Lingering memories of ghostly images and echoing pep rallies haunt El Paso High

Front of the El Paso High School building. (Ken Hudnall/

Front of the El Paso High School building. (Ken Hudnall/

Front of the El Paso High School building. (Ken Hudnall/

Front of the El Paso High School building. (Ken Hudnall/

EL PASO – It’s dark and late, usually around 2 a.m. when the faint notes of the Tiger fight song begin to sound, then, more clearly, cheerleaders cheering and students laughing, and stamping feet cascading into a pep rally – in a locked empty auditorium.

You are hearing ghosts.

“You might also think New Orleans is the most haunted city in the U.S but it is actually El Paso,” said Tobias H. “Toby” Tovar, 55, a math instructor at El Paso High School, “and El Paso High School is the most haunted building in town.”

El Paso High located at 800 E. Schuster, opened for classes in 1916 and since then “Lady on the Hill” has graduated many prominent citizens, and has captured hundreds of trophies, plaques, and championships in all fields.

“Since the days of its construction, paranormal events have taken place at the school,” said Tovar. There have been numerous interior modifications designed to accommodate a growing student body and changing educational theories. As a result, a number of the original classrooms and hallways are no more, but there are stories that some of the modifications were done because of spirits that seem to have an affinity for certain areas of the building.

It is said that there is a hall that leads to a balcony that is also closed off.  People say they have seen an image of a girl jumping from the balcony. According to the story, every single day, mist and fog roam the abandoned hallway and there seems to be some “gooey-stuff” on the ceiling.

This unusual activity stems from an incident that happened nearly 35 years ago when a distraught teenage girl killed herself by slitting her wrists and then, throwing herself from a balcony at the end of the hallway. There were been enough sightings that a wall was built completely closing the stairway leading up to the haunted hallway.

However, this tragic young lady racing to her death is not the only unexplainable thing that has been seen at this historic school. Almost from the day it was constructed odd things have happened.

In the recent El Paso High School yearbook, there is a reproduction of an old photograph showing a young lady in a white dress watching the original construction of the building in 1916. However, this unknown woman was not in the original photograph. Who was she and most importantly, how did she get in the picture?

1986 Graduating class - The girl on white was not in the original negative but is in the developed photo. No one knows who she is. (From the El Paso High public pictures)

1986 Graduating class - The girl on white was not in the original negative but is in the developed photo. No one knows who she is. (From the El Paso High public pictures)

A trophy case just inside the original front entrance of this grand old school contains a photo of the 1985 graduating class. “Everyone else in the photo shows up clear and distinct, but there is one young lady whose features are faint and fuzzy. Her image looks like it was inserted after the photo was taken,” explained Tovar.

The figure in the picture is at the end of a row primarily of teachers. There are two young ladies, one toward the right end of the group and one on the left center of the group who are looking intently toward where this mysterious young lady is standing. Were these two young ladies perhaps the only ones sensitive enough to realize that something was wrong?

This mysterious girl was not part of that particular graduating class and no one in the class that was photographed admitted knowing the identity of the girl. But regardless of how she got into the picture, she is very clearly in the photograph, a lovely, lonely looking girl, smiling for the camera.

Tovar had a wealth of stories about events at the school. “About 15 years ago, it snowed in El Paso to the point that schools were closed. A few teachers and students had arrived before the closure announcement. Those teachers and students who had been able to make it to school were not allowed to leave due to unsafe road conditions. Having nothing else to do, a group of students and teachers, decided to explore the school starting with the tunnels in the basement,” he said.

At one point, several of the teachers crawled through a small opening eventually coming to a brick wall that blocked the tunnel. The bricks were old and the cement between them was crumbling, but it was clear that these bricks had been added long after the surrounding brickwork. Curious, one of the teachers pushed on the newer bricks until some gave way, revealing a large dark cavity. Pushing a flashlight through the hole, they discovered a sealed off classroom.

