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Big Bertha

by Ed Coet

Part 1 appears
in this issue.

Big Bertha was known to be an excellent teacher. She was also an extremely tough. She could be a mean and ruthless disciplinarian. Big Bertha was usually nice to students who tried their best, received passing grades, and who demonstrated good behavior.

However, Big Bertha was mean and ruthless with poor students who demonstrated bad behavior. She built her own paddle. The students nicknamed the paddle the “butt buster.” The butt buster was 18 inches long and 18 inches wide. It was 3 inches thick. It had 21 small holes and 21 metal welts screwed into it. Just three swats with the butt buster left a student crying in agony. It always left bruises, blisters, and welts on their behinds. One could hardly survive more than four swats with the butt buster. The students quickly learned: Don’t mess with Big Bertha.

Big Bertha was so strong she could pick up the largest kid in the class, with one hand, by the back of his neck. She could lift him completely off the ground while swatting him with the butt buster using her other hand. Even the older teenagers would cry and beg for mercy when someone was being punished by Big Bertha. Not many students dared to screw up in Big Bertha’s class. If they did it was only once. They made sure never to get her angry again. She was downright scary and she always inflicted great pain on badly behaved students.

At the age of 57 Big Bertha suffered a severe heart attack and died. She had no living relatives. The local officials decided to bury Big Bertha in the back of the old wooden school house. They placed a simple wooden marker over her grave. The grave marker read,

Here lies the best, meanest, and toughest teacher that ever lived— Big Bertha.

Nothing more needed to be added to the marker. Her legend spoke for itself.

With all the mystery and suspicion surrounding Big Bertha, she was always considered to be an outstanding teacher. Her students always did better academically than their peers. In adult life her former students usually became more wealthy and successful. Their success was largely credited to Big Bertha’s exceptional teaching skills.

Big Bertha thought of her students as family in a perverted sort of way. This was because she had no living relatives. Being buried by the schoolhouse was indeed a great tribute and memorial to her. It was the one place that she could most rest in peace assuming, of course, that nobody ever disrupted her peaceful rest.

Two years after Big Bertha’s death, lighting struck the old wooden school house. It burned the school and Big Bertha’s grave marker to the ground. Soon thereafter another school was built in a new location, several miles away.

Trees, brush, and grass grew over the area of the old wooden school house and Big Bertha’s grave. Because her grave was no longer marked it was forgotten about within a decade.

About a century after Big Bertha’s death, the city of Killeen had grown and thrived in central Texas. It was overrun with students. In 1994 a new school, Brookhaven, was built on the exact spot where Big Bertha was buried. Nobody realized that her grave was still there because no marker identified the gravesite.

Just prior to opening the new Brookhaven School a routine check was made with the city graves registration. Only then did they discover that the southwest corner of the Brookhaven School had been built over Big Bertha’s grave. City and school district officials met to decide what should be done. It was decided that it would be prohibitively expensive to tear down the school and move the grave. That plainly was not an option.

Since Big Bertha had no living relatives and only a few people knew her grave existed, they decided to do nothing at all. They acted as if it hadn’t happened. This would prove to be a frightening mistake.

After the Brookhaven School opened, the school’s custodians started to complain. They were concerned about some very strange happenings that occurred while they were cleaning the school after dark. There was talk of eerie noises, unexplained flying objects, and just plain spooky events.

Brookhaven experienced a large turnover of custodian personnel. The custodians were quitting almost as fast as they were hired. They told anyone who would listen about the spooky events, but nobody believed them. Nothing ever happened during the day when the students and teachers were there. Hence, the authorities assumed the spooky stories were being made up by disgruntled employees, the custodians.

About five months into the school year Brookhaven started a Behavior Management class for students who were having difficulty with their behavior. These students were occasionally required to stay after school for several hours because of poor behavior. This was called after school intervention but the students themselves called it late night.

It was when these students stayed for late night that the authorities finally found out what was really going on. They quickly learned that the custodians had been honest about their spooky encounters.

Recall that legend said Big Bertha was tough and sometimes ruthless with badly behaved students. They were students much like those who had to stay for late night in modern times. It turns out that when they built the Brookhaven School over Big Bertha’s gave the construction disrupted her peaceful rest. Big Bertha’s spirit came to life. Her ghost started haunting the Brookhaven School. She would never come out of her grave during daylight hours. That is why none of the students or staff who were at Brookhaven during daylight hours saw or heard her. Big Bertha’s ghost was only active after darkness fell. This explains why the custodians experienced all the strange and spooky happenings at night.

Big Bertha’s activities could be heard but she would rarely show herself unless bad students were in the school or on school property. Her ghost usually remained indoors, in the southwest corner of the school, near her grave. However, on occasion her ghost would fly to other parts of the school. Sometimes she would go outside on school grounds. It was as if she were protecting her turf.

Big Bertha’s ghost was off-white, almost creamy in color. It was also transparent in that you could see through parts of it as if looking through a hazy cloud like substance. Her hair was pure white. It was shoulder length and was parted in the middle. Her eyes were big, round, and pitch black. Big Bertha’s ghost still wore her long white burial dress. It had ruffles around the neck, the bottom of the dress and around the wrists of her long sleeves.

Big Bertha’s nose was very wide and long. Her cheeks were full and rotund. She had a large mole near her square and dimpled chin. Her lips were full and pale. Her mouth was wide. She had a few missing teeth. Those teeth that remained were large, pointed, and sharp. Her fingernails were also long and pointed. They resembled the claws of a wild beast.

When Big Bertha appeared she hovered in mid-air. She slowly turned her head from left to right. She glared in each direction. It was very eerie. When she saw a bad kid, Big Bertha would let out a high pitch screeching scream. It was a kind of “eeyeee” sound. Big Bertha’s ghost could look at objects such as trash cans, desks, and chairs and with mind control could send them flying through the air at a high speed. Sometimes she would intentionally miss the student, intending only to scare him. That was what she usually did to misbehaved female students.

Recall that Big Bertha was much tougher on male students than female students. Most often, if it were a boy, she would let the object hit him. For the worst behaved students the butt buster would magically appear. Big Bertha would levitate the student as if picking him up by the back of the neck. Then she would attack him with the butt buster. These students ether died from the whopping or ended up in the hospital badly beaten up and in excruciating pain.

On one occasion, two teachers tried to come to the aide of a couple of students. Big Bertha, who usually left teachers alone, became very angry when they tried to interfere. She levitated the largest teacher, who weighed over 265 pounds, and threw him into the other teacher. They both crashed against the wall with considerable force.

The smaller teacher was crushed to death. Being hit with the velocity and force of the larger teacher that came flying through, was more then the smaller teacher’s body could endure. The larger teacher ended up with a broken back. Big Bertha’s ghost levitated over him for a few seconds. She waved her index finger back and forth at the suffering big teacher. It was as if she were trying to say “naughty naughty, don’t ever do that again.” Then she vanished.

To this day, several students, parents, teachers and other staff have seen the ghost of Big Bertha. All the sightings have been at night and especially on Halloween. Recall that Halloween is the anniversary of both Big Bertha’s birth and her death.

Most people who have seen Big Bertha elect not to talk about it. They fear that nobody will believe them. Others, out of concern that the Brookhaven students might become alarmed or that parents will worry, elect to deny the existence of Big Bertha. They frequently tried to end her legendary story, but the Legend of Big Bertha lives on.

What do you believe? If you are in doubt someday you might see Big Bertha yourself. If you do, for your sake, I hope that you have been a good student. Always remember to stay away from the Brookhaven School on Halloween. The ghost of Big Bertha will make a believer out of anyone.

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Coet

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