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The historic Cumming Public School’s a place for everyone, including those less corporeal
Cumming Playhouse
The historic Cumming Public School was first erected in 1923. It burned down and was rebuilt, and it reopened in 1927. - photo by For the FCN

Legends like Booger Mountain and the haunted Foster House have been floating around Forsyth County for years. Many people know the tricks of the trade; putting your car in neutral and letting the spirits of the hill push you up. And other residents have dined alongside ghosts and ghouls alike, sharing breakfast and swapping stories.

Cumming hosts many old buildings, some of which have stories to tell. The historic Cumming Public School is one such building. 

Local and beloved restaurant Tam’s Backstage is in the old Cumming Public School, and Kelly Tam talked about some of the odd occurrences they have experienced since opening the restaurant. 

“In the very early or late hours sometimes,” Tam said. “It sounds like kids playing upstairs, running and laughing.” She also said that sometimes lights would be off when they remember turning them on and vice versa.  

One of the common threads in stories Tam has heard over the years includes one man. He is always described as an older man with white hair wearing a yellow shirt.

“He’s like a resident there in the building,” Tam said. 

She said that she had never seen the man before and that no research has ever turned out that quite explains why there is an older gentleman there. 

Sometimes guests of Tam’s Backstage have told Tam they will see the man in the yellow shirt walking out of the bathroom, or perhaps sitting at a table. 

Many of the servers have mentioned they will go to take the man’s order, but as soon as they look away, he will disappear. 

“It’s like you think you see someone out of the corner of your eye,” Tam said, “but you turn around and … you don’t anymore.

“It’s so fun to watch people and hear about all their stories,” Tam said. “People get so excited, and then they tell even more stories.” 

The atmosphere at the historic Cumming Public School is one of fun and mischief. 

“No one has ever been harmed,” Tam said. “Even when glasses fall and break for no reason, no one’s been hurt. It’s really more like jokes, like people just playing pranks.”

Frank Clark, founder and curator of the Bell Research Center worked in the Cumming Public School building for 14 years. He said there were a few experiences he had that could not be explained, but none were quite as perplexing as his experiences with the radiators. 

Radiators used to heat the schoolhouse were left outside the rooms to maintain the charming old look of the schoolhouse. 

“I’d be hard-pressed to even lift one of those an inch off the ground,” Clark said regarding the radiators. “They’re real heavy.”

Clark witnessed this particular event twice during his time at the Cumming Public School, and still to this day has no explanation for what happened. 

One night, Clark and some of his associates caught the radiators vibrating, almost jumping up and down. 

“The thing was literally dancing,” Clark said. “Just jumping up and down on the floor. But … something that heavy doesn’t just start dancing like that.” 

Clark also described some odd happenings like hearing footsteps walking behind him while he was working. He remembered hearing tapping on windows and footsteps upstairs. But the experience that will continue to travel with him, even as he has moved buildings, is the story about the radiators. “Nothing dangerous or ill-tempered ever happened there,” Clark said, remarking upon his 14 years at the schoolhouse. “Maybe someone who was very involved with the old school stayed with it there, but it’s nothing bad.” 

Martha McConnell, co-president of the Historical Society of Forsyth County commented on her own personal experiences in the Cumming Public School, even backing up Clark’s claims about the radiators.

“The guys at the Bell Center called me out in the hallway one night,” McConnell said. “And those radiators were vibrating. They weren’t hooked up, and we couldn’t figure out why they were vibrating like that.”

McConnell said that she has also heard books slam shut in her room and that sometimes late at night there has been humming or singing in the building. Other people have seen figures in the bathroom or shadow people out of the corner of their eyes.

Being the co-president of the Historical Society, Martha McConnell often gets calls from residents of the county and people looking to move about odd happenings.

“We have that a lot with subdivisions,” McConnell said. “People say they see images of people sometimes around their neighborhood.”

One particularly interesting story that McConnell recalled was a conversation she had with a local realtor. The realtor had been in contact with a man about a property on Lake Lanier.

After giving the client some time to make a decision the realtor, having not heard from the man in quite some time, reached out to the wife to see what they had decided about the property. The woman was confused and said she had never spoken with the realtor or anyone about moving.

She said her husband, who had recently passed away, wanted to move to the lake. When the realtor described the man, the woman said, “That sounds just like my husband.” 

The historic Cumming Public School has been a staple of downtown Cumming for a long time, so there is no doubt that there is history practically woven into the bricks of the siding. The building has its own charms, being the home of the Historical Society and Tam’s Backstage restaurant, and whether you believe the spooks and scares are up to you.