Farrar School - Maxwell, Iowa
Date: 10 July 2022 Type: Former School
Location Title: Farrar School
City/State: Maxwell, Iowa
Investigation Times: 11:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunrise: 05:51 AM Sunset: 08:51 PM
High Temperature: 87 °F Low Temperature: 68 °F
Sky Condition: Partly Sunny Wind: S at 18 mph
Humidity: 70% Precipitation: 0.0 in
Lunar Phase: Waxing Gibbous % disk visible: 85%
Solar X-Rays: Normal Geomagnetic Field: Quiet
Pressure: 29.11 mmHg
Julie Klos Burch
Sarah, Ainsling, Christina, Julie, Becky, Greg, Jennifer
from The Des Moines Register, Wed, May 1, 2002
photo by Becky
Sarah, Ainsling, Christina, Julie, Becky, Greg, Jennifer
The Farrar Schoolhouse started in 1919 when a local man named C.G. Geddes agreed to donate six acres of his farm for a new school that would merge all of the area's rural, one-room schoolhouses under one roof as the Washington Township Consolidated School District. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1921, and the school was dedicated a year later on April 1, 1922. A grand celebration with food and live music was held, and hundreds attended from all over the countryside -- although not all were pleased with the new building and its $100,000 price tag. Farrar was built to consolidate five small country schoolhouses from the surrounding area. It had electricity, modern plumbing, and boiler heating. It was considered by many locals to be a decadent use of public funds costing over a million dollars. One disgruntled citizen refused to attend the celebration calling it a "monument to the arrogance and vanity of the school board," with its boiler heating, electric lights, and indoor bathroom facilities.
The school operated for many years, although enrollment steadily declined with the shrinking of the nearby towns. The town of Farrar was eventually absorbed into Maxwell, Iowa, and a decision was made to close down the school. On May 3, 2002, another grand banquet was held in honor of the school and its alums, and the schoolhouse closed its doors for the last time. The old school sat empty until December 2006, when Jim and Nancy Oliver purchased the building. It became their home with hopes of slowly restoring the school to its original appearance and layout.
But they soon found out they were not in the schoolhouse alone.
They soon discovered what decades of students and employees already knew — that the school was haunted. There were longtime reports of mysterious voices, slamming doors, phantom footsteps, and shadowy figures that appeared in the hallways and stairwells that inexplicably vanished.
At first, the Olivers dismissed the strange happenings, but they soon became too eerie to ignore. One day, Nancy became unsteady on some stairs and felt a solid hand on her shoulder that helped her catch her balance. She turned to thank her husband for help -- to find no one there! Since that time, the Olivers -- and others -- have had many other weird experiences.
Visitors have told many strange stories about the school, including disembodied voices, phantom footsteps, knocking, tapping, ringing sounds, cries, yells, laughter, and even sightings of full-blown apparitions.
Jennifer, Lead Investigator:
We decided to try an old-school vs. new-school method of investigation for this investigation. The idea was to see if we could note any differences using these two methodologies.
We set up various strings of bells on the first floor and put them in front of doorways and on doorknobs. We also set up cameras and motion detectors. We set up motion-activated toys and streamers in the gym to catch any unique airflow.
We also attempted automatic writing. Automatic writing, also called psychography, is a claimed “psychic ability” allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing, which made it interesting because none of our members who participated consider themselves to have any psychic abilities.
Jennifer was curious to see if playing a tornado siren would trigger any unexplained movement, so we reenacted a tornado drill.
Times of Interest:
Pre-Investigation: A motion-activated toy lit up in the gym unexpectedly, and we could not recreate a reason why. Julie reported hearing a dragging noise upon entering the building.
Several of us heard footsteps, bells ringing, and whispers but could not explain where they were coming from or what was causing the activity.
Note: Reviewing our video of the bells we set up did not show them moving or making any sounds.
When Jennifer walked out of the boiler room, the streamers in the gym fluttered wildly. We tried several times to recreate this but could not get the streamers to move the same way.
12:15 PM - 1st Floor Mrs. Martin’s Room:
When Mrs. Martin’s name was mentioned, Julie, Greg, and Becky’s EMF meters would trigger without explanation. We found nothing in the room that would trigger them to react like that.
While our meters were responding to “Mrs. Martin,” Jennifer attempted the tornado drill, immediately stopping all of the meter activity. They did not trigger again while we were in that room.
12:40 PM - Multiple members heard the motion detector in the hallway go off. Sarah reported seeing the pyramid hanging from the ceiling spin. We could not find a cause for this, and the room had no open windows.
12:44 PM - Multiple members heard footsteps walking around upstairs during this time.
1:05 PM – We moved to the 3rd floor and Auditorium, where motion-activated toys near the stage unexplainably lit up. Ainsling reported feeling uneasy near the stage, and Greg reported hearing footsteps. Several of us heard what sounded like footsteps coming up the stairs, but no one was there.
Automatic Writing Results: Becky, Christina, Sarah, and Ainsling, volunteered to try automatic writing and split into two groups and headed to different rooms. Everyone who was blindfolded reported the urge to scribble things and feeling childlike. Interesting to note that two investigators wrote the name MIKE.
Other reports during the investigation: Several members had to change batteries frequently.
We did find a possible explanation for some of the shadow figures seen. While sitting on the stairs where the shadow man had been reported on the 3rd floor, Sarah told Greg that depending on how he moved in the hallway, he would cast an odd shadow on the wall.
We discovered that the boiler room has a very high EMF level, which may explain some people’s anxiety while in there. Long-term exposure to high EMF has been shown to cause hallucinations.
While Becky was observing Christina, as she attempted automatic writing, she discovered a spot in the room with a very strong urine/foul odor. She then realized it was coming from a raccoon’s nest on top of the wall cabinet. Had we been investigating in the dark, we may have mistakenly recorded this odor as paranormal.
Other important notes:
Sound travels very well throughout the building, and this may affect recordings.
Overall, it was an interesting investigation for our first time there. We thank the owners for their hospitality and Ainsling for joining us.