October 18, 2009 in City

A spooky 100th anniversary

Historic school building to be haunted house site

West Valley City School evening custodian Jeff Degenhardt listens to his iPod when he works. Degenhardt says he’s heard all the stories that surround the ghost of “Austin,” but “I’ve never had an incident with him.”
(Full-size photo)

West Valley City School took up residence in a historic building on East Valleyway Avenue in 2000, and this year the school is celebrating the 100th anniversary of that building, which opened as the Dishman School. It is the oldest continuously operating school building in the Valley.

Part of the celebration is a haunted house planned for the last two weekends in October. The fundraiser seemed natural since many people believe the school is haunted by the benign ghost of a former custodian who died in the boiler room in 1964.

The eighth-grade students of West Valley City School, an alternative school for fifth- through eighth-graders, are in charge of decorating for the event and are excited about it, said counselor Debbie Noble. Students are planning two versions of the haunted house: a tame version for young children and a spookier one for teens and adults. People will walk through nearly the entire school, with the gym doing duty as a graveyard.

The age of the building will enhance the haunted feel. An old coal chute is still visible in one room, and there are still glass fuses in some sections of the building. “It’s high maintenance,” said custodian Thom Kelly.

Students and teachers love to swap stories of their experience with the local ghost. Kelly said over the years teachers have reported things like faucets coming on by themselves and drawers and cupboards open when they arrive for school.

Kelly recounts one experience when Spokane Valley High School operated in the building and there was a small day care in one room. One night Kelly heard a noise in the room and went to investigate and found a mechanical swing moving back and forth. He disabled the swing by removing all the tension from the wind-up system. “It started doing it again,” he said. “I just shut the door.”

Old-style televisions would turn on by themselves in the middle of the night. A previous night custodian once brought his dog to work with him; the dog’s hackles went up and the terrified animal ran from the building. “It’s very spooky when you’re alone at night,” Kelly said. “There’s all kinds of noises.”

Teacher John Adams has admitted to having a couple of hair-raising experiences. Once he was in the building alone on a Saturday and headed down the back stairs. “Something came pounding down the stairs right behind me,” he said. “It was really creepy.”

The West Valley City School haunted house will run Friday and Saturday and Oct. 30-31 at the school, 8920 E. Valleyway Ave. The G-rated version for elementary students will be from 5-7 p.m. each night, followed by the teen and adult version from 7:30-10 p.m. Admission is $4 for elementary students and $7 for teens and adults.

Nina Culver

About those mounds

Carl Guenzel has an explanation for the neat rows of perfectly symmetrical mounds that began popping up recently in a field east of Spokane Valley Mall.

“Martians,” he said.

Actually, they’re the result of additional development in an area that is becoming Spokane Valley’s commercial center of gravity because of its proximity to Interstate 90.

Guenzel is a Kiemle & Hagood real estate broker who represents Hanson Industries. Hanson owns most of the retail sites around the mall and east of there on Indiana Avenue.

The “Martian” mounds were created by crews crushing rocks in the final stage of preparing a 35-acre, mixed-use commercial park on Indiana Avenue, about a half-mile east of the mall. The crushed rock will serve as base material for the development.

Tentatively dubbed Hanson Center East Addition, the Hanson Industries project is near the 250,000-square-foot River View Corporate Center that Walt Worthy Enterprises opened early this year at 16201 E. Indiana Ave. It is next door to a 107-room Hampton Inn now under construction.

The eastward march will continue when the city extends Indiana to the corner of Mission and Flora from its current dead end at the eastern edge of the Hanson property.

John Craig

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