Friday, October 18, 2013

Photos of Jacksonville Florida's Infamous "Haunted" School Number Four


I was in high school the first time I heard the tale of haunted School Number Four, one of the first schools in Jacksonville, Florida's long, eclectic history and formerly known as Riverside Park School, then Annie Lytle Elementary School before its doors closed in the 1960s. It was condemned in the 1970s. Some say a basement boiler exploded, killing helpless students and teachers, and their unsettled spirits now haunt the grounds. Others said the basement was a portal to hell! (It's sometimes called "The Devil's School"!)


All of the stories are merely local legend, but it didn't stop my classmates from staging break-ins in search of the supernatural. I went with a group of friends one night years back, but all entrances were barred. As a vintage seller and history lover I am enamored by the gorgeous building minutes away from my apartment and finally ignored the No-Trespassing signs and threatening graffiti tags to get shots of the inside.


I snuck in around back and parked a little ways from the building to avoid suspicion. Right when I was about step out of my car a patrolling police officer in a small white go-cart zoomed around the building, when he was out of sight I ventured within the foreboding chain link fence to examine the decaying exterior.


The architecture is beautiful, it's amazing to witness all the supplies and details that went into making our Nation's earlier schools. You rarely see character like this in newer buildings. The white columns are striking.


The vines and ferns are lush, nature's reclaiming its territory. The tagging adds more texture to the haunting beauty of the building. A slim black cat darted inside a hole on the side of the building right before I snapped this shot. I love exploring areas like this, pensive quiet places to contemplate humanity's place in the universe. When we're gone, plants and animals will thrive without our meddling intervention.


I didn't intend to fully go inside but the peeks inside from the exterior were so enticing, I thought I might have to scale one of these windows.


Luckily I found another entrance. This door was boarded up the last time I drove by. The board had "THIS SCHOOL IS NOT HAUNTED" written boldly across the front, perhaps written by property owners tired of us meddling kids sneaking inside to seek ghosts, demons, and thrills.


The first look within. Brick walls, the raw industrial aesthetic and urban decay recalled the original Nightmare of Elm Street with a mix of Candy Man and more recently, the gorgeous Last of Us video game. I was a little wary of going further alone and encountering a violent vagrant but I was at least armed with...my tripod; could wield it like a club and bash someone! I kept exploring.


I loved thinking of what the school must have been like it when it in session, will our high schools end up like this someday?


Under my feet at some parts were the original rotting floor boards, and others just the foundation where plant seeds took root.


The graffiti was just as interesting as the old building its self, juxtaposed beautifully against the texture of wood, stone, and brick, adding color to the now "lifeless" building.


The classrooms were scattered with debris, broken glass, wood, beer and liquor bottles. I wanted to explore every room and corridor but that was too risky. The large holes at the bottom of the floor, are those vents? Anyone else immediately think of movies and video games where you have to crawl through similar ones to survive? Any time you try you encounter mutant roaches, killer dogs, and shotgun toting psychos. I watch too many horror movies/games...


No wall was without artwork and tagging. I especially love "Fuck who ever ruined this" in orange at the bottom.


I just love the sight of that original flooring painting a picture of what this school was like in the distant past.


I'm fascinated by the array of trash trespassers left behind, too.


This was in the center of the school, probably a stage where assemblies took place. My research says a fire transients started caused the collapse of the roof.


It's fun to make theories about the various clandestine holes and cubbyholes in the building.


My camera battery was dying and I felt like my luck of not running into a cop or fellow intruder was running out so I didn't explore more of the second floor. I'm still dying to document every inch of this gorgeous building.


A funny note, the front of the second floor is surrounded by the expressway, it's an interesting passage of time, to see what was a place of learning now decrepit with cars zooming past on the highway from the windows. And fun to be inside the place I'd frequently pass on the high way and think, "I need to get in there!"



Could you imagine exploring this place as a teenager at night? I'd still love to come in here for nighttime exploration but you'd need a big group for that.


I left with hundreds of pricklies to pull off my boots and dress and a renewed desire to explore abandoned spaces and tell their story.


Do you have any "haunted" places where you live? Do tell! Would love any ghost town recommendations to explore, too.

Interesting links: A YouTube video of "ghostly voices" recorded in the school and some history and a write-up of the school by Weird US. Reading more online makes me want to go explore the creepy basement, too! But I need back-up for that one!
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58 comments:

  1. I like the graffiti!

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    1. Me too, so beautiful! Reminded so much of the set design for the Cabrini-Green housing projects in "Candy Man".

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    1. It was gorgeous! Gonna have to visit it again and take more creative photos before it's inevitably bulldozed someday.

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  3. I love graffiti. My favorite was the first pic..."bitches aint shit" Gotta say, he speaks the truth!

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    1. Haha! There was a lot more I wanted to share, something about all the art on the walls being done with "pussy ass" paint and such :D Lots of "fucks" in there too, so much to read and interpret in there!

