Thursday, September 26, 2019

HGB Ep. 308 - Investigation of the Squirrel Cage Jail

Moment in Oddity - Jacob Miller, a War Survivor
Suggested by: Chelsea Flowers

Jacob Miller was a private in the Union army during the Civil War. He fought at the Battle of Chickamauga in northwest Georgia on September 19–20, 1863. This was a tense battle with high casualties and a loss for the Union. The only other battle to have more casualties would be the Battle of Gettysburg. Miller was one of those casualties. He suffered a bullet wound to the head, but miraculously he survived with the bullet lodging in his forehead. We all know head wounds bleed like crazy, so when Miller managed to regain consciousness and work his way off the battlefield, the Confederates didn't take him prisoner because they either thought he was as good as dead or they couldn't tell what uniform he was wearing. He eventually collapsed by a road and was taken to a field hospital where the surgeon decided he was a goner and so it made no sense to do surgery to remove the bullet. The next day, the hospital was moving the wounded because the Confederates were coming and they decided to leave Miller, even though he might become a prisoner of war, because he was too injured to move. Well, Miller was not about to become a prisoner, so he asked a nurse to fill his canteen and he was off. This man had some guts and nerves of steel as he couldn't see because his head was so swelled his eyelids were shut over his eyes. He had to physically lift an eyelid to even see, so he just made sure to head the opposite way of the boom of the cannons. Eventually, Miller was picked up and taken to Chattanooga. He then had to move again to Nashville. All this time, he was carrying the bullet in his forehead. He was transferred again and again to various hospitals and would beg to have the bullet removed, but no surgeon would do it. Finally, after nine months, doctors removed the musket ball. However, that wasn't all that was in there. Seventeen years later a buck shot dropped out of his forehead. And thirty one years later, two pieces of lead came out. So for nearly his whole life after the war, Miller had carried a bullet in his forehead and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Magic Flute Premieres

In the month of September, on the 30th, in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart premieres his opera, "The Magic Flute." This was a singspiel, which meant there were both singing and speaking parts and the libretto was written by Emanuel Schikaneder. The basic premise of the opera is that the villianous Queen of the Night persuades a young and attractive prince named Tamino to rescue her daughter, Pamina, from the priest Sarastro. Tamino falls in love with Pamina when he sees her picture and agrees, taking a magic flute with him. When he gets to the temple where Pamina is held, he finds that Sarastro is actually a good guy and trying to protect Pamina from the Queen of the Night. Pamina and Tamino decide to join the priest as part of his temple and this makes the Queen angry. She finds Pamina and threatens her that if she doesn't kill Sarastro, she'll disown her. Pamina won't do it and she and Tamino use the magic flute to go through all the trials they must surpass in order to be part od Sarastro's people. The couple succeed and the Queen of the Night is magically cast out into eternal night. For the premiere, Mozart's own sister-in-law played the part of the Queen of the Night and Schikaneder played the role of Papageno, a man who joins Tamino on his journey. The opera was a great success and had hundreds of performances during the 1790s. Unfortunately, Mozart would not realize much of this success as he died two months after the premiere. The opera has endured and is still performed in our modern era.

Investigation of the Squirrel Cage Jail

The Squirrel Cage Jail is very unassuming. This is a regular looking historic brick building in the middle of Council Bluffs, Iowa. No one would really know there was a jail inside, save for a few windows with bars in them. A black wrought-iron gate closes off the back of the jail and a colorful statue of a horse decorated with lights stands behind it. We had featured the Squirrel Cage Jail in Ep. 284, but this would be the first time we would actually get to go inside and tour the building. But we did more than just tour this location. This was the inaugural ghost hunt hosted by History Goes Bump and seven listeners joined myself and Kelly as we searched for communication with something from beyond the veil. And we believe we received that. Join me as I share the investigation of the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs!

We met up with Dolly, Cynthia and Phil at the Monster Club in Omaha before meeting everyone else at the jail. I did a BonusCast featuring that location, which also happens to be haunted. Our group at the jail for the evening would be Lynne and her daughter Emmalynn, Cynthia and her boyfriend Phil, Crystal, Amber and Dolly. You'll hear them throughout the audio I share. We all gathered in the front office area to take care of money, buy Squirrel Cage Jail wine and meet everyone. The stairs loomed behind us, inviting us to climb into the core of the most unique jail I have ever seen, three stories of rotating cells barely big enough to give a man room to stand or lie down and each set to hold two men. There are narrow bunk beds and a curved area at the back of the cell where the toilet is located. This lead to an innovation , a core sanitation system. That would help carry waste away, but it also made the place stink, especially on the fourth floor where the warden lived. That's why eventually the warden moved down to the second floor and converted the women's area of the jail into his apartment. Although we also heard that the hauntings up there drove the warden to not want to stay up there.

