Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ep. 385 - Old Clay County Jail

Our sponsor for this episode:

Laura Ruby's book "Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All. The audiobook is deeply discounted through May 2021 at your favorite digital audiobook retailer and get the paperback from Balzer + Bray wherever you buy books.

Moment in Oddity - Infinite Pit Revives Animals (Suggested by Scott Booker)

It all started with a phone call to Coast to Coast AM when Art Bell was host. A Mel Waters was calling in to let George and his listeners know that he had a bottomless pit on his property in Washington state. The hole had been located on the property for decades with many indigineous tribes being aware of its existence. Many locals called this "The Devil's Hole." The hole was nine feet in diameter and the beginnings of it were shored up with bricks to about fifteen feet deep, but once past that, there was just dirt and darkness. Waters told Bell that he had tried to measure how deep the hole was by dropping a fishing line with weight down the hole, but he gave up after 80,000 feet and no slack in the line. Animals avoided the hole too. No birds flew over the top and Waters' dogs would dig in their paws to keep from being moved near the hole. A voice doesn't echo into the hole and a radio placed near the hole played music from another era. The strangest story Waters told was that his neighbor had thrown his deceased dog down into the pit and the neighbor later claimed to see his dog running in the forest wearing his collar. The government leased Waters' land and told him to leave the country. When he returned, the government claimed that they had bought the property and neighbors told him that black vans had been guarding the hole. Waters called into the radio show a second time and listeners started investigating him and found no records of any kind for any Mel Waters in Washington. People aren't sure he even exists. Whether Mel's Hole exists or not, the story certainly is odd!

This Month in History - First Wagon Train Leaves For California

In the month of May, on the 1st, in 1841, the first emigrant wagon train left Independence, Missouri heading for California. This wagon train was headed by John Bidwell and Captain John Bartleson, two men who had organized the Western Emigration Society. This first group included 69 adults, five of who were women, and a couple of children, traveling by Conestoga wagons pulled by horses, mules and oxen. This would be the blind leading the blind as Bidwell and Bartleson had never traveled to California before. The group managed to move around twelve miles a day. At Soda Springs, Idaho, the group split in two because half wanted to go to Oregon and half wanted to go to California. Bidwell led the California group of 33 people. Before reaching California, they had to leave their wagons because the terrain was too much for them. This group eventually made it to Tuolumne County in California on November 4, 1841, arriving nearly starved to death and lacking water. This would be the beginnings of the Oregon Trail.

Old Clay County Jail (Suggested by: Emily)

Listener Emily had contacted us and wondered if we would like to join her on a ghost hunt of the Old Clay County Jail in Green Cove Springs, Florida and we, of course, said yes. This would be our second hunt at an old Florida jail in a little over a month's time. Like the Old Hamilton County Jail, this one was the scene of executions and was open for almost 100 years. Several sheriffs lost their lives too, so the spiritual energy here was high. But we also had experiences with another spirit that none of us expected because this one should not have been at the jail, but might have tagged along knowing that the opportunity to get a message through would be possible. Join us as we share the history and haunts of the Old Clay County Jail and Courthouse.

Clay County is located west of Jacksonville and St. Augustine and was established in 1858. People would flock to Clay County in that earlier era because of the hot springs. Steamboats would bring them in to cities like Green Cove Springs, which is where the Old Clay County Jail and Courthouse are located. The Courthouse was constructed in 1890 and was designed by Ellis and McClure. The original jail was made from wood in 1874 and by the time the courthouse was built, it was falling apart. The  jail that stands today was finished in 1894, rises two stories, has one-foot-thick brick walls and was designed by the Pauly Jail Company. There were sixteen jail cells with maximum security upstairs. The jail held men, women, juveniles and the mentally ill. 

This is the second oldest jail in Florida, falling right behind the Old Jail in St. Augustine. The solitary confinement for this jail was a box out back that was like a sweat box and some liken it to an archaic form of torture. Food was cooked early on by the jailer's wife and was mostly fresh food. But that is where comfort stopped as the jail had no AC or heat, so prisoners were left to the elements. The Clay County Jail was used until 1973. Executions took place at the jail. At least seven hangings were documented and all took place on a scaffold. Abe Middleton was hanged in 1912 for the accidental murder of a man. Many people think his spirit is still here since the murder was an accident. 

