backstory: the school I work at in Vancouver, BC is being seismically upgraded, as are many because many of the schools built in VSB are gaining on 100 years old. In March (2020), before spring break, we all tirelessly packed up our entire classrooms in boxes to be moved over Spring Break to our ‘new school’ for the next year or so — a 120 year old wood-frame school building that has been vacant since 1907 when it’s replacement (brick school) was built next door, less than 10 yards away. When we came to tour it in February, I thought it was fantastic; beautiful original oak floors, 20 ft ceilings and crown mouldings even in the long, sprawling cloak rooms. Plus, it had just been painted for our arrival so the walls were all a fresh, bright white that glowed through the large original windows that spanned two sides of the classroom.

Alas, the day before spring break (the last day at our school before moving), you know what happened — quarantine began. I sat in my tiny apartment over spring break, with my partner as he studied, longingly staring out our 21st apartment window to the city below, itching to get outside. After the two week break, we were now in a whole new world — navigating teaching online from the comfort of our homes. I, however, was going stir crazy, and I knew that we had full access to the school, all we had to do was go to the other building and ask the engineer to open it. Day after day in April, I’d come to school just to get out of my apartment (as my partner was studying, I had been banished to the bedroom to have my daily calls with the children and it was mixing too much Church and State to have the kids staring at my laundry basket while we chatted). Another teacher, Cindy, was retiring at the end of the year and she went in every day, too, right across the hall. Most days we were the only ones but I liked having the distanced-company of a familiar face.

One day I showed up, a very rainy day in May; doors were locked. Cindy must not be there yet. I called on the engineer to let me in, and off I went through the dark hall to my classroom. (The school is 4 floors; the “basement” which is actually ground floor, the first floor which you need to take a set of stairs to access, 4 classrooms and 2 washrooms, the 2nd floor which is the same layout as the first, and the 3rd floor ‘attic’ which was barred off/locked, but runs the span of the entire school and has big, beautiful windows). I felt fine being the only one there, though the ‘magic’ of the building had certainly dissipated with the gloomy storm visible from all windows; everything felt darker and quieter. About an hour in, I heard... whistling. Not wind whistling, or pipes, but a distinct tune being whistled. I assumed there must be someone outside on the school grounds, though with quarantine in full effect and a miserable day outside, I thought it odd for someone to be loitering around a school whistling. I shoved open my window to look out, but my window looks onto a roof that is the ‘undercover,’ making my classroom inaccessible to outsiders below. The whistling persisted, so I decided to get some fresh air and take a quick walk around the building to see if anyone was around. Nobody. I returned to my classroom and before long, the whistling tune began again, distinctly sounding like it was coming from upstairs. I remember thinking, “who whistles for this long? Aren’t you tired?” After a short while of this I thought, there must be someone upstairs; I didn’t see their car and they must have locked the door behind them before I arrived. This must be it, I tell myself as I get up, walk down the dark hall to the large, twisting staircase that leads all the way to the attic. I climb the stairs and with each thudding step I lose the sound of the whistle, right as I turn to the hallway of classrooms expecting to meet a teacher. Pitch. Black. Nobody is upstairs and nobody has been upstairs at all today. Back down I practically run, into the ‘safety’ of my classroom where I can shut the door. The whistling happens once more before I leave for the day but I tell myself it isn’t threatening and I mind my own damn business.

I am not alone again in the building after that, and the kids return in June about a week or two later. The school is noisy and bustling and peaceful, though I always have the un-threatening feeling that there is more company than we can see.

Then.... this past week. Monday and Tuesday are weird days; both mornings, my kids and I smell an overpowering smell of Gas in our classroom. Fortis is called and comes to inspect; they find nothing. There is zero gas leaking anywhere and they cannot surmise why my class is smelling this. We are cleared for safe learning, but my principal says keep all the windows open just in case.

Wednesday: t is October and I, who loves all things spooky, decide to start playing innocent pranks on my poor grade 1/2 students, jumping out and yelling ‘boo!’ from the cloakroom, changing their quiet time spa music to spooky haunted house sounds. They catch on to my shenanigans and say I can’t scare them; I say “I’m going to spend the whole month trying to scare you!” .....

It is a sunny but cold day, I have 2/4 windows open on the South facing wall. When we return inside from after lunch, I notice there is a window open on the West facing wall. I never open this window, particularly because it is above the heater and it is really difficult to lean over the heater and open as these are ancient windows and you have to put your BACK into opening them. I assume my principal has unlocked my door and come in to open more windows as he’d suggested. I think nothing of it, but close it as it is chilly. An hour later, I take the kids outside to play in the sunshine for 20 minutes before their bus picks them up to take them back to our old school for parent pickup. When I return back inside, the window is open yet again. I stare at it, thinking, Ok - either he has come in yet again while I’m not here to open this window, or I am being spooky pranked, or something else is going on. It’s the end of the day and I have several errands to do around the school (photocopying, hanging paintings right outside my class), so I decide to stick my phone in a tub of crayons and hit record so I can see if someone sneaks in to open my window. I forget about it and am entranced in hanging our pumpkin paintings perfectly outside the door, chatting off an on with my neighbour teacher. Eventually, I realize the window is open yet again. I look to the footage and find this...... make of it what you will - it scared my partner teacher half to death but I can’t help but feel as if it’s a playful child playing pranks on me because I can feel it’s presence. 

**footage has been clipped 30 minutes before and 5 minutes after. the building you see through the window is the ‘new’ 1907 building. below my window is flat roof that cannot be accessed. the noises you can hear in the video is me walking around at the door about 20 ft away.**

*NO this video is not doctored or manipulated, and no I did not play it backwards. I am not a psycho. I had to post it to vimeo because we can only upload photos on here (why?!)*