to convince myself I hadn't imagined I had seen them. Who were they? Why were they here? Who would have hurt them? I went into another room and sat on top of one of the desks.I felt a great sadness within me, but I had no answer's, when I heard a small voice, coming from the other room.
I walked back out into the hallway, and peeked in the doorway where I had seen the spirits of the children. I saw a small girl, maybe seven, with her knees pulled up, as if she was trying to hide. "Go! Go Now! Go before he finds you in his school house. Can't you see? He killed us and he will kill you too"! "Who is coming, I asked, and why would they hurt me, I am a stranger"? She cared so deeply for my safety, I was touched, but confused.
"Our teacher was a cruel and wicked man! He would beat us with a switch for no reason, and then tell our parent's, we cursed. Then one day, he shoved us in this room, one at a time, and locked the door. He told our parent's there was no more school he said, until we could be found. While everyone in town was out searching the woods, he beat us, and beat us. No one heard our screams. He shouted that we were satan's children, and that God had chosen him to punish us. One day he beat and kicked us until we died".
"But Jacob's dad got suspicious and came to the school house and he found us in this room. Everyone was shouting and they dragged our teacher out back of the school house and they hanged him in a tree". I asked her what her name was, and she told me here name was Cathy Robinson. The little boy I was holding was my little brother Tommy, he was five years old, she said, between sobs. It was then, that I heard a thunderous pounding downstairs, and the sounds of desks being tossed against walls!
Cathy looked terrified, as I watched her vanish! I went back to the classroom and stood by the chalk board as heavy steps told me that I had no place to hide, and I shook. Someone or something was coming upstairs, and I could feel the anger, cold and menacing. Then, there was silence, nothing! Suddenly, I heard a swishhhhh!!! Then, the switch struck me across the face! My face stung like fire as I dropped to my knees, in pain but not before I was struck across my back. I cringed in agony, unable to defend myself, and unable to see my attacker!
Desks were being flung across the room, striking the walls, as if they were made of paper, splintering into pieces. I shouted; "you are a coward, afraid to show yourself"! In response, he appeared before me, just inches away, and I could smell the stench of death in his breath. In his right hand was a switch, and he impatiently swished it back and forth. "Who are you too come into my school", he demanded? "You cannot save the children...they are mine...forever"!
"Leave this place now, or I will surely strike you down"! His eyes were filled with such evilness, such contempt, and I acted without thinking. I grabbed his arm that held the switch and yelled; "You will not whip or torment those little children again"!!! With the nod of his head, I was thown across the room, slamming into desks and landing on the floor. I was dazed, the room was spinning as I heard desk after desk, sliding across the room followed by foot steps.
Then as I looked up into hateful eyes, with his left hand, he lifted me off my feet and held me tightly by the throat against the classroom wall, barely able to breathe. Sweat was pouring down my face. I could feel the two welts, where he had struck me, which made me even madder! His smile was snide, one of conceit. As he raised his hand, to hit me with the switch again, I grabbed his arm, and shouted, "you will never hurt anyone again"; and with my other hand I grabbed my gold cross necklace. I pressed the cross firmly against his forehead as he screamed and vanished as I dropped to the floor.
Desperately I tried to catch my breath. I lay there for minutes, trying to find the strength to stand, with the cross, still clutched in my hand. Then I head soft, small footsteps coming into the room, and I looked up. There, looking at me, with tear filled eyes, but small smiles, were all the children he had beaten, tormented and killed.. All of them had a soft glow surrounding them, and Cathy took a step toward me and spoke. "He is gone, and will not return. You have freed us and we thank you". I looked at the bruised little faces, as my tears rolled down my cheeks.
Then, the ceiling above opened, and a bright light shone down upon them, and one by one they floated toward the light, waving at me. Cathy was the only one to speak, and she whispered "good-bye"! I raised my hand, and smiled, as I tried to wipe my eyes. In a moment, the way to heaven was closed, and it was just a class room again. I stood to my feet, still feeling the switches pain across my back and face, but I knew deep inside, I would have done it again. I made my way down stairs, put on my ski's and continued on my journey.
2002 Raymond Brown