For decades, a story has been passed down by outgoing Santa Maria High School seniors to incoming freshman about a ghost they believe inhabits their school.

Ethel Pope Auditorium, one of the oldest buildings on the high school’s campus, is said to be haunted by a ghost named Jeanette, who has been seen by students dwelling on the rafters and peering out of the auditorium’s attic window.

The story dates back to the early days of the high school. Jeanette was due to play the lead role in "Romeo and Juliet" in what was to be her last performance at the school.

Despite the rain that night, Jeanette left home for the school on her bicycle. Though she was late, students who saw the production said that it was Jeanette’s best performance yet.

However, the next day, the school received a call from the girl’s mother apologizing that her daughter had not made it to play the lead that night. She reported that Jeanette had been killed while crossing the street.

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In more ways than one, Jeanette’s story is remembered at the school — for her performance that night but, also, for her tragic death — raising the question about what really happened to the senior.

Since then, there have been reports from drama students about her presence being felt and seen on catwalks in the auditorium and in the basement and dressing room. She’s even been seen peering through the auditorium’s upper story window by passersby and students.

Her letterman jacket still hangs in the auditorium’s dressing room, and according to some students, the dress she wore for her role as Juliet slides off every hanger it has been hung on and is often found on the ground.

Jeanette is described as a peaceful ghost who only makes her presence known in a nonviolent manner by brushing up against students or tugging on their hair. Some students even have captured what they think might be her spirit on their cellphone cameras.

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.