“This discovery surprised everyone as no one had even heard a whisper that there might be sealed off classrooms in the building,” said Tovar. The room was small and contained antique desks of the type seen in the television show Little House on the Prairie. There was no doubt that the classroom dated from the original construction of the building. The classroom was still set up with desks in place, texts and student notebooks still in place waiting for the students.

“There were Baby Ruth candy bar wrappers on the floor from a time this product sold for 5 cents as well as numerous 5-cent coke bottles. In one of the student notebooks lying on a desk, they found, in addition to algebra notes and completed problems, a very racy love letter from the owner of the book to a boy,” he explained.

There was a second sealed off classroom nearby, also ready to receive students, now filled with only dust and silence. Try as they might, they were never able to discover why, two classrooms would be sealed off so fast that they would not be cleaned of debris, desks nor texts nor the students be given time to claim their personal articles.

The woman in the lower left hand corner was not in the original negative but is in the final photo. No one knows her identity. (From the El Paso High School public pictures.)

The woman in the lower left hand corner was not in the original negative but is in the final photo. No one knows her identity. (From the El Paso High School public pictures.)

The vast basement has been used as an overflow morgue during several of our nation’s wars. During World War II there were so many casualties shipped here that bodies had been stored in the basement until the next of kin could be notified. During the Spanish Flu Epidemic in the early part of the 1900s, so many died that the bodies were also stored in the basement of the High School.

At one point in his career in the early 1980s, Toby Tovar was the basketball coach for the 8th grade basketball team. That year, the 8th grade team was undefeated and they were scheduled to play the only other undefeated team in the city. Each afternoon the 8th grade team had gym time scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7.p.m. in the gym immediately below his classroom. A disquieting event happened during practice one day.

Just after they started practice, two waist-high access doors leading to the tunnels flew violently open, slamming back against the wall on either side. Naturally, the assumption eventually reached, even though there was little if any wind outside, was that a freak draft coming down one of the many chimneys had blown the latched doors open. The doors were shut and long heavy bench was placed in front of the doors to make sure that they would stay closed.

“The kids had gone back to their scrimmage game and they were all at the far end of the court. At about 7 p.m., the bench went flying across the court and the doors, that had been securely latched, again flew open violently,” Tovar related. Suffice it to say that this team, made up of gang members who didn’t fear the devil himself, led by a coach who, in his youth had led two tough barrio gangs, decided to leave the building without even taking the time to turn out the lights.

“A few years ago, Angelo Plecluda was the Journalism Instructor at El Paso High,” related Tovar. He and the yearbook staff, composed of journalism students, would work long into the night to produce a first class yearbook. One night he sent the last students home, and planned on being close behind them, but he had a few last minute things to do. It was almost exactly 11 p.m. when he finally left.

According to Tovar, when Plecluda turned toward the exit, standing in the pool of dim red light thrown by the exit sign was a young lady wearing a blue chiffon dress of the type that would be worn to the School Prom in the 1940s or 1950s. Thinking it was one of his students, asked her what she was doing there and told her to go home.

The girl turned and looked directly at him, her expression one of deep sadness. As he walked toward her, she began to become transparent and he noticed that she was not standing on the floor, but rather hovering in mid-air about a foot off of the floor. When he was only a few feet from her, she glided back into the deeper darkness of the hallway and disappeared.

“Danny McKillip was a former All-American and has been inducted into the UTEP Miner Hall of Fame for Track and Field,” began Tovar. He was also Track Coach for El Paso High. One night in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Coach McKillip and the El Paso Track Team returned to the school very late at night after a track meet in Austin. The Track Teams’ locker room was in the area beneath Tovar’s classroom. The students came into the building to drop off their track gear and pick up their possessions they had left in their lockers.

“The school was dark and silent when the buses arrived,” explained Tovar. As the students were gathering their possessions, McKillip suddenly heard the sounds of the Tiger Fight Song, cheerleaders performing their cheers and the sounds of a very spirited pep rally coming from the Second Floor Auditorium. Baffled, but thinking it might be a surprise reception for his Track Team that had just won the State Championship, Coach McKillip ran up the stairs to the second floor and, even though everything was dark, he dashed for the auditorium, a hundred feet away. Just as he reached the doors to the Auditorium, all of the sounds stopped. He found that the doors to the Auditorium were locked and he could no longer see nor hear anything.

