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My Haunted History, The Collinwood School Fire

Christina has always had an interest in the paranormal. From a young age she has had experiences that were unexplained.

They did not teach this in school.

Growing up in Cleveland, we never really learned about the history of our town in school. We learned more about Virginia history than Ohio, which might be why I moved to Virginia when I was older! Nevertheless, my friends and I were always looking for good local tales to learn.

In my early twenties I shared a house with one of my best friends, Christopher. One Saturday afternoon he came home from the library and asked me to watch a documentary he had just borrowed with him. He told me it was about a school fire that happened in Cleveland in 1908.

It sounded interesting enough as aside from history I have also always had an interest in historical architecture. We sat down and watched the video together.


What I remember from the documentary

There are plenty of resources online where you can find the facts about what happened that day. I am going to tell what I remember from something I watched nearly 20 years ago.

I remember it was Ash Wednesday in 1908. I remember it was a cold day and Lake View Elementary School in Collinwood Ohio caught fire. I remember that 172 children, 2 teachers and 1 man who was one of the first to come and help rescue died in the fire that day. What I remember most though, were the individual horror stories.

I believe the actual cause of the fire is unknown. I had heard that it possibly could have been due to issues with the boiler, but I do not know for sure. The teachers and children had been instructed on what to do in case of a fire by fire drills, much like the ones we had in our school days. However, they had only been instructed to exit out of the front doors. With over 300 children in attendance that day, one doorway just wasn't enough.

Once the fire alarm sounded, children and their teachers quickly filled the hall trying to exit the building. With so many trying to flee through the same area at the same time, the exit quickly became blocked. People fell and some were even trampled to death. Others became stuck in the doorway, making it impossible for those behind them to exit. I remember that teachers were throwing children from the windows in an attempt to save them.

Some children escaped, only to run back into the building to find a sibling and ended up losing their lives. One of the worst stories I remember from that documentary was a mother who rushed to the school. She saw her child stuck in the entrance and tried to pull her free. The child would not budge and the mother held her child's hands in her own as she watched her die.

Many people who lived close by rushed to help at the sound of the alarm. Many of those people were injured in the fire as well.

Needless to say, by the end of this documentary, I was horrified by what I had just learned. I remember that it ended with pictures and names of many of the victims of this tragedy.


Author of Maniac In The Bushes reads from his book about the fire.

Maniac In The Bushes, by John Bellamy II

About ten years ago, I received a book called The Maniac in the Bushes by John Bellamy II. I was interested to see that the story of the Collinwood School fire was included in these tales. It is a great read and the book can be purchased on Amazon!

Order The Maniac in the Bushes on Amazon!

After The Documentary

Once Chris and I finished watching the documentary we sat in silence. As I said, I was pretty horrified. Thank goodness I did not yet have children, I am pretty sure it would have affected me even more than it did.

After a few moments, Chris turned to me and asked if I wanted to go see where the school had stood.

We lived fairly close, it took about fifteen minutes to drive to the spot. A new school had been built right next to the site where the old one stood. On the exact location of the old school however, was a memorial dedicated to the ones who had died that day.

I walked around the large memorial and read each name of the 172 children who died int hat fire. I read each name and remembered their faces from the pictures at the end of the documentary I had just watched. I read there names and with great sadness I remembered their stories.

After I had spent several minutes walking all the way around and reading everything, I looked around the area.

I was sickened at the amount of trash laying in the area. I quietly began picking up trash and placing it into the garbage can that was nearby. As I was doing this, I felt extremely emotional. I felt saddened and in a way slightly connected to the children who died that day in that spot.

While I was working, I suddenly began to feel small child size hands gently touching my arms, legs and back. At first I felt very nervous, but then I found it somewhat comforting. I left that day feeling devastated by what had happened all those years ago, but feeling somewhat like I may have done something small to honor all that lost their lives in that school in that day.

Interesting animated video of The Collinwood School Fire

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Cristina Cakes