By Jessica Bowman
Ghost stories. Everyone knows at least one good one. Sandpoint is no exception. Talk to the right person, and you can find out which buildings are really haunted in town.
Some people think that you have to believe in ghosts for them to be real—that somehow not believing will create a barrier between the ghost world and ours. But how do you explain the unexplainable? The lights that turn themselves on and off, the feeling that someone is standing next to you, the voices in an empty room. We, the believers, call those ghosts.
In some places, to some people, these ethereal beings are more prominent, more persistent. My own experiences of late have prompted me to explore and question just who or what is out there.
It was on a regular day, busy at work alone in the Sandpoint Middle School library, that I heard her: “Mom. Moooooom. Mom.” Over and over, I heard it. Being a mom, I thought it sounded like my daughter.
“Isabella?” I called out, getting up and looking around. I knew she wasn’t in the library—she was at school by herself. But I also knew what I’d heard, and there was no one else in the library that I could see.
I began wondering if I’d actually heard anything. But throughout the year, other small things would catch my attention. I might see a student out of the corner of my eye and would go to ask them if they needed some help, only to find that I was the only person there. Other times, I would come into work and find books on the floor. My suspicion that I was not the only being in the library was confirmed in January.
After school one day, there was a cluster of teachers and custodians standing in the hall in front of the library. Bill, one of the night custodians, was telling a language arts teacher about the woman that he’d seen leaving her classroom.
“I saw her walk right out of your room and out the door. Are you sure you weren’t here?” he asked.
She was insistent that she was not. “It must be Oh Mom,” she replied.
Curious, I asked who Oh Mom was.
“Oh, she’s the ghost here,” she answered. “Sometimes you can hear her calling out, ‘Mom. Oh mom.’”
Right then, I knew I wasn’t just imagining things. There really was a ghost living here. Curious about the ghost who shared the library with me, I asked other teachers and staff if they had ever encountered her and found that several staff members had. Mixed amongst the typical haunting stories: the feeling that something is there, hair standing on end, goosebumps, books falling off off shelves. A few at the middle school have had more personal encounters with Oh Mom. Some of these were years ago, some as recent as last week.
Eighth-grade science teacher Susan Augustyn recalled that she “was standing at the board with a student, and we both saw something brush past us. My hair was on end and so was his. No one else in the class saw anything. But we both did.”
Augustyn also told me she “used to come in and work on the weekends, but I don’t do that anymore. I could just feel a repelling, pushing me out. That space [the library and the conference room] you can just feel like something is there.”
Dave DeMers, school athletic director, has several stories about her. “One night, it was after a game so it was late,” he said of his favorite incident. “My daughter and I were in my office. And we hear this noise, like someone is out in the gym playing basketball. But when we went out there, there was just a ball. And I know I’d put those all away.”
Just a few weeks ago Jim Goodin, the school’s head custodian, was here early in the morning. The lone person in the building, he started at one end of the hallway turning on lights as he went. Soon he reached the last light switch.
“I took my key to turn on the light—it’s a special key,” he said. “And as soon as I flipped on the switch, the door across the hall opened slowly and then closed slowly. I looked around to see if someone had come out of the room. Now, that door was locked.” The room that the door had opened and closed on was the same door that Bill had seen someone leaving from a few months before, just down the hall from the library.”
Knowing I was researching this story for the Reader, Dale Clark, night custodian for the middle school, sought me out. “[Last Wednesday] I saw her,” he told me. “I was outside locking up the quad and I shone the flashlight on the windows, and all of them curtains was movin’ … like she was running up and down with her hands on the blinds. Oooh. Gave me goosebumps.”
The curtains Dale was referring to were the blinds in the library. Facing the quad, the entire length of the library is windows covered in blinds.
The staff here thinks that she is becoming more restless as summer approaches. We aren’t sure if it’s because she is excited to have the school to herself for the summer, or if it’s because she will be lonely without all the noise from staff and students.
What I do know is that after being around her all school year, there is no doubt in my mind that ghosts are real, and I’m sure that there are several other buildings in Sandpoint with similar stories.
This is going to be an ongoing feature here for the upcoming summer months. About once a month, Jessica Bowman will research a handful of different locations that have been rumored to be haunted. Know of any locations we should check out, or have ghost stories to share? Write to [email protected] with “GHOST” in the subject line.
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