Liminal SPAces: Diving into spooky spots

MN: Every building has its secrets, whether it’s a centuries-old church or a freshly-built apartment. Darkness and night time can change a lot, and there are bound to be spots where the energy of the room feels off. St. Paul Academy and Summit School is no different. In this podcast, we’ll be exploring the spookiest places around school. I’m Melissa Nie. Welcome to Liminal SPAces.

MN: The cafeteria: one of the most significant pillars of high school life. With all of the construction going on, the normal route to the lunchroom has been diverted. Instead of going through the former science hallway, students have to go through the athletic hallway, climbing up the stairs. But on the other side of the stairs, under the cafeteria, there’s an ominous-looking hallway that leads to an equally ominous-looking room.

MN: Junior Nina Smetana comments on it.

NS: We call that the asbestos hallway. It’s pretty creepy.

We call that the asbestos hallway. It’s pretty creepy.”

— Nina Smetana

MN: As I ventured to the hallway, I came across Technology Coordinator Gene Swanson coming out of it, wearing a hard hat and safety jacket. He answered some of my questions about it and even let me in to take a photo, which you can see on the cover of this podcast.

GS: So this, which you can stick your head down, is a fan room. I don’t know if it’s still a fan room, but with the old building, a lot of the heating and cooling — ductwork — was in here. So there was a fan room. So they had giant fans and they would pull air in and out. And then they had filters in it. Similar to your furnaces at home, you have a filter. And then what happens is these fan rooms are connected. There’s about two or three of them on the campus. And they’re connected underground through what you wanna call a crawl through space. 

MN: As I looked around, the grating noise of a construction worker sawing through something filled the air. Swanson kept on talking.

GS: And that houses piping and water and other stuff. And with the new construction, I don’t know if those are just not being used at all, but this would be a fan room.

GS: Here’s the fan room. Looks like they’re reconverting it. That would be the chase, or piping. So to get from that side of the room…many years ago, the boiler room heated the whole building. So you had to be able to, from the boiler, push water to all these fan rooms. And then they divide them up and they open up into the classrooms.

We did things like crawl in tunnels under the school.”

— Melley Turner '05

MN: There were also tunnels that used to run through the school, and were relatively accessible. Melley Turner, class of 2005, talked about exploring them in her senior speech. I took a trip to the library archive to check it out. She writes, “I love remembering just how silly my friends and I were as freshmen. We did things like crawl in tunnels under the school, and sit under the stairs in the library and grab people’s feet through the cracks in the steps.”

MN: And apparently, the asbestos hallway used to be one of the tunnels. Director of Debate Tom Fones talks more about it.

TF: In the building before the middle school was built, in the basement, if you knew where to go–he mentioned it. The tunnels. They were blocked off but you could go in there and hide. And it was kind of spooky. Sometimes people would get behind the wood that had blocked it off and then wait until someone came down there and jump out at them.

MN: Swanson has been here for 28 years in the tech department, and he’s bound to have heard some interesting things. I asked him if he had heard of any other spooky spots.

GS: So have you heard about the lower school spooky spots? The fourth floor used to be archives. The rumor was, for many years, that it had, what do you wanna call it…spirits. These lights would come on when they weren’t turned on, and people would swear they would hear somebody talking when there was nobody there. But anyway, I’m not spreading any of the rumors. Just repeating what I’ve heard.

[The tunnels] were blocked off but you could go in there and hide.”

— Tom Fones

MN: Apparently, the lower school has some secrets. Bill Boulger is a former math teacher at SPA who retired last year. He has put in nearly fifty years at this school. Here’s what he has to say about the lower school.

BB: Have you ever been to the Goodrich campus? In the Goodrich campus, there is an upstairs floor that is kind of a museum. It’s where they keep a lot of artifacts of various kinds. Not very many people get to go up there. I wonder why.

MN: Junior Sam Steinhacker is a lifer, and he also remembers that area being dark and spooky.

SST: So the fourth-floor thing had a bunch of costumes for all the school plays. And it was kind of spooky because no one was allowed up there, and it was always really dark. One time during an after-school program game of Sardines, one of the fifth graders who will remain unnamed brought his group to hide in those big boxes of costumes up in the closet, and they weren’t found for a solid two hours, making the proctors very, very scared. But other than that, that’s the only reputation it ever had. You go up there, you get in trouble.

