Cabarrus

Will Bethel ghost haunt school's new tenants?

With the news that new life is coming to the old Bethel School - as a result of its recent purchase by Woodson University - conversation in Midland increasingly seems to be about the old school. After all, it's been a focal point of this community for decades.

But what caught my attention were the stories about the Bethel ghost.

A former school employee, Suzette Stirewalt, described one afternoon in particular, when the all students had left and she and another teacher were alone in the building.

Suddenly, a locker door slammed shut, though there was no one in the hall, and they knew without a doubt, my source said, that it was time to leave.

I've heard of creaking, jingling noises echoing down empty halls in the old school, and a "cold, chilly feeling" folks felt if they were alone there.

Stirewalt described how they would prepare to leave the building at the end of the day: They'd always prop the door open so once the lights were out a fast getaway was assured.

When I first started hearing about a ghostly presence at the old school, I called Midland Mayor Kathy Kitts to see what she knew about it. She helped me get in touch with Rita McLain and Ann Eaves, who both have long histories with the school.

Rita McLain attended Bethel School, then taught both there and at the new Bethel Elementary School for 32 years. If anyone's ghost should be at the old school, she said, laughing, it ought to be hers.

Actually, she said she does think the students and teachers who comprised the Bethel community over many decades have left bits of themselves in that old building, including her. She was sorry to see the old school go away, and she described how hard it's been to watch a building that was in good condition when they left sit unused for years.

Ann Eaves, likewise, hopes to see new life come to the building. She, too, attended school and later taught there, as did her mother-in-law. So her extended family has had someone either attending or teaching at the school virtually throughout its existence.

Neither McLain nor Eaves could tell me any Bethel ghost stories. Eaves said that, though paranormal experts have confirmed her childhood home to be haunted, she herself has not had any interaction with ghosts.

Perhaps the ghosts just don't want to appear to her.

So now I must appeal to the great community of former Bethel students, teachers and staff:

Do you have a ghost story to share? Is a presence there that could potentially roam the future halls of Woodson University, maintaining a link to the days of Bethel School?

Share your stories with me as you remember, with fondness or fright, your days at Bethel School.

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