Old Bend was a large, one roomed schoolhouse built in a small Kentucky town in 1872. It was known to be a wonderful school and many parents did without their children’s help during the harvest season so that they could remain in school. There was only one teacher and a hired man to attend to repairs and chopping wood for the schools stove. Nobody ever knew his real name, everyone just called him Hunt because if he wasn’t at the schoolhouse, he was out hunting for game nearby.
Hunt was known to be an extremely shy but kind man. If a family was short on food there would always be butchered game sitting on their porch in the morning. If a townsperson needed help with building or repairs, Hunt was always the first to volunteer, always refusing payment. He never talked about his private life, so nobody knew where he was from or even if he had any family. There was always speculation though, such as he must have been a preacher’s son because he was so kind, or perhaps there had been a young wife and child that he lost tragically, making him leave his home in grief. Whatever the reasons, he was loved by the town and families always felt better with him around looking over the children.
The teacher, was an unfortunate looking spinster woman that everyone had always called Pet, except for the children, who simply called her Miss Pet as was proper. At least once a year, usually more, she would overhear one of the students joking that she was named pet because that was what you did with dogs. Needless to say, she wasn’t very fond of children but this was the only job a single woman could really have. Miss Pet was a strict teacher; sometimes bordering on cruelty. It was widely known that she had once beaten a young student severely for forgetting her homework assignment. The town sheriff warned her about the abuse, however it only increased her intense dislike of the children.
In 1877, a young boy and his little sister never returned home from school. When dark had come, and their parents still had not heard from them, they rode into town to report it to the sheriff, checking all the farms on their way there to no avail. Search parties were assembled and sent out to search, only to return empty handed. As dawn approached, a strong blizzard came and nobody was able to search any longer. It had always been assumed that the children’s bodies would be found during the spring thaw.
In 1879, a teenage girl also went missing after school. In 1884, two little boys. By the turn of the century sixteen children had gone missing. None of them were ever found. Local gossip had been blamed largely upon the teacher, though there wasn’t even the slightest proof. Miss Pet was eventually fired in 1885 at the request of the students’ parents, but the disappearances’ continued. Having no answers, locals began to believe that there was something in the woods. Something evil. Children were no longer free to roam about town, or walk home from school alone. Traps of all sorts were laid in the woods but nothing but animals were ever caught. The many caves in the area were searched repeatedly for remains or any kind of evidence but again, there was nothing.
It was in 1903, things turned from scary to terrifying. That was the year people began to hear the missing children. This was how the townsfolk learned what happened to the missing youngsters.
As always, the children played in front of the school in the mornings until the teacher arrived and let them in after preparing the classroom. On a beautiful late spring day, the currant teacher, Mr. Dempsey, arrived and went into the school. Only a few minutes later, his hoarse screams of terror brought all play to a halt. Children began to cry in fear as the teacher ran from the building holding what looked like a small animal pelt soaked in blood. The sheriff and other adults from the town ran to the schoolhouse knowing that only something horrible had happened and praying it wasn’t another missing child. What else could have brought forth so much terror from the teacher?
Women began herding the children away from the schoolhouse to the church where they would start trying to calm them down and await the arrival of their parents. Most were inconsolable, some could only moan in terror. By their choice, or that of their parents, several of them would never return to the school again.
Upon entering the school, the sheriff and his deputy were mute in shock. Bloody writing appeared on every wall and surface, simply reading “Help Us!” Convinced that this was some sort of terrible practical joke, they left the building to ask Mr. Dempsey who possibly could have done this.
The shaken Mr. Dempsey was still sitting on the ground where he had fallen, his screams had quieted to small sobs, and fear still caused his body to shake. Spotting the object he had been clutching on the ground, the sheriff bent down to examine it. It took less than a minute to determine that it was a human scalp, and judging by its size, it had belonged to a child.
Speculation and fear spread rapidly throughout the town. Who had the scalp belonged to? The town had no recent missing children, and neither had any of the surrounding towns. Nor had there been any recent deaths of children, which a grave robber could have stolen from either. Plus, this scalp seemed, well, fresh.
Two weeks passed by quietly. It was then that late at night you could hear the sobbing of children from the schoolhouse. Time and again it was searched with nothing ever found. Within six months, several families had moved away and even more were calling for the school to be torn down since it was obviously haunted by the missing children. A vote was held and it was agreed upon that the school would come down.
A short sermon was given in front of the schoolhouse by the local minister for all the townspeople. Board after board was removed with gentle care so not to disturb the spirits within. When the last board was taken away, the town stood in silence, staring at the sixteen tiny graves that had been put under the flooring all of this time.
Ever so gently, what remained of the tiny bodies were removed to the cemetery. The corpses were all identified as the missing children by recorded descriptions and clothing. Not much of the tiny bodies remained. It was the last child to have gone missing who was missing their scalp. Pinned to each small body was an envelope that contained a short note. It read,
“Thank you for the sustenance you provided for the people who were starving in town.