Coach McKillip unlocked the Auditorium and entered. He found everything dark and quiet. There was no sign that anyone had been there recently. Puzzled, more than ever, he returned to the locker room where some of his students were still waiting for him. No sooner had he rejoined his students than once again they all heard the sounds of the Tiger Fight Song, cheerleaders leading cheers and voices screaming. Followed by most of the remaining students, Coach McKillip dashed back up the stairs toward the Auditorium. Once again, halfway to the door, all sounds stopped, the school was dark and silent as a tomb.

McKillip opened the Auditorium doors and he and his students searched the Auditorium for anything or anyone who could have made the sounds that they had heard. They found nothing. They returned to the locker room gathered their possessions and left the building.

The building is steeped in history but it hides its secrets well. Doing modifications to the auditorium, workers removed the steps leading to the stage and found hidden, one or two books per step, an entire set of a Catholic Encyclopedia hidden beneath the steps. This set of books is complete, lavishly illustrated and a real treasure. How did they get inside those steps? Who put them there and most importantly, why were they placed in such an unusual hiding place?

“El Paso High custodians quit their duties at 9 p.m. so unless someone is working late, after this hour, the massive building is deserted, the lights are out, and the alarms are set. The building is completely secure. But with El Paso High School, it can never be said with certainty that the building is deserted and secure. The restless dead walk the dark,” said Tovar.

35 thoughts on “Lingering memories of ghostly images and echoing pep rallies haunt El Paso High

  1. Where can i get information on the tunnel tours. My group would love to investigate the school to prove/disprove the paranormal activity claims that are said to be going on.

  2. The next tour will be Nov. 9 2012 from 5:00 – 6:30 pm. They do a history presentation with it, pretty cool!!

  3. Is there a fee to go on the tours? Or is it free to the public? This is pretty interesting-I’ve never been inside El Paso High, but I graduated from Austin. It’s pretty creepy, so is Crockett Elementery school.

  4. I have heard some noise out side saying “Help me” which i didn’t hear it really carefully but it started with Help which it was weird

  5. Hello, yes I’ve been there with some friends late at night and you see random lights turn on and light voices. We go there at like 10:30 – 11 and play soccer and we here and see weird things. We’ve walked all the way up to the door and knocked and you can feel something bad will happen.

  6. When I was a teen I used to go with friends at about midnight and we would here an echo of a band playing and more recently we went to the stadium around 1 am and heard whispers all around us as if people were questioning our presence…….. Freaked us out.

  7. This is really cool info, I have always wanted to take a tour of that place! I have done some EVP’s at different locations in EP, this one would be one of the best to conduct one!

  8. Hello I really would like to go on a tour at El Paso high could u plz let me know were I can get info thank u

  9. So custodians leave at 9? .. I just got the chills my friends and I once went to el paso high, we got caught by cops because of tue camaras but before they arrived, we didn’t see anything but we did walk around the school and we could hear conversations going on and we thought it was the custodians outside… it was past 9 that’s forsure. Wow, guess ot wasn’t custodians after all.. and we would hear the voices almost everywhere we walked but we never thought anything of it,, maybe because we where expecting more to SEE something rather than hear

  10. They do have tours every so often especially during homecoming week in the fall. I graduated from there a few years ago. You can like the “ephs alumni association” page on fb for any upcoming tours. And most of the time it is free to the public. If they charge I think it’s no more than $10.

  11. Interesting stories, I Lived across the street from El Paso High School for many years and graduated from there in 1978. I would walk with my boyfriend at night through the stadium, and sit and talk until ver y late at night and never heard or saw anything unusual or freaky. But that Was oitside the building. Maybe ghosts stay indoors?

