School Legends

Naughty_Felid

kneesy earsy nosey
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In high school, there was a story that our female French teacher (who was actually very attractive) had lost her bikini top during a French excursion, and everyone saw her Bristols! Many a lad who'd been on the visit swore it was true, but I wasn't there so who knows for sure.

good use of the word "Bristols".
 

GerdaWordyer

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I can recall a few urban legends doing the rounds when I was at school, mainly the old chestnuts about 'the Hook-Handed Man' or 'the Escaped Psycho on the Car Roof' - and even then, I think they came via Cub Scout camp. But there were a few more homegrown tales too.

At primary school, there was a persistent rumour that 'devil worshippers' came into the school grounds at night and did awful things down in the tangle of pine trees at the far end. Now, as the trees backed on to a large cemetery, there was perhaps good reason to suspect some nefarious activity, especially when occasional forays down into the treeline on a dare did reveal evidence of fires and ripped-up printed matter which was confidently described by the older kids as "pages from the Bible soaked in blood" (but which they wouldn't show us).

More lurid claims that the 'devil worshippers' would disinter freshly buried bodies, carry them over the wall and then do obscene things to them were never substantiated - but if a burial was observed to be taking place over in the cemetery, a rumour would flash around the playground that the local Satanists would be out that night in the school grounds, to steal the corpse.

All I can say from my observations is that I didn't realise Satanism was such a thirsty pursuit, as the quantity of empty beer cans was easily the most terrifying thing down there by the wall. Even so, it was the 1980s and the whole 'Satanic Panic' was a bit of A Thing, so we were careful to avoid the school grounds at night. Just in case.

There was also a vague rumour of a ghost on the stairs right at the top of the school's main block that would push you if you stood right on the edge of the very top step of the upper flight, closed your eyes, and held your arms above your head (think like the 'Y' movement in 'YMCA')... supposedly, a former pupil had taken a tumble down the staircase and died, and now wanted some sort of unspecified vengeance. Kids would dare each other to stand on the top step and perform the requisite actions; much squealing and attempted shoving would result, until a teacher would come out and restore order.

Interestingly enough, I understand that the school was actually haunted - though not by a child. The kids didn't seem to know much about it, but the teaching and cleaning staff certainly did. More about that on a more appropriate thread...

School trips had their own lore, especially the residential trips in Year 6. One of several venues the school used was an old Victorian mansion which had been thoroughly gutted inside and converted into a modern outward bounds centre; nonetheless, it was reputedly haunted by the ghost of The Blue Nun - which, it's just occurred to me, was probably a veiled joke on the part of the staff members to keep the kids in the dorms at night.

It was never quite clear what The Blue Nun did, other than drift about a bit, though there were some claims that if you saw her, you would die on the trip or, in other versions, within a year. Some kids were petrified; one or two even refused to go on the trip altogether when it turned out that's where their class was staying, so strong was the fear generated by these tales.

Another school residential venue was right on the edge of the beach up on the north coast; veterans of the trip in the year above would regale us with tales of the phantom Bull-Headed Man, who would come walking up out from the sand dunes at night, and he would - well, he would... oh, for goodness' sake, he has the head of a bull, what else do you need to know? Be scared!

The lack of plausible detail, motivation or backstory rendered me quite sceptical about this peculiar 'Ulster Minotaur'. I felt it was probably invented out of jealousy, so those in the class that wasn't going to Cabra Towers - the lair of The Blue Nun - could still try to scare their classmates of a more nervous disposition.

Oddly enough, the beach hostel was in a small town called Castlerock, which anyone with even a passing knowledge of their parents' Stephen King novels could surely have used to their advantage to borrow any number of terrifying plot devices from his oeuvre and, better yet, brandish a copy of The Dead Zone, Cujo, Skeleton Crew or The Dark Half to 'prove' that it all really happened right there in Castlerock/ Castle Rock - because it was actually in a book (a veritable mic drop for ten-year-olds, right there).

I'm not sure whether other schools used Litter Duty as a punishment, but in my primary school a restorative justice measure was to order the miscreant go around the playgrounds picking up the litter after break or lunch, in full view of the rest of the school. Once they'd filled a bag, they would have to go and empty it into a huge (to us) cylindrical metal waste bin on wheels beside the canteen, which always smelt sticky-sweet of banana peel and dribbles from Panda Pop bottles.

One chap in my year was put on Litter Duty and afterwards told us all that when he'd finished and toddled over to the bins, the canteen dinner ladies were in the bin pulling out all the rubbish - so they could reuse all the discarded sandwiches and apple cores in the school meals, somehow.

