LAWNSWOOD HIGH SCHOOL, LEEDS
30 April 1996. It’s a hideous night. After a full day of heavy rain and thunderstorms, the torrent finally subsides, only to be replaced by a thick fog with visibility down to around 20 yards. As a result of the day’s rain and fog, the moisture in the air is soaking the three Police cars that are parked up near Horsforth, Leeds. There’s nothing happening. It’s one of those nights where the weather is so bad that even the criminals can’t be bothered venturing out. There’s three teams parked up, a traffic car and two pandas, a pair of officers in each. As it’s a quiet night, they’ve parked up for a chat and with the weather being as it was, it seemed fitting for a conversation about ghosts.
Five of the officers said that they had never witnessed anything that couldn’t be explained by rational means, but the eldest and most experienced officer said that something had happened to him that had chilled him to the bone. He began the story by explaining that it was a similar April evening a few years ago. A call had come over the radio to say that there was a 10-21 at Lawnswood School and this officer replied to say he would attend. A 10-21 meant that there was a suspected break in and the dispatcher confirmed that the alarm has been triggered. Upon arriving at the school, the caretaker met the officer and his partner and they all went to the swimming pool block where the alarm was triggered. There was no sign of a break in or forced entry, so the two PCs and the caretaker entered the block to see if anyone was inside. It was empty, with no sign of any intruder except a trail of bare, wet, footprints that led from the swimming pool, down the corridor to what was the girls half of the school (girls and boys were separated until 1973 with the swimming pool being the divide) and into the pool maintenance/boiler room, which was locked. Nervously, the caretaker unlocked the door and turned on the light – the footsteps extended into the room but came to an abrupt end in the middle of the floor, however nobody was in the room. Other than the footprints, there was no sign that anyone had been in there.
Baffled and understandably spooked, the PCs and caretaker made sure everything was secure and the block was locked up - and that was that. A few days later, the officer who is relaying this story to his older sister says ‘I was at your old school the other night and the weirdest thing happened’. He tells her the story of the mystery footprints and watches as the blood drains from her face - she turns a deathly shade of white. She explains that when she was a student at Lawnswood, it was well known that a first-year girl in the 1950s had tragically drowned in the swimming pool. She had got into some trouble during a swimming lesson and due to there being over 30 girls splashing around, her body wasn’t spotted at the bottom of the pool until it was too late.
A chill ran down the spines of the five officers, sat in the foggy car park in Horsforth, as they complimented their colleague on such a spooky story. Then the radio cracked into life as the dispatcher from Wheatwood Police Station said, ‘There’s a 10-21 at Lawnswood school. Can a team attend and meet the caretaker’. The five younger officers turn to the storyteller and commended him on such a brilliant set up – they’re not sure how he’s pulled it off, but his timing is impeccable. He however, insists that his story was the truth and the call out to the school had nothing at all to do with him.
A little freaked out by it, they quickly agree to take all three cars to the school and they all get out to meet the caretaker, who insists that ‘It’ll be nothing. The alarm always goes off in pool block at this time of year’. He opens up the block and sure enough, there is no sign of entry or exit, and much to their relief, there are no footprints either. They lock up, finish their shift and go home.
One of the youngest officers present at Lawnswood school that night relayed this story to me. He told me about how his partner from that night had called him the next morning, freaked out and convinced that something wasn’t right. They agree that during that evening’s shift they’ll drive up to the school and without the fog and ghost stories of the previous night, their nerves would no doubt be settled and their minds put at rest. It’s the night of 1 May and true to their word, they drive up to the school as they approach the swimming pool block, the headlights illuminate a commemorative stone:
JOAN, Dearly loved daughter. Fell asleep on April 30th 1957.
Still chilled by the events that happened that night – 30 April 1996, the officer told me: ‘you can put these things down to coincidence… until it happens to you’.
The building in which this story occurred was demolished in 2003. On the site now stands the new Lawnswood School.