We’re going where?” Ryan asked, an incredulous grin slicing his face in two. “No way! You’ve got to be kidding me!”
“Yeah,” answered Brandon. “They have to move us into the old Lakeview School for the rest of the year. It’s gonna be unbelievable. Like messed up, man. Unbelievably cool.”
It had been eight days since a shop class fire at Eastland Secondary School accelerated into a five-alarm blaze and rendered the institution unusable.
That was on January 21. After emergency meetings and deliberations, the school board agreed they could get a skeleton site ready to go by the end of February. The catch? They’d be moving into Lakeview School, the ancient behemoth on the hilltop overlooking the town and Lake Michigan.
Lakeview School was built in 1902 as an umbrella institution to house both elementary and secondary grades in one half, and a locked-down sanitorium on the other half. The sanitorium was itself separated into two parts—one, a lunatic asylum and the other, for tuberculosis patients.
While it was upgraded several times over the 1950s and 60s, it eventually fell into disrepair. The school closed in 1965 when the town’s population expanded, and students moved to more suburban institutions.
When tuberculosis faded into history and the last patients died, the sanitorium became the region’s mental health hospital. From the 1940s on, the once-barbaric institution experimented with new forms of mental health therapies—lobotomies gave way to insulin and shock therapies and experimental drugs.
By the mid-1970s, only the most severely ill patients were still institutionalized at Lakeview. New types of medication and therapies offered hope for a cure to persistent psychiatric symptoms, therefore patients were more likely to remain in the community.
In 1982, the entire facility was closed. It sat untouched on Mortimer Hill, which itself was a battleground conquered by the British in the War of 1812. Considered a heritage site, the school was maintained well enough to keep it from falling apart, but peeling paint and boarded up windows gave it a decidedly spooky air. Its prominent architecture and creepy aura had proven perfect for a couple of big-budget Hollywood horror movies over the decades, and locals relished repeating the rumors of supposed haunts and tragedies associated with the place.
Ryan and Brandon could hardly contain themselves. For years they’d talked about breaking into the old building and checking it out. They were horror fans; slasher movies, high school horrors, Halloween, Carrie, Prom Night—they had seen them all. The movies that were filmed at the old school? They analyzed them line by line and couldn’t wait to witness for themselves whether some of the rumored odd happenings during filming were actually true.
“Holy shit, if I’d known they’d put us there, I would’ve burned Eastland long before now!” Brandon exclaimed. Not like Brandon had set the fire at Eastland. Surely not.
Ryan’s mind started reeling. “Imagine all the things we can do in there,” he mused. “We can scare the crap outta everyone. It’s like we already know what to do. A few well-placed tricks, and they’ll all believe the place is really haunted!”
The end of February couldn’t come fast enough for the duo. Meanwhile, the time away from classes meant that they could get into a different kind of mischief: they were developing their plan to ‘haunt’ their new school, to disrupt classes and prank the way they’d never been able before.
The two started to prepare. They collected Halloween masks—three of Mike Myers, one each of Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees. Stockpiled matches, accelerant, hammers, paint, fake blood, a remote-control machine that played a series of spooky sound effects. They’d spook the classrooms, dump fake blood in the gymnasium, and even troll the boiler room, just like in Nightmare on Elm Street. If Lakeview wasn’t already haunted, they’d be responsible for making both the administration and their fellow students believe it was.
As usual, construction and upgrades to the temporary learning institution took longer than anticipated. Wiring had to be torn out and replaced, contractors had to install class computers and internet, and washrooms and common areas needed to be brought up to 21st century standards.
The mammoth boiler still worked fine, and even some of the furniture was still usable. Physical cleanup was minimal—enough to keep the teens safe but no interior decorating was in the budget. With media, camera crews, and school administrators present, the school principal and the mayor cut the grand opening ribbon on March 15.
The school’s 950 students swarmed the building, hurrying not only to find their classrooms but to gaze with awe at the old fixtures, high ceilings and barred windows. Shouting and chattering, they ran in, greeting friends they hadn’t seen in a while and super excited about being let loose in the creepy old landmark. Almost a thousand people were about to inhabit a legendary spook-filled building for at least the remainder of the school year.
