The haunting of duPont Manual High School, part two

Potential reasoning and explanation behind dupont Manual’s ghostly residents and visitors, found within the rich history of Louisville.

Isabella Bonilla

What do we truly know about the building of duPont Manual High School? The history of our school is one ingrained in the minds of the student body, displayed in the halls and auditorium with precise monument. But like all land in the Ohio Valley, there used to be something before. Before the gothic architecture was modeled and before the coeducation began there was another tale. A forgotten story buried beneath the passage of time. 

Remnants of this story can be subconsciously observed in the culture of Manual. Spirits and ghosts are rumored to haunt these halls. Some claim these false, others wave their proof high. Whether or not these remnants are validated are to be decided by the reader’s discretion. 

One of the most well-known ghostly residents has been dubbed Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’. She’s envisioned as being aged 14, with long dark hair and placed in a 19th century time frame. Lizzie is said to reside in the J&C annex’s room 253 and appears to keep her presence in that area. Her once reported incidence of venturing outside her typical space is told in “The Haunting of duPont Manual High School, Room 253”

“You know, I have never heard that. No, never,” Mike McDaniel, class of 1964, said.

Mr. McDaniel is not only the Director of Alumni at Manual. He’s the unofficial historian as well.  His book, “Stand Up and Cheer: the Official History of duPont Manual High School”, is a detailed collection of how Manual came to be as we know it today, intertwined in both a factual and humorous manner. The in-depth research is a testimony to his journalism background.

 Manual wasn’t always on this particular plot of land, McDaniel found. In fact, the original building was located on the southeast corner of Brook and Oak Streets. 

Louisville Girls High was moved to a nine-acre tract bounded by First, Second, Lee Streets and Avery Avenue (now Cardinal Boulevard) in 1934.  Later, it would merge with and become Manual, co-educating both sexes. This is where Manual stands today. However, our story doesn’t end there.

Before the $900,000 construction project, something else was on this particular plot of land. 1873 marked the beginning of construction of the Masonic Widows and Orphans Home, originally by and for widows and orphans of Master Masons. This would be referring to the fraternal organization, the Freemasons.  

U of L archives
Masonic Home, which once occupied the land where Manual now stands.

The old Masonic Widows and Orphans Home has been abandoned since 1927 due to World War I and Spanish influenza-related troubles. Tornado damage in 1875 also left a gigantic hole that had been ripped through the center of the two towers, leaving extensive roof and center wall damage that was never fully repaired. UofL records indicate that the home was relocated to a 176-acre farm on Frankfort Avenue.

Mr. McDaniel had never heard of any rumors relating to supernatural presences at Manual, even as a student. 

“I know there’s a book written by a fellow named Domine about haunted houses throughout Old Louisville, but I’ve never heard about Manual,” he said.

The book Mr. McDaniel references is David Domine’s “Phantoms of Old Louisville; Ghostly Tales from America’s Most Haunted Neighborhood”. Although the book may not have a passage on the high school building, it hosts a seven-page section on the duPont Mansion. 

duPont Mansion

“Uncle Fred duPont, a 19th-century socialite who met his untimely demise at the hands of an angry mistress in 1893,” supposedly haunts this townhouse, writes David Domine. The ghost of Uncle duPont is said to roam about other downtown locations, leaving 1317 South Fourth Street for the occasional spin. His figure is shadowy, elegant and apparently enjoys playing tricks on others, in a friendly manner, of course.

Alfred (Fred) Victor duPont also happens to be the man who proposed and funded the idea of a manual training school, before it started the journey to become a modern-day magnet school. 

His scandalous death rocked the whole city, seeing as Uncle Fred was an avid philanthropist and central figure in the community. On October 3, 1892,  Manual was open for enrollment; On May 16, 1893, Alfred duPont’s was dead.The mischievous spirit never got to see Manual in its full; at least, not in life. 

While no outright records claim to Manual in itself, potential surrounds and clings to the rich history of Manual’s past. Whether through inherited or indirect experience, the spirits of our school enable tales of mystery, imagination and of course, forever learning.