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  • The Ghost, the Dynamite and the Fever July 17, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    This is weird little story from Barnoldswick on the border between Lancashire and the North Riding. The year is 1928.

    Barnoldswick is affected by a ghost scare which has broken out like a fever among the schoolchildren of the town.

    The use of ‘fever’ is interesting thinking of that wonderful book by Robert E. Bartholomew and Bob Rickard, Mass Hysteria in Schools.

    The little folks have got the fever badly, and boys and girls have been observed running to and from the various schools in the town crying, ‘Come and see the ghost.’ One teacher was amazed to see a whole class in tears over the matter, and mothers have complained of their children shouting out in their sleep in terror.

    In 1890 the story would have been presented in a completely different manner as crowds of ghost-watchers, and public order threats and the failure of schools to inculcate logic. By 1928 there is evidently some space for introspection.

    When questioned by the headmaster at one school, the children declared that the ghost wore three-cornered hat, and some vouched for his possession of a case of dynamite with which to blow up the school.

    A three-cornered hat takes us back to the seventeenth or eighteenth century: something not strictly speaking compatible with dynamite. Wonder where this detail came from? A book on Dick Turpin, a school textbook even?

    In an interview, one teacher stated that the ghost scare is a periodical affair, and it is thought that it originated this year among the infants’ departments.

    ‘A periodical affair’! Are there are other 19 or 20C examples of school ghost scares from the west (as opposed to the many from Asia): drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    30 Jul 2017: Val, ‘Your July 17 post about the 1928 ghost scare in Barnoldswick (schoolchildren terrified of tricorn-wearing, dynamite-threatening ghost) put me in mind of an actual 1927 event in Bath Township, Michigan in the US. A disgruntled school board treasurer dynamited an elementary school there in May of that year, killing 38 schoolchildren and 6 adults, as well as himself. I wonder if news of this event could have reached and inspired/terrified the UK schoolchildren, with the 18th century tricorn detail added in subconscious association with the (18th cent.) American Revolution. (To your question about ghost scares: I don’t know of any ghost-related mass hysteria-type episodes at schools in the US. I can, however, think of several mass murderer/serial killer incidents at US schools right off the top of my head. Compared to those, the terrors afforded by filmy phantoms seem faint.)’

    30 Jul 2017: Chris from Haunted Ohio Books with a nice equivalent school ‘fever’.