Brandon and Ryan stood and watched, waiting until the rush slowed and then sauntering in, taking in the somewhat-familiar scenery.
As they pushed open the heavy steel door, they high fived each other. This was going to be their year.
The first few weeks were rife with problems one might expect with an old building: the lights flickered, breakers were blown, and rusty iron-laden water flowed from the washroom faucets.
The boys laid low and monitored the not-so-strange happenings; they would use the building’s deficits to their advantage when they began their ‘haunting’ campaign.
Classes continued as well as they could, but cellphones and wi-fi connections were almost useless. A simple text from one student often took several hours to show up in another’s. School had been in for almost a month and the ‘new normal’ was starting to become routine.
Brandon slammed his lunch tray on the banged-up metal cafeteria table. “This is wild,” he said to Ryan as he folded himself onto the attached bench. “Imagine if these tables could talk. I mean, look at the dents and scratches on them…it’s like they were built to withstand knives and hammers and weapons crazy psychopaths might get their hands on.”
“Yeah, and did you see the back wall in Room 17?” Ryan exclaimed. “I know they tried to fix things before we moved in, but I swear it looks like there are scrawled words underneath the paint on the back wall.”
“Gonna file that under ‘creeptastic’”, Brandon noted. “That’s something we can use to our advantage. So…when do we start?”
“How ‘bout tonight? After everyone leaves?”
“Sounds good. Let’s start with Room 17.”
Despite the building’s bright new purpose, the rumors lingered. Janitors didn’t want to work in the school after dark, and extra-curricular activities ran immediately after classes and were over by dinner time. The boys knew that if they bided their time, the school would be empty before sunset. They’d discovered a broken ground-floor window at the unused back of the building. That would be their entry point.
Equipped with paint that had been stashed in Brandon’s locker, they made their way to Room 17. They stood in front of the back wall, trying to determine what the faded scrawls revealed.
“D…IE,” Brandon exclaimed. “Die? Oh shit, that’s too good to be true! What’s the rest, can you make it out?”
“Looks to me like…N…O..N… NON…STR? NONSTR?” Ryan guessed. “No, that doesn’t make sense!”
“No, it’s an M! MON…STER! MONSTER!” Brandon yelled. “Oh my god, it says, “DIE MONSTER!”
“I’m gonna piss myself,” Ryan laughed. “DIE MONSTER. It couldn’t be better than this. Seriously, let’s get to it!”
Ryan opened the can of red paint and Brandon dipped the brush. “Make it messy,” Ryan directed. “Creepy, like it’s written in blood. This is gonna be hilarious! I can’t wait to see everyone’s reactions tomorrow morning.”
The red paint itself did one better; it dripped and rolled at the end of each letter, making the words DIE MONSTER appear even more horrific. They stood back and admired their creation.
“We’re in here first thing tomorrow, right, home room,” Ryan said. “Let’s get out of here. Hoo-ee, the sparks are gonna fly in the morning!”
Ensuring their tracks were covered, and after cleaning up meticulously, the boys left for home. They were so excited neither one slept a wink.
The next morning, Brandon and Ryan met at the front steps of the school. They were giddy with anticipation.
“Ready, monster?” Ryan laughed. “Let’s go to Asylum Room 17!”
In the corridor, students were buzzing with excitement—there was something going on. Mrs. Patchett exited from Room 17, wringing her hands and crying. Two ghostly pale blonde-haired girls ran after her, all the way to the front door.
Their little plan was working, they thought. Everything was happening as it should. The boys grinned with satisfaction.
“Nonchalant, man…” Brandon whispered. “Like nothing’s going on, just a little curious, that’s it. Nobody saw. No one will know it was us.”
Ryan pulled open the classroom door. Several students were milling in front of the back wall, looking shocked and terrified, with whispers and gasps all around.
Brandon and Ryan chuckled. “First one down, how many more to go?” Brandon sighed. “It’s just gonna get better and better!”
Displaying what they considered to be an appropriate level of interest, the boys walked towards the scene of last night’s artwork. They froze.
“YOU WILL DIE. I AM A MONSTER,” it now read.
About the Creator
I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.
I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.