We’ve all hated school at one point or another in our life, but have you ever been terrified of the school you were restrained in? Of course massive exams and strict teachers rattle our bones every now and then, but at Matthew Whaley Elementary School, there loiters a playful shadow of a boy, snickering and amusing himself around the school grounds.
Matthew Whaley Elementary School sits in Williamsburg, VA, adjacent from the elegant Governor’s Palace. Part of the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, the school used to belong to the family of Matthew Whaley. Matthew, who gained the nickname “Mattey” by his mother, was born to the parents of James Whaley and Mary Page Whaley in 1696. Matthew died in 1705, at the age of nine, due to a disease that was plaguing young children all over Williamsburg. Today he is buried at the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, not far from the original school, alongside his father. After her son and husband died, Mary Whaley decided to create a school for the poor, where tuition would be free, in honor of her late son who believed in equality for all children. The school soon became popular with several children attending and enjoying the classes. Mary Whaley eventually left for England and when she did, she gave the ownership of the school to the Bruton Parish Church-the church she attended. After she died in 1742, the school became somewhat of a hassle due to no longer having a loving and passionate supporter. The school was torn down around the Civil War due to the wishes of William & Mary President, Benjamin S. Ewell. Years past and soon the school was put under discussion. The English court talked to the Bruton Parish Church about re-starting the school, upon which the church directed the English Court to the College of William & Mary, whom was responsible for the disappearance of the school. The college did not rebuild the school building, however they started up a grammar school in honor of the Whaley family and called the teachings “Grammar and Mattey School” after Matthew’s loveable nickname. Classes were held in the in the Brafferton House on the campus in 1867, which used to be the site of the Indian school. It wasn’t long before the college decided to rebuild the school over by the existing Governor’s Palace, close to where it once originally stood. Over the years, the college has changed the name of the school and reorganized its’ purpose, but in 1919 the school, in honor of Matthew Whaley, was turned over to the School Board of Williamsburg in interest of the local students. Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, during the reconstruction of Colonial Williamsburg gave $50,000 to the school for remodeling and upgrading the building, in which bricks of the old Governor’s Palace were placed on the foundation and walls of the now remodeled Matthew Whaley School which sits on Scotland Street.
Matthew Whaley was known to not have many friends, which upset his mother for she feared he might grow up lonesome. As he neared the age of adolescence, Matthew befriended a slave boy. The two were seen playing in the grass of the Governor’s Palace day and evening. The two shared a bond closer than that of companionship. Their neighbors were shocked to see such a well brought up boy to be playing with a slave, but that subject never bothered Matthew’s parents, as Mary Whaley saw no difference between the poor and the wealthy, and so Matthew never saw the difference either. When Matthew’s friend grew ill and passed away, it was said that Matthew soon died of a broken heart, but it was most likely the disease of pneumonia that took his friend that also later consumed him. Where the original school stood, it is said that there Matthew Whaley is seen the most, often with his slave friend. The two will play in the palace green late at night, laughing loudly, their voices reverberating around the desolate green.
The new school, built in honor of Matthew Whaley, has some strange happenings as well. The elementary schools kids have dozens of stories where they have noticed little Matthew around the halls. Whether these tales are just that-tales, or of real occurrences, they still strike wonder in all who hear them. Young students admit to seeing Matthew most often in the school’s attic. Ones will say that Matthew will be slumping around the school and will approach children, leading them up into the attic to play games with them. Others say that if the child is being bad, Matthew will punish them by pushing them through the floor of the attic. Most often, his mischievous laughter is heard booming from the attic, or through the bare halls, as if he is still playing a game even when everyone has left.
There are still a few other creeping ghosts that haunt the school today. Several have reported of seeing two slave boys lurking around the schoolyard late at night. Rumors have been passed around that those two boys are ghosts of slaves that were killed by assailants during the anti-desegregation period in the 1960s. The boys hide around the schoolyard and pop up late at night to continue wandering around, as if they are still skittish even after death. The wind will blow, chilling late visitors who dare to venture around the schoolyard late at night, and they will spot the two boys drifting around the school, or perhaps hear the unsettling laughter of Matthew Whaley.
It is known that these four ghosts are not mean and do not inflict harm on students or faculty, but still today the young students will insist that Matthew likes to play the occasional practical joke, whether stealing textbooks or writing on the chalkboard, which are now dry-erase boards. Few students claim that Matthew Whaley stays around in order to make life fun at the school, for when he died, he was still just a spirited and irresponsible child.
Why Matthew decides to hang around, the reason is uncertain, but what is known is that he does hang around, leaving behind a joyous and suspicious aura of feeling.