“The Little Boy with Blond Hair”
As I was completing my second book on the ghosts of Florida’s northern territory, including the rich and most fascinating city of St. Augustine, I had discovered a literal cache of unique folktales and legends that simply needed to be told. From the old Castillo de San Marcos and the surrounding graveyards to the many charming bed and breakfast inns, I had investigated a vast selection of the most reputedly haunted locations around, but only one really spooked me the most. No, it wasn’t the story revolving around the old fort, which has seen more than its share of pain and death, not the Spanish Hospital, which had most likely seen as much carnage. No, this particular legend, albeit a somewhat hidden one, takes place in a school for special children, in a peaceful, majestic section of residential neighborhood — The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.
This honored place of learning is a state-supported boarding school for hearing and visually impaired children from pre-school through the 12th grade. It was founded in 1885 and has a 70-acre campus in the north section of St. Augustine, just before you pass over the bridge to Vilano Beach, resting serenely near the Intracoastal Waterway. The buildings represent many eras of the school’s history, from 1885 to the present day. The distinctive red-tile roofs, and manicured courtyards, accentuated by lush palms and live oak trees, draped with Spanish moss, gives one a feeling that truly offsets the gentle nature of the old south. Today, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is the largest school of its kind in America. Beginning with three small schoolhouses, to more than 40 buildings the school is not only well accepted, but is greatly appreciated by these special children, and their parents who hail from all states across the country. Although many of the children have come and gone over the years, a few of these students have remained here in spirit. One such spirit is known as the little boy with blond hair.
Although many of the children who have come here over the years have graduated and gone on to higher education, and even to happy lives, one poor soul is said to still wander the school for reasons unknown. This spectral child, whoever he might have been in life is an unpleasant entity indeed, as the form he now holds is less than appealing to say the least. This ghostly figure is said to roam the rest rooms on the east wing of the first floor. This horrific ghost is described as a teenage boy dressed in old-fashioned clothes from around the early 1900s. This frightening specter has been seen by several of the female students while using the rest room at night, where a few of these girls are said to have run to the teachers, screaming for dear life. Apparently, this very frightening specter has been reported as being suspended from either a shower rod, or light fixture on the wall of the girl’s restroom. His neck is said to be cut almost completely off, and, appearing to be quite dead. If that’s not enough, this horrible vision is said to get down from the rod or fixture and shamble with a trial of blood following from him, walking into a wall, and then simply vanishing. If such a spectral image isn’t frightening enough, this specter is also said to be laughing with a high pitched voice, with the sounds of gargling, as if choking on his own blood and entrails. As the boy vanishes into the adjacent wall, a huge gust of wind will begin to blow, and then the doors will slam shut, with the lights going out. The hapless child, who experiences these hellish frills, will begin to see a pair of glowing red eyes. Moreover, as soon as you hear that high pitched laughter again, the lights will go back on, leaving the witness victim to bolt out of that bathroom in a trail of screams and tears.
This little boy with blond hair; although seemingly evident of a murder of ages past, seems to elude history as much as it eludes capture. After careful research, I have found no evidence of a murder on the property, or there having been such reports on the premises of the school. Judging by the reports of this spirit’s clothing, however, he could have been living during the time periods between the 1860s and the 1900’s, making it a possibility that he could have been murdered on this spot before the school was build in the 1880s. Though certainly a good mystery, folkloric tales such as these are not entirely uncommon, nor hard to believe. Because the unique comradely that goes hand-in-hand with being in a boarding school environment, children will sometimes create stories that are meant to be passed down from one generation to another, as a kind of rite of passage. Often, these stories are meant to frighten, and like any good fish tale, the ‘ghost’ in question might become far more fiction than fact. Although this particular specter is frightening enough for any haunted location, this school appears to have several other apparitions attached to it that have been seen on campus and in the dormitories for many years. These apparitions have been reported by both the children and the staff of the school, where they have been heard by the blind, and seen by the deaf, these spirits have truly become a matter of time-honored folklore. Along with other paranormal events, such as strange odors, misplaced noises, and cold spots, the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind appears to be a spirited place indeed.
Reasoning and Considerations
Riverside Military Academy Rifle Team 1982 — I’m the one kneeling on the left-hand side
Though this particular story is very interesting, and fun to hear, appearing to have all the earmarks of the classic student-to-student ghost story, such is not as unique as one might think. In fact, it is safe to say that if a tragedy takes place in such an institution, such as the death of a child, such an event will engrain itself deeply in a child’s psyche, sometimes creating fantastic ideas, speculation and question of death and dying, and sometimes that of sheer horror. Having attended a military school during my high school years, I can still remember the stories of the ghostly cadet who was said to roam the halls of the chapel and school building for which was named in his honor. The boy in question was named Paul Elkin, and he was accidentally shot and killed on the rifle range in the 1920s. I can remember the legend of how this unfortunate cadet would walk around in the chapel and throughout the building. He was said to sport the traditional garb of my academy’s antediluvian dress code, the singular hair style of that bygone age, and a sad, sullen expression. And, though I had never seen this phantom cadet, many students over the years have claimed to all the same, and with great detail.
As it was customary for the older cadets to “initiate” the newer cadets by having him go into the spooky chapel all alone at midnight and wait for the ghost to float around, it was bound to invoke interesting responses. Sure enough, on almost every occasion that a new cadet would go in, he would end up running down the iron stairs and back to his room, out of breath from fright, and telling his buddies of his encounter with the ghost of Riverside Military Academy! Of course, we must understand that it’s important to weigh such stories, as with all such stories, with a good amount of skeptical inquiry. In the case of these children seeing such nightmarish creatures, such may indeed be the remains of active imaginations to that of ghoulish ghosts. After all, what room full of kids, a little frightened from being away from home would not want to tell a ghost story or two when tucked in for bed at night? It’s only natural for young and active imaginations to abound a little after hearing such urban legends. So, is there a horrific ghost haunting the rest rooms of this school? Maybe, but it’s a good bet this spirit has been embellished just a little over the many years…You’ll have to use the facilities at this particular school to know for sure.