  12. I just want to say that I am PROUD to be an alumni from the oldest existing high school in the state of Texas. Coach Tovar was an excellent teacher, mentor, person as a whole. I was on his last 8th grade basketball team that practiced in the small gym underneath the school. We were the last 8th grade class to attend EPHS, after that they were strictly 9th to 12th grade levels. Coach Tovar passed away several years ago and is probably roaming the halls of EPHS as we speak. He loved teaching, those of us that had his classes in math know exactly how much he loved it. May he rest in peace and I hope that whoever took over his classroom leaves 2 seats empty instead of one. He used to leave an empty seat for one of the spirits that roamed the school, but now that he has passed. Maybe they can do the same for him, and add that 2nd empty seat for him.
    Now about the tours, they are given during Homecoming week each year and charge a nominal fee to attend. Make sure to take a camera and see what you capture after the tour. You never know you just might capture one of the many spirits that roam EPHS.
    If possible, go with a group of friends. That way you have more cameras taking pictures of the school and compare the pics afterwards and see what you have.

    EPHS wil be celebrating 100 years of its existence this year, so mark your calenders and go check out the tunnels beneath the school.

  13. it my birthday today so i want go to at school so much it look awesome and scary i feel so sorry for the girl who died ohhhh yea i want to go down to the school and see wat down they like so much sooooooo yea even go at night like at 2:00 or 3:00 and go to the hallway and look around also got a tour of el paso high school plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz tell me if you know about the info and tellllll me if you like my story


  14. DEC 1984
    We played in the Jefferson basketball tournament and made our way back to the school around 10 pm, I was with 3 other players and we went back to the school to change and go to Juarez. We walked out of the gym and started to walk down the hill to our cars, as we were walking Marcos said do you hear the band practicing, we walked toward the football field and it was pitch black but you could hear the band playing a song, being the tough guys that we were ( not ) we walked above the stadium where the basketball courts used to be, still dark and we could hear the band playing. When we reached the main building by the steps overlooking the stadium you could see the red exit signs blinking to the music.That is all it took for us to get out of there. I do remember talking to Staff members about that and they all said with a smile, you guys are not the first and wont be the last.

  15. Hello, i am a curious individual that is interested in studying the so called “Hunting’s’ at El Paso High. If in any way it would be possible to meet or be in-touch by email please contact me. i myself have experienced some rather peculiar events in relation top El Paso high. i would like to learn some more in deep information

  16. My friend and I went Today 8/30/2014, around 3am, we went to all the doors and main one also, it was kinda scary; we did hear like 2 weird noises but it was in the outside, We didn’t find an open door, buff you go to the gym there will be am open door; I really wanna go inside the school. When i saw the school I was amazed of the building.

  17. I’m EPHS class of 1997 graduate. I remember when we use to have events in the auditorium, I use to always be creeped out. You can feel the presence of others there. We also use to have theatre class in the basement where the entry to the tunnels is and that area in particular use to always give me chills. Over all I’m proud to be a Tiger and I feel blessed to be a graduate of The Lady On The Hill.

  18. Born and raised in the elpaso high school area and having my family coming through that school makes me very proud of contuining my school years there,so many good memories there aswell.From football game to basketball games and many other stuff.Had so many good teacher’s and principles .I once in a while visit the school majes proud to be a part of the family how came thriugh this school year class of 01

  19. I used to live 1 block away from the school, graduated in 74. I’ve always felt a spiritual presence there. Late at night my wife and I would be coming home only to see what seemed to be a light show at the school. The lights in different rooms would be lighting up like a checker board from floor to floor at random spots. It would go on for long periods of time. It was really crazy to watch.

  20. I didn’t go to EPHS, but practically grew up there. My grandmother lived on the corner of Cliff and Angie and my siblings and I spent tons of time there playing football or baseball at the fields there at the school when we would visit or spend weekends there with her.
    I find it particularly interesting reading about the girl who threw herself to her death. Was this incident ever in the news and if so, the police surely would have investigated and would have a name somewhere on record. Or could this girl have killed herself many years long, long ago and her spirit still roams the halls re-enacting her suicide?
    Just curious about that.

  21. I would like to know if the paranormal show taps have ever done an investigation on el paso high. If they have can someone email me. If not I hope they do. It would be so interesting to see.

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