It seemed implausible, yet curiously the story gained currency as legitimate fact in a surprisingly short space of time. I brought sandwiches with me every day, so I can't comment whether the quality of the canteen food did indeed bear this rumour out as a very real possibility.

By secondary school, there were also standard legends doing the rounds like Bloody Mary and Candyman, though I never hung out with the kind of kids who did that for kicks (though I did see the film Candyman on TV late one night, and kinda wished I hadn't. It also ruined Sammy Davis Jr for me).

The legend of the ghost kid on the stairs also did the rounds at secondary school, with very little variation, other than a light embellishment that the last students walking down the stairs at the end of the day might hear invisible footsteps quickly pattering down after them... but it seemed such a lame story that it didn't get much credence.

What was odd though was that there had actually been a genuinely gruesome and still-unsolved murder on the school premises - yet I never heard any rumours or legends in circulation about it while I was there, which you'd surely think would be rocket fuel for a bunch of over-excitable teens.

Without wanting to go into gory details, workmen putting the finishing touches to what was then the new school, back in the early 1960s, arrived into the library one morning to find the body of a 15 year old girl from the local area. It was clearly murder. Extensive police enquiries never ascertained who did it, or even how she'd got into the building, which was still securely locked (you'd imagine suspicion might have fallen on the workmen, but apparently they were ruled out).

I heard this story outside of a school context, and was very reluctant to believe it was anything other than a wild fabrication - but then I spoke to older people from the area who were around at the time and eventually looked up the local paper's microfiche archive, to find that it was in fact horrifyingly true. The former library had become the school's Sixth Form Centre by the time I was there - but I can't say I ever saw, heard or felt anything odd in all the hours I spent in that room.

More scurrilous rumour than legend, but similar to a previous post, was that one of the music teachers was reputed to be a paedophile - and the fact he left very suddenly midway through one term without any explanation elevated the rumour to the status of 'fact' (one girl claimed she'd reported him for playing the piano using something other than his fingers, but it was never proven). He did look disconcertingly like Steve Pemberton's Herr Lipp character from The League of Gentlemen, although his disappearance predated the show by about five years. Many years after I left, one of the maths teachers was prosecuted and convicted for some material on his laptop of a deeply inappropriate nature - though he never taught any of my classes.

Meanwhile, another teacher (physics) drove a somewhat down-at-heel Ford Transit camper which he always parked outside the school grounds. The rumour went that he'd been thrown out by his wife so he had to live in the van. He was a grumpy old so-and-so - maybe that one was true.

Finally, one that does fit the status of true urban legend concerned that semi-mythical figure, the school caretaker. A tall, virtually silent chap with a flowing mane of white hair, he habitually wore a Led Zeppelin t-shirt under his brown overalls and carried a simply enormous bunch of keys clipped to the belt loop of his jeans. You could hear him clinking as he walked up and down the corridors.

The caretaker was reputed to 'take care' of a number of unconventional issues around the school. One popular legend stated that many years ago, a maths teacher with a notoriously short fuse had kept a misbehaving student back after class and then, enraged by their insolent backchat, had accidentally killed them in a fit of rage. The caretaker had been called upon to dispose of the body.

He had supposedly buried the luckless youngster in the sandy long jump pit at the far side of the hockey pitches, and provided the killer teacher with an alibi, saying that he'd seen the kid board a bus outside the school on the day they went missing.

One chilling twist on the story went that during field athletics training in PE, students slow to vacate the pit after practicing their long jump or triple jump might feel a skeletal hand closing around their ankle...

On a more salacious angle, and apparently more of a topic of discussion amongst female students, was the persistent rumour that the caretaker had been a roadie for Led Zeppelin during the 1970s, and as such had developed a penchant for exotic sexual practices (probably a reference to the notorious and lurid 'red snapper' incident supposedly involving Zep's tour manager and road crew).

It was rumoured that he kept a fold-down bed hidden at the back of the caretaker's store, and certain girls with a reputation for, ahem, easy virtue were reputed to pay him visits over lunchtime, for which they would receive a handful of penny chews from the tuck shop by way of compensation... all complete nonsense, of course, but it's interesting to see where the hormonal teenage imagination goes...

