Mr. Potts never knew that type of activity took place under his command!

The Ghoul's of Groton

By John R Smith

This yarn is for those attending Radioman School at USCG TRACEN Groton, Connecticut. Anyone attending Governor’s Island or Petaluma can go back to sleep. I’m going to be digging into your memory banks, i.e., your "Septic Tanks of Recollection," so dust off the cobwebs and join me for a trip back into time. I may resort to a slight embellishment of the surroundings, but the tale remains the same.

Remember the "Post 2 stomper watches?" The elegant brick building which housed ET school posed no problems, but the creaky old wooden structure housing RM school provided the perfect atmosphere for fabulous practical jokes. The riverfront walk between ET school and RM school just added to the eerie atmosphere, particularly when you throw in those dense fogs that used to lay just above the ground.

After you made your first Detex clock "punch" at the side entrance of the RM school, you walked up to the second floor and made another "punch" by the big, double steel fire doors, then walked down a passageway to the back stairway and down another passageway toward the front entrance, stopping for a third "punch" just outside the custodial closet, which housed a deep sink.

It was July, 1967, and Class 2-67 was nearly ready to graduate into the Real World of Radio Operations. As "seniors" in Radio School, we were given the task of training "boots" in the fine art of "Stomper Watch, 101". I had the 0200-0400 watch one Saturday morning, and was assigned a tall, skinny kid fresh out of boot camp to train (like the kid I had been just 6 months earlier!)

We had made all our required rounds except the last one, when a fellow member of 2-67 visited us during our rounds. We acknowledged each other and went about our duties, the trainee and I continued our Post #2 watch while the classmate silently sneaked into the RM school building. After making our "punch" outside the school, we proceeded to the second floor to be certain the fire doors were closed. Sometimes the overhead lights were on, sometimes they were not. This night, the light was off and the room shown dimly in that eerie, red glow provided by the fire light.

We punched the clock and slid the big fire doors open. I guess I forgot to tell the trainee my classmate had wedged himself between the two fire doors and positioned a flashlight below his chin, shining up onto his face. As a good instructor, I had stepped back and allowed the trainee to open the door himself. My classmate made the most hideous moan when he saw the trainee, then fell to the floor. The trainee began spinning and running in place, arms flailing, eyes popping from their sockets and mouth wide open. I’m certain he was screaming, yet no noise came from his mouth. It took both of us several minutes to help the young fellow regain his composure, and the space was filled with a rather unpleasant aroma, but he eventually settled down enough to continue his rounds. We assured him that this was just an initiation rite and he was now "cool".

At this point, my classmate disappeared and I took the totally frazzled trainee to the next punch point, just outside the custodial locker. I guess I also forgot to tell him another classmate was sitting in the deep sink with another flashlight aimed up at his face, and the entire episode repeated itself. That poor kid never did recover, to the best of my knowledge, although he provided many hours of laughter when my fellow classmate shared watch-standing duties in Kodiak.

The fire-door classmate was RM3 Dick Schupp, now living in Texas, and the deep-sink classmate was Steve Troncale, from California, whom I never encountered again after school.

I’ll bet Mr. Potts never knew that type of activity took place under his command!


Return to Coast Guard Stories