A bit over a deccade ago I found myself in Kansas close to the Missouri line visiting some old friends. My wife was off on a shopping trip with the old friends, which if you have ever been halfway up the state in Kansas you know means driving a few hours away, and I took the time to go geocaching.
In case geocaching is a new thing to you, it can simply be described as a type of worldwide hide and seak. People all over take a container and hide it someplace then post the GPS coordinates of the item. You then go to that location by whatever means you can, find the container, and sign the logbook. A lot of locations are boring, but some are incredible. So many locations have stories and history you never know some are just fascinating just to see them. I had not had time to research all the history this time, I had just made a list of locations and took off to see what I could find.
I was about 5 hours into searching hicking and finding things when the next set of coordinates took me close to an old single-room school building. I found a place a bit up the road and made my way down towards the building following the GPS. The thing you need to know about geocaching is once you have used your GPS to get to the exact location given, you have to still deal with the GPS having a 10 to 20-foot error even on the best days, and remember the person who first got that reading also had the same 10 to 20-foot error. More or less that gives you a 40-foot circle to look in and people can be very clever about where things are hidden, but after a few hundred finds you get fairly good at spotting the signs of something hidden. I am standing right outside the school door and a good search is not finding anything. It's uncommon to put these containers inside a building, but strange things happen so I decide to push the door open and have a look.
Inside I see a scene that looks almost like a set from little house on the prairie. Wooden desks lined up a chock board clean but will tell tail traces of an old lesson, books in those little desk openings, only it looks like it has been like this for 40 years or more. There is loose paper lying around the room as if it has blown there from a wind that I could not see a way it came. Some wall-paper was pealing down in a few locations and tell-tail yellowing was everyplace. This was not a place people spent a lot of time in and there weren't any good hiding places I could see and I gave it a good look. In fact, I couldn't find the geocache at all. My first failed find of the day. So I packed up and went on to the next location on my list.
When everyone got back together they told me of all their shopping and asked me about my finds. That day I had climbed up a dried-up waterfall, crossed a small river on a bridge made of a fallen tree and been to a civil war battlefield, so I had all kinds of stories. The one about the schoolhouse made the locals all stop though. They exclaimed, you went there? That place is haunted!
The failed find and the haunted location made everyone want to go back and "help me find the missed cache." So I printed out all the information about the cache and with a car full of people headed back the next day. We got to coordinates and I parked in the same spot and headed over. I handed the GPS to a kid to follow since I already knew the spot fairly well and a GPS was a fairly uncommon gismo at the time. "Follow the arrow and get the distance down to 0 then look there", I told the kid and headed to the building.
As I came to the building something was wrong. The door was off its hinges but someone had put it back in place and nailed boards over it. Not the easy access it had been the day before. The windows were all broken and the right conner had a hole burned into the wall. It seems someone had crawled into that hole and gotten inside. A look inside the hole showed a completely empty room with graffiti everyplace. The source of the hope was easy to find also since the remains of a campfire sat right next to it. This didn't look like the same place at all except for it seemed to be the same shape and location as the day before. I checked the printout of the information about the location. There clearly among the history of the school were the words. Do not go inside the building is unsafe and is condemned. About that time the kid I had given the GPS to yells out from 30-foot in the woods, "I found it."
I was confused but happy and went over to tell the kid what a good job she did. We all signed the logbook and I wrote a two-line version of this story, the kids traded some trinkets I had given them for some trinkets that were in the cache and I didn't mention how confused I was about the schoolhouse from yesterday.