By John Macklin
“The rules,” said Harold Mortimer, “are quite clear. No child will enter the classroom before morning assembly.” He turned with a menacing stride perfected over nearly 30 years of school-mastering, approached the door of classroom three, and swept it open.
The children standing in single file in a nearby corridor waiting to enter the school hall for morning prayers, watched with interest. They too had heard the chatter and laughter which had come from behind the closed door of classroom three and now waited for the culprits to be led out.
Instead they saw their headmaster halt abruptly in his tracks as he entered the room, and watched with pleasure as his scowl turned to a look of blank amazement as he turned and hurried out. For the classroom was empty.
So it was that in the summer term of 1939 the small Lancashire village school near Preston suddenly acquired what was claimed to be a class of ghosts… children who could be heard, not seen, and were claimed to be not of this world.
Harold Mortimer, headmaster of the school, and his two assistant teachers, Mrs Hilda Shaw and Miss Davina Bailey, were at first certain there must be come sort of rational explanation for the incidents, but one was never found.
Today the phenomenon of the phantom children still intrigues psychical experts–and the people who, as children, claimed to have experienced it at first hand. Shortly before his death, Mr Mortimer recalled the events of the summer of 1939 for the local county magazine.
“I had been at the school for more than ten years,” he remembered. “It was a typical rural junior school of the time, with good discipline. I’d never had any problems with the children, although I must confess I was a pretty strict headmaster.
“But I tried to be humane and fair and I like to think the children respected, and even quite liked, me.”