The jail would be a horrible place to spend even an hour and some men served years in what had to have been a very hot or very cold and stinky building. Ashley would be our guide and she gave us a brief overview of the history and explained the different hauntings they thought were going on. She introduced us to solitary confinement right away. Everyone is laughing because I got inside the cell, which is only big enough to stand in. While in solitary confinement, the eating and relieving oneself was anything, but fun. Here are excerpts from the rest of the tour. Listen closely as she talks about some of the inmates. Those inmates called the Mad Dog Killers, Charles Kelley and Charles Brown, will come up again as we conduct our investigation.

Ashley set us free and we gathered in the former kitchen and gathered our investigating equipment. And for those of you that support the show and are in the Facebook HGB Losers Club, this is where you started joining us and we ran a live investigation for you for around 1.5 hours. The top floor is where the warden and other guards lived and Dolly had gone up there before us and said the warden's room seemed to be active. Up here it is said that the spirit of the jail's builder, J.M. Carter, still hangs out because he used to live in the apartment. There is a previous jailer haunting the fourth floor as well. He was named Otto Gufath and his full-bodied apparition has been seen. We didn't see any spirits, but we did have experiences.

I had never tried the flashlight experiment for myself. I'd seen it on TV and I'd experienced it being used on various tours I've done. In the back of my skeptical mind I always thought something was rigged somehow. Obviously, nothing was rigged with our investigation and our first communication with something we couldn't see, came through the flashlight. So we were waiting for Dolly and Kelly to join us because they had the dowsing rods. As we waited, the Ghost Radar on people's phones were giving us words and such and we were discussing volumes. As I listened back to the audio I was reminded of exchange that happened. I think we caught something. I'll play it a couple times to see if you guys hear it and then I'll discuss it.  Now I'm going to pull out the specific spot I wanted you to hear and I think Cynthia wasn't hearing things. We debunked it. Nobody's app had Hello as a word at the time or archived. This voice didn't sound robotic and it sounds as though it is saying hello almost as a question. And here is a comparison of the male voice on the phone app versus the hello voice.

We then used dowsing rods to communicate. After a little while, we asked the only male in our group, Phil, to take the rods. He was a total skeptic and so we felt he would get the best results since he would not be prone to make the dowsing rods move with his own bias.

Dolly's EMF detector went off several times. The first time was in the cells where juveniles were kept. We also had the Ghost Radar say "draw" and we had a fun interaction based on that. Then I'm going to play this clip and listen to the end. Not sure what it is, but throughout the evening we heard weird noises. A couple times, Kelly and I heard what sounded like rocks being dropped from an upper cell. Then the Ghost Radar started shooting out words from what we thought was a young inmate. We continued the Dowsing Rod Session, this time with our tween participant asking some questions, Emma asked great questions, and listeners watching the live got to ask questions too. And I really love the questions we were asking and the answers. This is why I do investigations. I want to know what it's like to be in spirit form. I ask towards the end if the spirit gets tired and then I think I hear something very low. I amped it as high as I could without distorting and I hear a "Yes". The reason I don't think this was one of us is that I didn't have to amp any of our voices this much, even when someone whispered. This was very faint and none of us responded as though we had gotten an affirmative from the rods. EVP? I'll play the amped yes again.

Inmates would set paper on fire and use the smoke to smudge designs and words on ceilings and walls that are still here today. Lynne, Emma and I hear this. The second level is where things start getting really crazy with activity. We stand outside the cell where the inmate hanged himself. Behind us is the display case with the noose used to hang the Charlies. The EMF Dolly has starts going crazy. And then Kelly has her hair touched. And as you heard, the flashlight turns on and off. And it seemed Charles Kelly was talking to us. Carla Borgaila with the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County has said she has had the following experiences, “I have had my hat pulled off my head and my hair played with." This claim seems to be backed up by the fact that Kelly had her hair played with too.

We headed into the infirmary next to see if we got any activity. So did the Ghost Radar actually say Amber's last name Johnson because of her? And you gotta love stomach growls. Next we head into the Trustee's Room and the first thing you will hear is a word by the Ghost Radar. So not much activity in there. We decided to head back up to the fourth level where the warden's room was and we sat in a circle in the room where there was an organ and a music box that sometimes plays by itself. We heard there were ghost cats up there. We had no activity the rest of the evening and we packed it in at midnight.

We spent three hours inside the Squirrel Cage Jail. That's really not enough time to get a scientific feel for whether the jail is haunted or not, but based on our experiences and the bit of evidence we collected, there definitely seems to be something unexplained going on here. Is the Squirrel Cage Jail haunted? That is for you to decide!

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