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    2. I loved the graffiti that said all dudes in the world suck dick! Hahaha

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  4. Omg. Email me the next time you go. My entire life I have wanted to go exploring that place! Its even more amazing than I imagined!

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  5. Omg. Email me the next time you go. My entire life I have wanted to go exploring that place! Its even more amazing than I imagined!

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    1. We may go back tomorrow morning if you're game, I want to see the creepy-ass basement of legend! It is absolutely gorgeous inside.

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  6. Ok for one those pictures are stunning. Girl you have come *so far* in your picture taking. I get to say that with confidence, remember I was here when you first started under a different blog. :) Two what a beauty of a building! Makes me kinda sad to see it dying. But doesn't every town have one dying school? I was lucky enough to go to a school just like this one. It really fills my recollections of high school with rich detail. Was that a courtyard in the middle of the school? Mine had one to. Interesting story because that courtyard was where the original high school was. A small little building and the new (new as in 30s heart of the depression) was built around it until it was no longer needed. I wonder if the same is true for school number 4?

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    1. Thanks Kari! My boyfriend and I were looking at early product photography I did for other people and yes...MUCH improvement! Taking dozens to hundreds of photos a day will do that for you! Excited to keep learning about it every day :D

      From what I'm reading that could have been an auditorium that transients accidentally burned down in the mid 1990s. The school's got a pretty fascinating history and is infamous enough to be visited by ghost-hunters across the nation. This video says it was built over a basic wooden school house that was at the same sight in 1891 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRv8i7o71tk

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    2. Oh yeh, what other blog is this? Maybe you mean Thrift Core in the distant past when it looked REALLY different and I sometimes called it ThriftCore? I've made many other websites but this is my only blog.

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  7. These pics are so great! I love places like that. I'm not sure if it's haunted, but I explored a dead mall a few months back. http://www.williambrucewest.com/2013/01/09/forgive-us-our-trespasses-aka-malled-to-death/

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    1. I'd never heard of a dead mall before, that is AWESOME! Reminds me of the start of Silent Hill 3. I explored something similar in Orlando, International Drive has a lot of abandoned theme parks attraction knock-offs of Disney, there's a China themed one I need to see. At the time I saw a Pirate Themed one with such a tiny smattering (2-3?) of employees it may as well have been completely abandoned.

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  8. VERY cool and spooky Van! My husband and I just love love love exploring abandoned places. It's something of a weird hobby for us. :)

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    1. I love it too, trying to get back into it. Expect more photos of cool abandoned places! Would love to get some shots in ghost towns too, missed my chance to go to a nearly extinct town in the mountains of Kentucky.

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  9. I pass that school everyday on the way to work. The owners struggle keeping it boarded. It will be boarded one day and the next torn open and the next boarded again. It is nice to actually see photos of the inside!! Love the stage area.

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    1. I could resist venturing in no longer! It was lovely and surreal to experience the inside, I'm anxious to see more of it when i'm better equipped :D !

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  10. You're a rebel Dottie! I would have been scared s**tless to go by myself!

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    1. I didn't go in too far for fear of disturbing vagrants or getting the cops called on me, that'd have ruined my day! I'll be going back with some friends in tow for safety.

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  11. Oh my gosh, that is an amazing place! And I'm so jealous of you going inside! I've always longed to explore run down, abandoned places like that but am a little too much of a wuss right now! :)
    We've got an awesome abandoned high school smack in the middle of downtown Dallas that I love. It's super guarded with police everywhere though, so the odds of ever sneaking in are slim to none. I was trying to find a good picture, but everyone seems to take its picture on the sunniest day ever - totally not creepy!
    http://www.preservationtexas.org/endangered/old-dallas-high-school/
    While looking for a picture, I came across a site that mentions abandoned schools that are for sale! How awesome would that be to own one and turn it into a huge house? My new dream!
    http://www.pic2fly.com/Abandoned+Schools+for+Sale.html
    Your pictures are amazing! Do you know if the school is protected from demo? Hoping so!

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    1. I've been reading that it was supposedly preserved as a historic site but haven't read an official source on it. I hope it is. Also surprising were photos of a fire January of 2012, it was huge but there was no sign of fire damage inside even though huge flames were going right out of the center were that auditorium was. Some sources said there were plans in the past to turn it into condos or tear it town to turn it into condos, a former school not too far from this one was successfully transformed into condos.

      Would LOVE to live in a converted school, a dream indeed! That Dallas school reminds me of School Four with the boarded windows and relative isolation, school four is easy to miss because the highway on-ramps isolate it. I was reading before the fires there were still report cards and antique ephemera inside the building, I would have kept and cherished anything like that if I found it in there but there was no sign of it!

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  12. My mother had this coffee table book about ancient architecture called "The Pleasure of Ruins" and it influenced me as a kid. Yes, there is so much pleasure in ruins.

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    1. Very true! I was raised in Naples Italy and explored the ruins of Rome and Pompeii often, it was a big early influence on my love of exploring "ruins". I still love collecting/reading books on ancient cultures and what they've left behind, lots to be found while thrifting!

