“The Devil’s School”

Deemed as the most haunted site in Jacksonville, Public School Number Four is an abandoned building located on the edge of Riverside, near the I-10 and 95 merge. Drivers crossing the Fuller Warren Bridge may catch a glimpse of the graffiti covered school that has been standing for over a century. Throughout the schools history it has had several different names, the most known being Annie Lytle Elementary. This school has seen its share of ups and downs, but is now the base of some of the most gruesome ghost stories that will haunt your dreams.

It is important to note that visiting the grounds of Public School Number Four will earn you a one way ride to the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office. The schools structure is extremely dangerous and the warnings to stay out should not be taken lightly.  The school has had many fires that have taken down walls and ceilings along with multiple holes in the flooring. The building is condemned and the grounds are barred from entry.

There are multiple stories circulating the school and the reason for its abandonment. The school is said to be haunted with the ghost of children who were murdered in the school. The most notorious story starts with the tale of the cannibalistic principal. The principal would take kids into his office where he would eat them alive. He would hang the bodies from hooks in the ceiling, inside a closet that he turned into the makeshift meat locker. The principal would skin the children and eat the meat off of their bones. He would continue this process until ultimately gutting their bodies causing them to bleed to death. These tortured children are said to be host to some of the spirits that can be heard running the halls.

Another popular ghost story circulating the school starts with a serial killer janitor. It is said that the janitor would snatch kids as they wandered the halls, without permission, during class. The janitor would take the children down to the boiler room where he would burn them alive. This is said to have happened for months until one student was able to get away and rig the furnace to blow up the boiler room. This explosion is rumored to be the cause of the major fire damage that the school had experienced.

It is true that there have been multiple fires in Public School Number Four; however, there are no missing children reports from that area, during that time, which could confirm any truth to either of these ghost stories.

There are also rumors of pagan rituals taking place inside the abandoned school. These rituals are said to have awaken the spirits trapped inside the school with the chants of their devil worshiping. It is not a far stretch to wonder if this is how Public School Number Four was given the name “The Devil’s School”. Inside the school there are painted symbols, like the six-pointed star, that cover the graffiti lined walls. There are also places inside the school that have the words “we walk with the undead” and “beware” spray-painted along the corridors. Vandals have long trespassed inside the dilapidated school, but there is no definitive proof of devil worshiping rituals taking place inside the school.

The building that is now rundown and crumbling was once a thriving school, filled with the laughter of the children that attended. Built in 1917, Public School Number Four was one of the first all-brick schools built in Jacksonville. The school thrived until its doors were shut in the 60s. The structure was condemned in 1971, but continued to be vandalized for decades after. Although the grounds have been abandoned, there have been reports of homeless people, drug users, gang members and paranormal seekers entering the school seeking shelter, or seeking thrills. The school is considered historically endangered by those that would see it rehabilitated and brought back to life. Others call for the school to be demolished so that it can no longer be a danger to those who dare to enter.

Whether you are a seeker of paranormal activity or a lover of historical buildings, Public School Number Four is a diamond in the rough. The school has stood for over a century and continues to stand despite the roof caving in some sections of the school. The stories that circulate the school are meant to scare and deter the public from trying to enter the building. The history behind the school adds to the character of the structure despite those ghost stories being told. There has been no evidence to support any of the ghost stories or proof of haunting in the school. Although there is no evidence to prove these stories, Public School Number Four is still a condemned building with a dangerous structure. Those who would like to visit the school should view its splendor from afar and stay out of the structure altogether.

By Rebekah Hudson Childs

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