'Penny Chew' seemed to then become a general derogatory term for any student perceived to deviate from accepted standards of female chastity (e.g. "OMG Claire, everyone knows what you did with Andrew at Mary's party, you're such a penny chew") - and woe betide any luckless female student who happened to be observed at breaktime removing a penny chew from her blazer pocket by some of the meaner girls (e.g. "OMG Justine, have you been down at the caretaker's store again? Did he tie you up? Did he make you do that thing with the keys? Did you love it?"). At the time it seemed funny and naughty - funny because it was naughty - though now it comes across as exactly what it was - bullying. Usually whoever had been clocked unwrapping a Blackjack or Fruit Salad would scuttle off, red in the face, which was then crowingly announced to be a de facto admission of their guilt. Kids can be a bit horrible.

So, what did all this teach our young minds?

1 - don't be alone in isolated spots;

2 - don't trust adults unconditionally;

3 - if it happened to a friend of a friend, or 'someone from another school', it didn't happen;

4 - kids would apparently rather invent their own deeply unconvincing and narratively flawed ghost stories than repeat actual known tales; and

5 - don't be caught with a pocketful of penny chews, or the rumour mill will destroy you.
That's a lotta lotta Uban /school legends.
 

IbisNibs

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Not sure if this fits here but I didn't think it was worth a thread of its own but was anyone else told by teachers that the reason school uniforms were in sober colours was so that they could double as funeral wear?
Worse than eternity in Hell! Imagine never being able to take off your school uniform! :eek:
 

The_Discordian

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[...]'Penny Chew' seemed to then become a general derogatory term for any student perceived to deviate from accepted standards of female chastity[...]
When I was at middle and secondary school in the late 80s/early 90s "Penny Jew" was standard lingo for anyone perceived to have cheap stuff.
 

bugmum

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Not sure if this fits here but I didn't think it was worth a thread of its own but was anyone else told by teachers that the reason school uniforms were in sober colours was so that they could double as funeral wear?
Our uniform (for the girls anyway) was bottle green, so not really funeral wear!

One of our Maths teachers was supposedly having an affair with the Physics teacher; this was a legend that ran for years, and you often saw them walking around the school together. He was my form teacher in Years 4 and 5 (Yrs 10 and 11 for the youngsters amongst us); when we left, we gave him a bottle of whisky, and he unwrapped it and said "Oh, how appropriate." It was a bottle of Teacher's, but those of us who hadn't seen the bottle fell about laughing as we assumed he'd been given a bottle of Bell's (Bell being the Physics teacher's surname.)

Another of the Maths teachers was supposed to be a bit of a Lothario who had worked his way through most of the unmarried female staff. (I have a current colleague in the lab who did pretty much the same thing at previous places of employment, and has admitted as much.)

Our German teacher - a short, slightly greasy looking chap - did actually leave his wife and daughter for a girl in the year below me, although not until after she had left the school. I ran into them in one of the local towns, and whilst they walked past me self-consciously avoiding my eyes, I was grinning like a maniac at the sight. To their credit, I believe they are still married and have two kids...
 

Bad Bungle

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At the top of the playing field at School were tennis courts - I only used them a couple of times, which was enough to determine that I had no eye-racket-ball co-ordination. I heard that a boy was walking back down the field when a mate behind him tapped him on the head with the edge of a racket (one of those heavy wooden 70's jobbies) to get his attention. The story went that an ambulance rushed up the School path, round the Assembly block, over the playground and half way up the field to pick him and his split-open head off the grass. If it happened then I missed all that - no warnings from Games Teacher about being an arse or anything either.
However, I was on the playing field during a break days later and saw a large patch of bloody grass with what looked like brain jelly in it. As an adult I now realise that was strings of coagulated blood. Not a legend, just a playground story that turned out to be true.
 

Mythopoeika

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At the top of the playing field at School were tennis courts - I only used them a couple of times, which was enough to determine that I had no eye-racket-ball co-ordination. I heard that a boy was walking back down the field when a mate behind him tapped him on the head with the edge of a racket (one of those heavy wooden 70's jobbies) to get his attention. The story went that an ambulance rushed up the School path, round the Assembly block, over the playground and half way up the field to pick him and his split-open head off the grass. If it happened then I missed all that - no warnings from Games Teacher about being an arse or anything either.
However, I was on the playing field during a break days later and saw a large patch of bloody grass with what looked like brain jelly in it. As an adult I now realise that was strings of coagulated blood. Not a legend, just a playground story that turned out to be true.
Wow, he must have had a very soft head.
 

Impybat

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We had the blue kidnapper clown van stories at my school, as in the kidnappers were dressed like clowns driving a blue van. They were also rumored to have given out special "stickers" which were allegedly tabs of acid. We were also convinced that the Russians were going to invade any minute (this was in the U.S. in the 80s).
 
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