Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Revisiting the ghosts of Roosevelt High School

It occurred to me the other day that I have been doing Weird Fresno for over seven years now and in that time I have written hundreds of stories about the weird and unusual in the Fresno area. Looking back at some of the early stories made me want to revisit them and share them with anyone new to the site. Looking through some I did in the first year I came across one of my favorite (and most popular stories). The ghosts of Roosevelt High School.

When I first wrote about Roosevelt High I had only heard of two locations that were haunted, the boys restroom in the East Hall and the school’s auditorium. Since I’ve written that article I’ve received nearly forty comments (as I write this) of people who have witnessed things in these locations as well as others I didn’t know about at the time. Now if these stories are true or not, it’s not my place to say. I’m just here to share what I’ve heard and add to the legend of Roosevelt High.

East Hall at Roosevelt High School - photo courtesy of Historic Fresno
With the boys restroom in the East Hall no one knows who it really is but it’s been rumored for years that it is the ghost of a student who committed suicide there. I’ve looked for any news article to add some validity to this but have been unable to find anything to substantiate it. That being said something has been felt there over the years and the stories cannot be discounted. One night a janitor was working late and heard coughing coming from the restroom. Thinking it was a student who had somehow snuck in and was hiding, he went to investigate the noise. Upon entering the bathroom it was completely empty and there was no way that anyone could have left it without him seeing them exit the restroom from where he standing in the hallway that he was cleaning.

For a while the restroom was closed and used for storage but was finally reopened in the 2007-2008 school year. Cold chills are sometimes felt when the door is opened even though the air is warmer everywhere else. Many students said they have felt a presence in the area and some have even heard noises as if someone was in there with them even though they were all alone.

Some of the other stories talk about how a girl supposedly jumped from the bell tower to her death and haunts the location to this day. Other stories say that she hung herself there. If either are true it’s hard to say. Another story was told to me by a student that heard from the kitchen staff that a spirit supposedly haunts the kitchen area but nothing specific was really said to them.

As I said, whether there is any truth to the above stories it’s hard to say. But the next one does have itself grounded in a true story, albeit a sad one.

Roosevelt High School Auditorium - photo courtesy of Historic Fresno
The school’s auditorium is said to be haunted by a student who was performing on stage, collapsed due to a heart attack and died. The spirit was called “Lester” and was said to roam the auditorium and sometimes play pranks on people by letting his presence be known. That was all I had heard and from the comments it seemed there was nothing more to the story. That changed a few months after I wrote the original article when a cousin of Lester’s, or Leslie as he was actually known as, contacted me to tell me the story was true.

It was October 10, 1960 and Leslie Chambers was six days away from his sixteenth birthday. It was a school assembly day and Leslie was performing a cheer on the stage of the auditorium in front of all the assembled students and faculty when he collapsed mid-performance and died on the spot. The doctors later found out he had a congenital heart defect and that was what led to his death. The school was obviously grief stricken and a memorial was quickly formed near one of the trees where Leslie and his girlfriend shared lunch each day.

It was a sad story to say the least and his cousin had contacted me so Leslie's story could be shared. I found interesting in that right after I posted that story I received some comments saying that the students in the auditorium still remember “Lester” and never forgot about him and they still consider him one of their own. One student said they were told by faculty that things would always wind up missing and they said he supposedly played pranks on students (the commentor doubted this as they felt the teacher was just messing with them but still wanted to share it). But what was said next brought a smile to my face (and maybe a tear to my eye). The students have always included him in every production done there since his death by listing his name in the cast/crew sign in sheet and it is a tradition that has been passed down over the years from student to student, class to class. Seems Leslie Chambers memory continues on, even over fifty years later.

Leslie Chambers
October 16, 1944 - October 10, 1960

As I post this it will be October 13, 2015, three days before Leslie would have turned 71. I hope someone from Roosevelt sees this before Friday October 16 and gets the word out to the RSA at Roosevelt and they wish Leslie a happy birthday. I know it would make him happy.

23 comments:

Unknown said...

Roosevelt hs we rock and yes I heard about that

Unknown said...

Roosevelt is a bad school

Unknown said...

Roosevelt is a bad school

Unknown said...

class of 93

Anonymous said...

Clase oficial '08

Anonymous said...

I did crew for many of the shows while I was in school there. I don't remember any sign-in sheets let alone one with Lester's name on it.
Also, did you hear that students call him Lester the molester? We know he didn't molest anyone, I think it was created just cause it rhymed and to create more fear in students. Not sure where or when the nickname started but I was there from 2002-2006.
I have also been an usher for the shows in the auditorium. This means I've had to enter both the men's and women's restrooms to clean them. Only the women's restroom seems to be haunted, but toilets would flush on their own with nobody in the restroom, there was clanging of the pipes. Mostly during shows only though.

Anonymous said...

THE VELT! Awesome school! Lots of talented and well known actors and musicians graduated from there!

catman57022 said...

I knew Leslie Chambers as Les. My older sister Linda was his girlfriend and I remember when he had passed that day. The principal of the school brought my sister home that day. We lived on Tulare St. between Chestnut and Garden Ave. Les and his family lived on Iowa ave just to the North. Our backyards were almost, but not quite back to back with each other separated by a common alley way. I was in Elementary school at the time and Les hung out at our house many a time. He had a step sister named Candy Grabner who was more my age and we were good friends until the family moved away.

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt 66 - We rocked!

janie genet said...

Roosevelt 75- Was an awesome school back in the day. It is a shame and makes me sad when you go by it now.

Lisha Newsom said...

Happy 71st Birthday Leslie aka Lester

Anonymous said...

Roosevelt School of the Arts was a great part of Roosevelt High School. My 3 kids went there and loved it. Happy Birthday Lester....

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Leslie!

