Does Jessica Haunt Pike Lodge?

I’ve driven past the Pi Kappa Alpha Memorial Lodge many times, but I never knew much about it. I’ve always thought I’d like to the have the aluminum beer can recycling concession at the place, but that reflects my prejudices.

The parking lot was empty on Easter Sunday, so it seemed a good time to pull over for a quick mug shot of the building.

I had heard that the building on South Sprigg, just below the cement plant, had been a former school, so I didn’t think it would take long to get its history. Pickings were slim, though.

It was Lafayette School (Nope, see update)

The Pike web site had this to say about it: November of 1973: Pi Kappa Alpha had long been searching for an off-campus building for many functions. In the Fall of ’73 the chapter and its housing corporation found the Lafayette School house on S. Sprigg St. The Pi Kappa Alpha Memorial Lodge, as it would come to be known, serves as a social place as well as a post for weekly chapter meetings.

Paranormal Task Force investigates Pike Lodge

What was more interesting was a 2007 visit to the lodge by the Paranormal Task Force conducting a two-day Ghost Hunting 101 Class with the Adult Education Department of Southeast Missouri State University.

You can get the whole story by following the link above, but here are some highlights.

The SEMO Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) Lodge is rumored to be haunted by the spirit of a girl ghost named Jessica who in the early 1900’s met ill fate when this was once the Lafayette Schoolhouse. The stories vary a bit, but the common denominator in all of them involved the old boiler, coal chute and the grate above them.

Eye witness accounts and various online legends report that neighbors have seen the spirit of a little girl through the windows playing jump rope inside or just standing at the front windows watching when a train passes on the nearby tracks. Another story tells of a young neighbor boy who came over when the Lodge was having a meeting asking if it was okay for him to be in there when they were all gone. When the brothers of the Lodge told him no and that was dangerous, the boy told them he came over many times in the past to play with the little girl there.

Other accounts include strange noises, the lights swaying excessively on their own, open windows slamming shut or shaking, strange rappings, the unexplainable malfunctioning of electrical equipment and sinister laughing manifesting where the boilers once were.

What did the PTF team find?

During our mini-investigation we experienced the following:

  1. Traveling cold spots.
  2. Unexplainable EMF spikes which moved about and reached levels near 10 milligauss.
  3. While using two K-2 EMF meters and having two different people hold one each at a good distance apart, we were able to document interaction with an entity there through “yes” and “no” questions with one meter/person being “yes” and the other “no”. This interaction indicated that the entity we were in contact with was male, enjoyed us there and became lonely at times. There was further possible indication through this EMF process and sensitive investigators present that this may have been the spirit of a PIKE Brother who possibly passed away unexpectedly due to a tragic event or happening.

We didn’t spot Jessica

I may have missed Jessica when I looked away from the lodge toward the cement plant. All I saw was Spring starting to make the Winter blahs go away.

PIKE LODGE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE

Several folks have written to question my info that the Pike Memorial Lodge was the former Lafayette School. They think its the old Marquette School. That thought crossed my mind, too, but I assumed that the Pi Kappa Alpha frat boys would know what they had bought.

That was, of course, before I remembered that a buddy of mine, who was an enthusiastic Pike at first, quickly became disenchanted and dropped out when he was taken to task for “spending too much time on academics and not devoting energy to supporting the chapter.”

A reliable source sent me two links to Missourian stories about the dedication of the school in 1924 and the dissolving of the Marquette School District in 1968.

I’m going to go with the consensus that the Pike Memorial Lodge IS the old Marquette School and the Pike who wrote the history of the place was NOT one who spent too much time on academics.

  • November of 1973: Pi Kappa Alpha had long been searching for an off-campus building for many functions. In the Fall of ’73 the chapter and its housing corporation found the Lafayette School house on S. Sprigg St. The Pi Kappa Alpha Memorial Lodge, as it would come to be known, serves as a social place as well as a  post for weekly chapter meetings.

The Principal Was Not Amused

I don’t know if I was driving by the school or if someone tipped me off, but I took a picture of the American Flag flying upside down over the Nell Holcomb School on Sept. 7, 1967. The flag in that position is an international signal for distress.

International Distress Signal

The Southeast Missourian ran the picture with some kind of cute cutline.

The ink on the paper must have still been wet when the principal called to ream me out for embarrassing him and his school. You can’t really SEE purple veins sticking out on someone’s forehead over the telephone, but I had a clear sense that they were.

After letting him vent for awhile, I gave him the only answer I could come up with: “I’M not the one who raised the flag.”

That reminds me of an important lesson that proved more valuable than anything I was ever taught in school.

How to deal with irate callers

I was dealing with an irate caller at The Jackson Pioneer one afternoon, being as nice and polite as only a well-brought-up high school kid can be.

When I got off the phone, the editor, with a bemused look on his face, said, “Kid (they always called me Kid), let me show you how to deal with that kind of call.”

He picked up the telephone receiver and said into it, “Yes, mam, that was clearly the most egregious act of nincompoopery that has been committed since the cooling of the earth’s crust. If it was within my power, I would have that incompetent jerk flogged, if not shot, as an example to the rest of the profession.”

Hang up

‘Now,” he continued, “here’s the trick. Right in the middle of your diatribe, hang up. Right in the middle of the sentence. Nobody would ever think you’d hang up on yourself; they’re going to assume it was a telephone glitch. If you’re lucky, you’ve managed to work them out of their mad and you’ll never hear from them again. To be on the safe side, though, NOW would be a good time to walk across the street for a cup of coffee. Let one of your coworkers be the one to catch the call if she’s still got bile to spill.”

The only thing they remembered

After I moved out of the newsroom and into telecommunications, I’d tell that story when I was training call center personnel. I never actually heard a customer service agent do that, but I know that it was usually the only thing they’d mention from their training when I’d run into them in the hallway years later.

Kage School, a Picture with a Question Mark

Students in front of Kage School in Cape Girardeau circa 1965-66

It wasn’t until I had looked at this picture five or six times that I realized that the students are forming a question mark.

That leads me to believe that I must have shot the picture for a “What’s going to happen to Kage School?” story.

Since the school, which was established in 1880, closed May 20, 1966, exactly 112 years after its creation, that’s probably what it was.

One of the last one-room schools

Interior of Cape Girardeau's Kage School before it closed in 1966

The National Register of Historic Places Registration Form has fascinating factoids buried all through it.

  • It was one of the last one-room school houses in the area, right up until it closed.
  • It was unusual because of its racial and economic diversity. Enrollment included white children from well-established families, the district’s African-American students from as far back as 1889 or earlier and children from the County Poor Farm.
  • Because of the need for children to work on family farms, the school term was usually only the three or four winter months.
  • The current brick building was erected in 1880 for a low bid of $1,200. (Additions and changes brought the total to $1,600).
  • The original log cabin school cost $180.25, including a $9.25 fireplace. After the new building was completed, the old one was sold to Henry Klaproth for $13.
  • Electricity and lights were installed January 21, 1938, most likely as a result of a WPA project to upgrade schools.

The long, cold walk

Outhouse behind Cape Girardau's Kage School

The school started serving hot lunches in 1933 once a week. Later a makeshift cafeteria was created by erecting a partition in a back corner of the classroom. Times were tough and Kage was the first rural school in the area to serve a hot lunch.

One thing the school DIDN’T have was indoor bathrooms. Outhouses were used until the school closed.

Updated photos

Here’s what Kage School looks like today, including old initials carved into the brick walls.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.