MN: Coming back to the Randolph campus, the fourth floor seems like another spooky space. Before it was transformed into history and administrative offices, it housed the Wellness room, some English offices, and other places.

MN: Upper School Counselor Susanna Short comments on it.

SSH: Back in the day when the Wellness class was on the fourth floor, I had to come in a couple of times on the weekend and go up the back staircase. There was no way to turn lights on. I got a very creepy vibe going up there several times.

MN: If Short felt strange about being on the fourth floor in the dark, maybe that’s because she wasn’t always alone. Fones elaborates.

TF: I used to be up on the fourth floor. There was a space where there were animals in the eves on the fourth floor, when I would teach up there. Suddenly, you’d hear a rustling and it’d be a rodent or something like that moving around in there. Plus, there was a hole in such a way that there was a nest of birds. We decided at first, should we tell the people, the maintenance or whatever, to deal with this? We decided to adopt them, because they were sweet. There were little babies and stuff.

MN: So not exactly something sinister, but birds can be pretty startling when they’re unexpected. Especially if they run into windows, as Upper School Math teacher Jim McVeety describes.

We decided to adopt them, because they were sweet. ”

— Tom Fones

JM: There was a window that for a long time had an imprint of a bird on it. Some bird had flown at full speed, it had to just be at full speed, and just slammed into that window full-out and left an impression. It took a long time to get that white impression removed.

MN: Let’s move on to the art wing. It’s got a considerable number of skeletons — more than the rest of the school, for sure.

MN: Junior Hannah Larson talks about it.

HL: So the art wing is so scary because it has concrete everywhere and it feels like you’re in a prison cell. You go down the hallway and it just feels like it’s never ending. There’s little scary sculptures popping up at you every second. It’s like you’re living in a literal horror movie. So yeah, that’s one very creepy place in SPA.

MN: It’s not just all the random stuff lying around in the art wing. It’s also the books.

BB: Well, they have very old books there, in a bookshelf. I don’t know if anybody ever uses those old books. But if old means spooky, then that means you gotta watch out for me.

MN: Finally, the art wing bathrooms aren’t exactly optimal, and bathrooms can be pretty unsettling.

TF: The boy’s bathroom in the art wing never worked. It’s been remodeled now, but in the old days, you couldn’t get water out of the faucets. Everything was all messed up.

If old means spooky, then that means you gotta watch out for me.”

— Bill Boulger

MN: As for the girl’s bathroom?

HL: The bathroom in the art wing is like the continued horror movie. It’s just so scary and it’s always dirty. There’s always toilet paper all over the floor and it’s dark. I don’t know.

MN: And according to the tampon and pad dispenser that’s still on the wall but is completely empty, the bathroom is really old. It displays a note from an inspection that happened in 1975. It’s been 44 years since then. Imagine that.

MN: Finally, we’ll take a trip down to the athletic hallway, arguably the epitome of liminal spaces at SPA.

BB: It’s the oldest part of the building. It’s the only part of the building since I’ve been here that has not been renovated. That and the arena. Those are really the ones that are really the same as they were the day I walked into this place. Every place else has been redone.

MN: Fones expands on that.

TF: I’ve been here 23 years and that’s exactly the same as it was. It’s never been fixed.

MN: It gives off a weird vibe.

TF: It does. It’s like, what is going on down here? Why is this in the basement? It’s a little better now that they have those pictures up of the people that went to school here and played sports. It’s a little more cheerful. But when they didn’t have that, even, it was pretty bad down there.

It’s the only part of the building since I’ve been here that has not been renovated.”

— Bill Boulger

MN: The locker rooms, like any other locker rooms, are also not the best places in the world. When I visited the girls’ locker room, there were two cups of ice cream from the cafeteria just sitting on the bench, covered in marshmallows. They looked like they had been there for a while. It was unsettling, to say the least.

MN: In addition, there are showers in the locker rooms too, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually using them. They sit there ominously, waiting for someone to come along.

MN: All in all, SPA can be pretty haunted and creepy. But when it’s daytime and you’re surrounded by friends, these so-called haunted spots can be lovely places. It all depends on the circumstances. Because, again, darkness changes everything.

MN: This podcast was created for The Rubicon. To listen to more intriguing podcasts like “The Power of Questions” or “Senior Stories,” subscribe to The Rubicon on PodBean or visit under the podcast section. Thanks for listening.

Music credits: Shadowlands 4 – Breath Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License.