Updated on May 12, 2010
Anyone who has spent much time as or around students at Modesto High School is likely to have heard the story of the ghost in the auditorium. The most common version of the tale holds that a young man, a student at the school, fell from the auditorium's balcony and died when his head struck the floor below. Since his death, he is often seen walking back and forth on the balcony.
There are, of course, variations on this story. In some of the variations that I have heard, the young man was despondent and commited suicide. In others, he was killed in an accident involving a sand bag or weight used to move scenery on pulleys.
While the auditorium ghost is the only version of the story that I have heard from other people who have lived in or around Modesto, entering "Modesto High School Ghost" into Google also produces a few references to strange knocking noises heard in one of the school's hallways, next to a room that used to be (and for all I know still is) used for home economics classes. On a few of the sites that mention this, the knocking sound is said to come from the floor, and references are made to tunnels that used to run under the school.
Commentary: I probably heard the auditorium story for the first time from my older sister, who graduated from Modesto High in 1992. Since then, I have heard it numerous times, from students and alumni of the school as well as from other folks around town.
Gene and Bryan of Hometown Tales, in an episode on haunted colleges made a comment to the effect of "the reason why there are ghost stories in colleges is because boys and girls go to college together." The same probably applies to high schools, as the use of scary stories is pretty common in adolescent courtship. But there is a bit more to it than that. Scary stories are a part of teenage social bonding in general, not just between the sexes, and putting the story in a shared context, such as a high school, makes it even more effective.
Add to that the fact that, as I am assured by everyone I know who has ever been involved in theatre, "every theatre has a ghost*", and it seems certain that the auditiorium of a high school would have its own ghost story.
In of June 22, 2009, the Wikipedia entry for Modesto High School had a history section that was two paragraphs long. The first, longer paragraph described the school's history. The second, short paragraph listed, with no transition, a few ghosts said to haunt the school. The jarring and non-sequitor nature of the entry was hilarious. However, it has now been changed and lacks the comedy elements that it had back then.
*Interestingly, I have only ever met one person involved in theatre who scoffed at the ghost stories. While doom is said to fall on those who dismiss the spirits, she was actually one of the most succesful theatre professionals that I have ever met. So, go figure.
Sources: Local Folklore, Published Book, The Illustrious Internet