1 January 2021
Harry Potter would be proud. Sixth formers at King Edward VI High School for Girls, Birmingham have launched an investigation into reports of possible supernatural phenomena, including a moving statue and an alleged ghost sighting. Several rooms and a corridor at the school have long been rumoured to be haunted but recent changes linked to Covid-19 measures have brought a flurry of further claims.
Several centre on the Old Edwardians’ room in a remote turret on the top floor, untouched since the school was built in the mid-1930s and decorated in Arts and Crafts style. Although usually reserved for Old Girls, several teachers have recently been billeted there to enable adequate social distancing.
“Many of us have felt a strange, biting chill in the room, even on mild days,” explained the school’s Director of Drama, Hannah Proops “and an indefinable sense of dread, even those with no idea anyone else has experienced this.”
Some, including Classics master Tim Cooper have heard a loud, insistent rapping. “It’s like someone knocking at the door, trying to get in,” he explained, “but whenever I’ve crept up quietly and flung it open, there’s been no one there – and although we’ve examined the door closely, there’s been absolutely no explanation for the knocking.”
In the classroom directly below, girls have reported unseen visitors, often several times each session. “We regularly hear a sudden loud gust of wind in the corridor outside, however calm the weather is”, said Mary Bridgeman, 16, “then the door’s flung open violently, despite being securely shut beforehand and no problem with the handle. We say it’s the ghost come to visit, as there’s no earthly reason for the door to burst open like that.”
“In the same classroom, our friends were giving a presentation at the front of the class” added her friend Ruby Thompson, “and a heavy overhead screen screwed to the wall suddenly crashed down in front of them, which startled them though no one was hurt. But the fastenings were in perfect condition and no one could explain why the screen had suddenly fallen like that,”
Some believe the bizarre happenings may be linked to a life-size concrete statue standing near the Old Edwardian’s Room, ‘Our Lady of Sorrow’ which the second headmistress Miss Edith Major bequeathed to the school on her retirement in 1925. 20 years ago, Peter Wright, a long-serving KEHS porter suffered an extraordinary experience as he approached it.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “I was, locking up the school one night around quarter past midnight and walking along the top corridor towards the statue. As I got closer I was amazed to see it begin to turn slightly, quite slowly and noticeably. I froze and stood there for a few moments absolutely astonished. As I examined it closely I could see a mark on the floor as if it had moved from its original position. I saw nothing nearby that could have made it move and with only me around at that time of night, it couldn’t have been girls playing a prank.”
Mr Wright had another strange encounter around 30 years ago. “When I joined King Edward’s in 1986, another porter George Brace, who was down-to-earth and a bit grumpy always insisted the back corridor and one classroom, Room 6, was haunted by the ghost of a lady called Molly, a former cleaner who’d apparently died there of a heart attack. I didn’t believe in ghosts and thought nothing of it but a few years later I was working in the hall close to this classroom when one of our youngish cleaners came screaming up to me, white as a sheet. She said she’d been dusting in Room 6 when she felt someone touch her shoulder. She’d turned round to see who it was and saw the ghost of a woman. I tried to calm her down but she was terrified and totally hysterical and said she wouldn’t stay in the school another minute. She rushed straight out and we never saw her again.”
A Lower Sixth form group of “Ghost Hunters” is now investigating the accounts of alleged paranormal activity, interviewing those who’ve experienced it and compiling a project on the bizarre occurrences.
“This school fosters intellectual curiosity,” said KEHS Director of Drama Hannah Proops, “and everyone’s fascinated by these mysterious reports. The girls are researching aspects like hallucinations and auto-suggestion and also studying the supernatural in literature like Cathy’s ghost in ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Hamlet’s father plus moving statues in classical mythology. We’re organising a sleepover with the group next term, if they’re not too scared, to see if this provides any more sightings or clues. Our resident film buff Danielle Russell is also taping a ghost ‘mockumentary’, with echoes of ‘The Turn of the Screw’.
I’m an Old Edwardian myself and this school’s always had a really happy, purposeful atmosphere – it’s not exactly Birmingham’s answer to Hogwarts, but we’re keeping an open mind about these strange goings-on. Even if we don’t manage to explain them, who doesn’t love a spooky story to make your hair stand on end?”