Anonymous said...

This is completely true. I had a lot of friends in theater except they didn't let lester in their shows. They said no one was allowed to say Lester during a performance because it was bad luck. His name was on all the roosters but as a precaution not to upset him and have him kill someone during a performance. Everyone was scared most took it as a joke though.

Leeann Ojeda said...

Class of 2003 - Being a RSA student, I spent lots of time in the auditorium building (I had 4 classes in that building) and in the hallways backstage. I heard many stories of Lester aka Leslie while a student there. The only experiences I had with a supposed haunting in that auditorium were feelings of someone standing beside you when no one was there. A tickle on the back of your neck or a breath beside you. Nothing that scared me into not going back alone.
My band teacher in 1999 told me a story of his experience while alone in the theater. He visited the stage for the acoustics to practice after school hours. One night the red stage light came up. he ran back to the lighting booth to find no one and didn't see or hear anyone slip passed him. He resumed his practice when it happened again. He said it was enough for him not to return alone and believed it was Lester.

Leeann Ojeda said...

I also heard stories of the boys bathroom and the girl in the bell tower.

Alexan Balekian said...

I do remember the story of the auditorium being haunted. I'm a 1994 grad and Mr. Weatherford, who was our theater and wood shop teacher at the time told us about the bell tower and Leslie. Of course I thought he was just trying to scare us at the time. I do recall sometimes being on the catwalk of the auditorium there was a different chill up there, but I never heard any voices. However it did have a certain creepiness about it.

Alexan Balekian
c/o 94

Unknown said...

Im a current rsa student and i was in the auditorium i was helping with the set and i went and sat in the seats to see what the set looked like as i was sitting i felt something on my shoulder i looked up and almost screamed till i realized it was him (lester) i saw him looking at me and smiled he mouthed something to me and then hugged me then walked towards the stage he just stood there on the stage and he waved at me then faded as i remember what he mouthed he said to me "Im Always Watching never forget me ill keep you safe goodbye my friend" his voice was very light and it felt weird that he was real seems like im crazy but i saw him i. The auditorium he was fading in and out the lighting made it easier to see him this happened thisnyear as we built Joseph and the coat đŸ’–

Anonymous said...

Me and a buddy were in the east hall at night, nobody else was there except us. I kid you not,

sounds of foots steps going up and down stairs, sound of lockers opening and closing, and class room doors opening and closing. Kind of freaked me out.. Yes, I heard the rumors about some deaths in the east hall back in the days..

Anthony Guerrero said...

My dad remembers the boys bathroom story and the girl in the bell tower..

He was class of 76'

ItsTinoBitch said...

Class of 2001 , facts of Lester is really . I was part of the RSA only because I didn't want to deal with P.E . As a performer with the Mexican folklore team and marimba crew rehearsing in the auditorium was scary no matter if it was in the day or night . Our stuff would be missing all the time . I remember it was my turn to do my solo with my close friend and I was missing my hat and my bandana , I got the chills looking for it and then my classmate was like here use mine for now . So I did , as I was going back on stage I heard a laugh and no one was around at the time , everyone was in the dressing rooms preparing for there next act. After my performance I walked by the left wing of the stage and saw the cords move and I saw a flashing red light the lights were flickering in the hallway . I ran with my friend who did the solo with me and she was like did you notice that my box I was dancing on was sorta lose . I said was that the reason why you didn't do your turns correctly she said that her heel was getting stuck and she felt unbalanced. After the show was over and the audience were gone I had a strange feeling about my stuff that were missing . So , I told my teacher hey I need to find my hat and bandana . It was pitch black and a yellow light was only on on stage . I got the chills while looking for my things moments later I felt a rush wind as if someone ran pass me . Then I saw the cords that control the curtains move again. Then I heard a girls voice mind you everyone was gone . My phone rings of an unknown number when u googled the number it was I call from the auditorium. I never told my teacher anything u was shocked & scared at that point . As I was leaving the stage I felt a heavy breath following me to my class room where everyone was at . My teacher said hey did you find your stuff or did leaster took it ? I played it off and said I guess Lester need it more than me I guess . Grab my stuff and left home . So my teacher said lets go find them together . I didn't want to go back in there it was roughly about 10:45pm . My teacher unlocks the door to enter the auditorium and there was a red light flashing on stage . I said can we find them tomorrow ? My teacher was like no , we are already here we might as well find them . Then the curtains open slowing as we were walking towards the stage then my teacher was breathing hard and sweating so he tells me let's just go home and we will find them in the morning . By his facial expressions i knew it was Lester prankish us . When we exited the auditorium my teacher felt normal and he tells me get home safe as I was waiting for my parents to pick me up . I waited in front of the auditorium like most students because there light and it felt safe as I was waiting I saw a shadow walking by the glass doors . I turned my back away as I was feeling anxiety coming my way again . I checked my bag to see if I got everything and I was missing my phone so , I walked up to the doors to see if any if the doors were unlocked and while doing that I saw my phone flashing someone was calling my phone . no luck in getting my phone that night until the next day . I told my teacher I had left my phone in the auditorium and he was like oh no I'll call the janitor to get the phone for you . When I got my phone back I had 3 miss calls from the auditorium again . This time I told my teacher about and showed him. He said it has to be Lester. Thank god it was my last year and ever since I never stepped foot in that auditorium.


Florentino Reyes
C/o 2001

adrianna parra said...

I'm really seeing this a week before October 13th. What a coincidence-_-

Anonymous said...

they remember "Lester" but forgot mandy willins?.... sad. said to haunt ClassRM 233s. she shocked herself with her comb because of the bullies. right in front of them.. check the class and turn on all the lights. if they all turn off without being touched, shes there. her seat was row 2 either seat 3rd on the left or right idk but yea.. bullies suck :/