Historic school to be setting of haunted house
In 1917, Principal Skinner and several teachers at the first high school built in Bonner Springs went on a murderous rampage, killing all of the students in the school. The gruesome incident fueled numerous ghostly encounters and unexplained deaths and injuries throughout the following years, and the building was closed and gated off permanently.
At least this is the story members of the Parks and Recreation Commission have created to tantalize and scare visitors at its upcoming haunted house, known as Haunted High School.
“The idea is there was a class of 1917 (and) the entire school was massacred by the principal, who went mad, and in the course, everyone was slaughtered,” said Sharon Hicks, who is one member of the three-person Haunted School Committee organizing the event. The other two members are Andy Adkins and David Bass. All three also serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission.
The building where the haunted house will be is now known as the 1918 Building, which was, in fact, the first operating high school in Bonner Springs in 1918. It later became the middle school and in 1984, was closed and gated off when Clark Middle School was completed.
The Haunted School Committee is offering a different scenario, however, one that presupposes the building was actually opened in 1917 for students to attend school. After the murders, the committee members say, the name was switched to the 1918 Building by city officials as a way to eradicate the memory of the grisly crimes that occurred there. But though the story is one concocted from the collective minds of the committee members, Hicks said a building closed off for 25 years is haunting enough on its own, without the props and costuming the members will add in the coming weeks.
“It’s just so spooky in here at night,” she says. “Every time I’m in here by myself, I bring my dog with me.”
In its current state, the building provides the perfect backdrop for such an event, combining the normal dilapidation that results from being closed off for so long with the antiquity of decades-old school rooms, chalkboards and desks. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the committee members say preserving the building’s integrity will be one of their top priorities throughout the event. Both Hicks and Adkins say they have another reason for wanting to take care of the place, however.
“We have a personal respect for the building, because we both attended school here,” Hicks, who attended high school in the 1918 Building, said. Adkins attended middle school there.
Another top priority will be safety, and Parks and Recreation director Skip Dobbs said the building had been inspected and was up to code on everything necessary. In addition, there will be lit-up exit signs and an emergency action plan will be in place. A team of people will also be on hand with flashlights.
During the event, ghost tour guides will lead visitors through different areas of the school, from the music room, to the gymnasium to the kitchen. The tour guides will explain what happened back in 1917 as visitors get a chance to see a horror film-style reenactment of events at each stop. At the nurse’s station, for example, visitors will observe a sink filled with blood as a maniacal school nurse jumps out of the examination room with her bloodied syringe, ready to give the next vaccination.
But that is just a taste of the thrills and scares the Haunted School Committee is planning for visitors to the haunted house, and Hicks and Adkins both say the tour may scare people into believing the unbelievable.
“I think people will say, ‘That was incredible, I was so scared,’” Adkins said. “Because we’re gonna make it so believable that they’re gonna think it actually happened. And I think they’ll have a new-found appreciation for their teachers.”
Haunted High School, an event organized to raise money for the Parks and Recreation youth scholarship fund, will be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 16-17, Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 30. Tours, which will be ongoing throughout the night, will take about 20 minutes and will cost $10. Food and beverages will also be available for purchase.
The Haunted School Committee is currently seeking volunteers to assist with the set up of the event and to perform as ghosts and/or tour guides. If interested, contact Adkins at (913) 244-6047 or Hicks at (913) 535-4724.