Ghost stories - Kill the myth or the creativity?

The school I work at is huge - I mean really, really huge! A sprawling campus outside the city is home to a kindergarten, primary school, middle school, high school, administration building, stadium and some 4,000+ students, teachers and other staff.


A view of the Primary School I work at - Middle and High Schools in the distance!

Inevitably with a school this size, some areas are used less than others. In fact, this year, there is an entire corridor right by the English department which is not being used at all. Despite the fact that the campus has only been in use since September 2004, some of the 4th grade kids have got it into their heads that this corridor is haunted by the ghost of a former pupil. I’m not sure to what extent they actually believe this but it has become a game/dare to creep down the corridor and look inside the empty classrooms and many a coffee break for English teachers has been disturbed by the screams of children as they reach as far as they can go before running for it.

Without a doubt, the scariest thing they are likely to face is an angry teacher barking at them to go away. “Don’t be so silly!” they are told followed by the inevitable order “It is forbidden for you to be in this corridor - stay away from here!” In many ways, it’s the classic teacher/authoritarian reaction: tell the kids not to be so childish and enforce a ban on going there or even talking about it - kill the imagination and the creativity of thought together with their self-concocted myth.


Image by Alison Elizabeth x

And this is where I have a problem… After all, these are primary school kids we are talking about here and a vivid imagination comes with the territory. My reaction to the whole episode would be different. Why not bring the subject up in class? (I teach some of the kids who have been daring each other to venture down the corridor). Ask them to tell the story of what exactly is down there. Talk to them about why people find empty, dark or abandoned places scary. Explain to them that ghost stories are just that - stories. Maybe even finish by getting them to draw and describe the ghost or write their own ghost story. I believe this would kill the myth but give their imaginations and creativity an outlet.

But, no - doing something like that wouldn’t address the problem I’m told. It would only make it worse by fuelling their imaginations and spreading the story to other kids who perhaps haven’t heard about it or haven’t been fully caught up in it yet...

What do you think? Better to tell them to forget about it and wait for it all to blow over? Or better to exploit the situation and let their imaginations loose?


  1. I'm all for keeping the creativity here. It's a bit like Father Christmas in western countries isn't it? You go along with the myth for a bit, putting down a mince pie and some milk (or something stronger maybe!) for the bearded chap, but eventually children realise the truth. I think this is natural progression and development, and should be just the same for the story you describe above, Dave. Don't tell them it's silly and childish, treat the children with some respect and give them the opportunity to think about the issue.

    I might even get them to do a fun drawing activity, where one of them draws the head of the ghost, then the next draws the body and shoulders...

  2. I agree with you and Mike--work with their imaginations in class and see what comes from it. Take the invested interest when you can get it. Besides, forbidding students from going there only perpetuates their imagination and desire to do it, really.

    I wonder if eventually taking a class trip down that corridor after you've discussed it in class would be a good way to contrast what's imagined vs what's real.

  3. To tell you the truth, I believe that when you, teachers, tell them to stay away because the corridor is forbiden, you are only reinforcing their stories. They'll think that the corridor is forbiden because of the ghost. And I like the idea of bringing it into class, but I like even more the idea of just letting it be. I mean, let the mith grow if it has to grow, or die by itself if it has to die. Why do adults have to get in the way of everything kids invent? It's their own world... Maybe this image can remind you of your childhood. As you may not speak portuguese, the first sentence says:
    Adult's point of view
    And the second one says?
    Children's point of view

  4. Nice picture Shimabuko! If you really wanted to stop them going down the corridor (which I don't think you do), make something really scary happen, like the lights flickering. Set something up for next time!

  5. I'm all for the keeping the creativity going and using it in the classroom. The drawing activity Mike mentioned sounds like a great way to start. Having them tell you in front of everyone what happened in the hallway could definitely help the perception of the fact that ghost stories are just stories, because I'm betting everyone's version of what happened is different.

    I think that crazy imagination fourth graders have is definitely part of the territory, and telling them something is off limits only makes the desire stronger to do it.

  6. Thanks for all the comments guys. :)

    I like David's idea - really spook them! :p

    Personally, I think it's time we started listening to the kids more and letting them take the lead sometimes but all too often it's a case of "Don't..."


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