Editor’s note: This feature first published on journal-news.com on Oct. 28, 2016.
He’s heard the voices of young children when they aren’t there. He’s felt things brush by him and watched as doors and lockers slam on their own.
Formally skeptical of anything paranormal, 59-year-old Darrell Whisman says he is no stranger to ghostly activity.
Whisman and his wife, Brenda, both attended Poasttown Elementary in the 1960s. Now, the couple call the building home.
The Whismans purchased the 36,500-square-foot building in 2004, after it sat abandoned for five years.
Since buying the property, thousands of people from all over the world have been fascinated with the building — eager to walk the halls of the schoolhouse and look for any signs of the rumored paranormal activity.
Prior to purchasing the school, Whisman said he never knew anything about the spirits or ghosts.
“I never thought about it … never talked about it before. Some places seemed scary or spooky, but as far as there being spirits or ghosts, I never even considered it,” he said.
But as time went on, his beliefs surrounding the paranormal have changed. This change of thought came after hundreds of what he called strange and unexpected sights, sounds and feelings experienced over the years.
Many, including Whisman, don’t know why Poasttown Elementary, which was constructed in 1935, has become a hot spot for ghostly activity, but there are a few theories.
The site of the school is believed to have been very close to several tragic train accidents, one where two locomotives collided head on in 1910, killing 30 people.
With no hospital close by, the field where the school now exists was set up as a triage center. The thought is that the spirits of those who died from the accident still remain on the land.
The history of the schoolhouse itself is relatively peaceful, with one exception. It’s been told that a young girl fell three floors down a stairwell and sustained a serious head injury. However, the child, known as Sarah, didn’t die at the school, but succumbed to her injuries later that day at a local hospital.
Equipped with the history of the building and rumored paranormal activity, the Journal-News recently walked the halls that have attracted many paranormal researchers in search of unusual activity.
Some of the schoolhouse’s rooms have been updated as Darrell leased them to outside businesses. But many still remain similar to what they looked like when school was in session.
Wooden desks in various sizes are scattered throughout classrooms. Walls lined with chalkboard are now used as a place for visitors to sign their name. Functioning lockers line the back walls of the classroom and warped, faded posters still hang near teacher desks.
Plywood replaces glass windows, which allowed last week for the cool October air to fill the upstairs rooms and hallways.
“Because of what it would cost to heat the over 36,000-square-foot building, I only heat the wing me and my wife live in,” Whisman said.
He is quick to point out that the building isn’t a typical haunted house.
“If you want to be spooked by clowns and people chasing you with chainsaws, this isn’t the place,” Whisman said. “But if you want to be in a place where there’s a likely chance you’ll have an interaction with spirits, then you’re in the right place.”
In additional to welcoming paranormal researchers, Whisman also uses the large building to further his strong belief in helping the community. He has allowed veterans groups, animal shelters and other nonprofits to use the space for charity events. He also allows local police to train their K-9 officers in the building and firefighters to practice evacuations.
“I love it. I really do. This place is my home and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Whisman said.
After the end of the tour, he pointed to a sign hanging prominently on a wall: “When you leave, you believe.”
Thank you for reading the Journal-News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to exclusive deals and newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Journal-News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.