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  13. Great field trip! You needed your video recorder and some sound equipment to find those phantoms!

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    1. I was thinking that, we're going to have to go back and try to document that! This NEEDS to be the set for a movie someday too, before an even bigger vagrant fire of property owner's command takes it down forever.

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  14. Great post! Of course, I love all your posts! Love all your treasures and finds! I am going to buy something from you soon. Almost bought that cute little red waterer. Wonder if it is still available..... hmmmm....

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    1. The watering can is taken, but there's plenty of other goodies. Thanks so much for the support! Always needed and appreciated!

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    1. Yes indeed, can't wait to get back to it.

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  16. I looooove this post! I am fascinated by old, dilapidated (but beautiful) buildings. Look up Session 9 on Netflix (or iTunes) - you'll enjoy it for both its plot and location.

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    1. Will check that one out, thanks for the suggestion Iris!

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  17. Great architecture and a very mysterious looking place. It's definitely a spooky spot!

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    1. Sneaking around in there at night in the pitch-black has got to be awesomely spooky, we're going to make a night of that soon I hope ;D

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  18. that school looks like it would have been so grand and majestic! you're right, they really don't make buildings like that any more :-( It looks like it would have been amazing (and eerie) to explore. I love the photo of all the ferns growing in the bricks.

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    1. I read it had a huge fire place in the former cafeteria, I have to go explore and find that! Can you imagine having something so beautiful in your school? Now they're made as cheap as possible around these parts. The areas where plant growth juxtaposed the urban decay were beautiful to behold.

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  19. What an awesome exploration this must have been, Van. I'm in love with decrepit buildings from the past, especially those that hold a particularly lurid backstory. Philadelphia has its fair share... but truth be told, I'm scared of transients/and those pesky patrol cars threatening trespassing charges. But as a would-be photographer, I think I need to be a little more fearless. But I'm not going alone, ha ha. Too many horror movies for me, I guess.

    <3 Jackie

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    1. Philly has so much photographic opportunity, I may go crazy snapping photos next time I visit. I'm always letting my imagination run wild from horror movie overdose, but my love of taking great photos overrides the crazy thoughts ;) Stage a break in, my personal favorite photos are usually from sneaking around where I shouldn't be...

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  20. Very cool. Though it looks like it was beautiful building in it's hey day there's something beautiful and creepy about decaying buildings as well. Thanks for all the lovely pictures of the school, so cool.

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    1. I absolutely love the haunting beauty of "ruins" and decaying buildings, can't wait to document more of them. Though the waste of resources they often represent makes me sad.

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  21. These photos are amazing!! What a great backdrop for a photo shoot.

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    1. Yes indeed, I wanna be there RIGHT NOW taking photos. Boo! :P

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  22. Awesome! Thank you for sharing the pictures! I've zoomed past on the interstate many times and wondered what the old school was like. I wonder if there is someone, in the powers that be, in JAX that could/would give you some sort of permission to explore and make a photographic record of the school?

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    1. I read about someone getting permission to record EVPs in the school so I could probably do that- that would be AWESOME. Might have to investigate that option!

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  23. Great pics, makes me want to visit more! I actually plan on visiting this month since it's Halloween and all, haha. I'm looking forward to taking some pics, too. I used to be terrified of going but now I'm willing to venture over there for my picture taking goals! I'll let you know when I plan on going if you want to go again. I heard Sundays is when groups of people usually go so we won't be alone if police do decide to show up. ;)

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    1. Let me know :) Can't get back in and taking photos.

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  24. Looks perfect for a zombie movie setting or some music videos. This makes me want to go find some old abandoned buildings and take some pictures!

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    1. I can't wait to get exploring and documenting more of them, too. Very fulfilling!

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  25. My husband grew up in Jacksonville and has explored School Number Four as well. His most memorable experience was at night and ended with one of his friends being shot in the butt with a bb gun at pretty close range. I think they were a little nervous!

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    1. HA! Yeah a shot to the butt doesn't sound like fun at all! I haven't explored at night yet but that has me wanting to wear riot gear for protection...

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  26. FIRST OF ALL Wat happend to the city noyse forum? JSO b takin us down becuz dey don't want da truth to b told ! Anywayz listen... Dat skool hause is one messd up location... Y'all think I'm trippn but I got trapped in da basement wit dat janitor ghost nigga for dayz an mi fone was dyin,.. But mi storie will b told And nthin Will keep me silent

    $jamari Jakob$ forever supa fly

    P.S. rip babii mama Shekeila my stori wil b devoted to u babi gurl evn tho u was ALWAYZ a lazy gud 4 nuthn

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  27. If a skin specialist also provides body art elimination services, Jacksonville Corporate Video Production as many do these days, that can be an outstanding way for you to discover places that provide body art elimination at zero charge.

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  28. i want to go with you!!! please take me i just moved to jacksonville

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  29. What's the exact address of this school?? So I can pin point it on apple or google maps.

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  30. Well, another professional way is to make a visit to one of their offices nearby and speak to them officially. Jacksonville small business news

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