Many sheriffs served Clay County and the jail. One of them, Sheriff John P. Hall, served for three decades, which is a Florida record. Three Clay County Sheriffs were killed in the line of duty between the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sheriff Joshephus Peeler was shot and killed on May 10, 1894 at a train station when he intervened in an argument between two men. He left behind a wife and five children. ranging in age from 6 months to 10 years. Sheriff Charles Wilson was shot and killed by a suspect during an arrest attempt aboard a train on July 10, 1906. Sheriff Theodore Cherry was shot and killed by a suspect during an interrogation interview on July 6, 1913. They brought the body of Sheriff Cherry back to the jail and laid his body on the floor of the booking room, which is today the archives. That Sheriff may still be here and one woman claims that just as she approached the double front doors of the courthouse, a man jumped out at her and startled her. He was dressed in period clothing of a sheriff and had come through the doors without opening them. 

Emily had invited us to dinner before the ghost hunt and this is where we met the rest of our team for the evening. No one from the group had investigated inside the jail, which was exciting so that we wouldn't be biased in any way. And as we would come to find out, not all the spirits at the jail were from that location. Our team included Emily's husband Mike and her two sons, Jake and Luke, and then three other women named Jo, Sarah and Christine. We had a great time talking ghosts with them at dinner and answering their questions. None of the three of them had ever investigated before. 

After dinner, we drove into Green Cove Springs to the jail, which is part of a bigger museum complex. The historic courthouse is across from it and there are several pieces of train memorabilia that included an old train depot building and a caboose on tracks. We took some pictures and walked around with the EMF detector to see if we would get anything and it did go up to yellow for a bit. Emily then familiarized us with the lay of the land. (Emily Tour 1) So yes, there was a school diagonally across the street, which would have been unnerving when the jail was in use. While the front of the jail is similar in design to the Old Hamilton County Jail, this one was painted white in 1963 and stretches back farther, so it was much larger with more jail cells. The warden's living quarters was also separated more. We didn't get to see much of that because this was also archive storage, but there were pieces from the jail in regards to stories and artifacts. One of these was a spoon that had been shaped into a key. Billy Joe Krebb had made this in 1964 and used it to unlock his cell and those of the other inmates. Unfortunately, the key wouldn't work on the front door and they all ended up back in their cells. 

In the warden's quarters, many children were born. The first female mayor of Green Cove Springs was one of those children. The Hinson brothers grew up in the jail and they went on to become prison guards and one of them was actually present at the execution of Ted Bundy at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, Florida. After our visit in the archives, we went into the jail, which just oozed creep. The walls featured peeling paint, the metal bunks were rusting, cobwebs clung to high places and the rusted and warped stairway was interesting to navigate. Throughout the jail, there are signs on the walls detailing bits of history, which was a nice touch. 

One of the most common forms of evidence that investigators capture at the jail are electronic voice phenomena and that would be the case for us. Other unexplained phenomenon include disembodied voices and Kelly thought she had heard something say "Hey" from a few cells down from one we had all gathered in for an Estes Method Spirit Box session. There is also the sound of shuffling feet, footsteps and the creaking of cell doors. Weird anomalies have been caught in pictures. And many people have been touched in the jail. Kelly felt as though something touched her hair and her calf in one of the cells and also her bracelets. When the Ghost Hunters investigated this location during Season 9, Amy Bruni was scratched on her arm.

Vishi Garig is the Archive Specialist at the jail and she witnessed an apparition standing at the end of one of the cell blocks by an open cell door.  This spirit was wearing a long gray cotton shirt that she could tell was wrinkled, but she knew this was a spirit because everything other than the shirt was transparent. Plus, she was the only person in the jail. A man had been walking on the maximum security side of the jail and something he couldn't see grabbed his elbow inside one of the cells.

Kelly and I started in an end cell where she felt like there was a presence. We set up an EMF and the flashlight and started a dowsing rod session. The spirit indicated that it was afraid of the EMF detector. (Dowsing Rod 1) A couple of the doors were weird in the jail as the window that would allow an officer to look inside a block without actually going in was pointing outward rather then inward, so we weren't sure of the purpose of the doors. Kelly saved a lizard we found in one of the cells and she put him outside. We then did an Estes Session with the spirit box. Christine and Sarah joined us. (Estes Session 1) We got some pretty amazing answers there with names and other responses, including that angry cursing one. We decided to move to a different cell upstairs and we were just visiting as we set up equipment and the flashlight turned itself on and then off. We did a second (Estes Session 2), so right after this point, Diane just started firing off answers, which made us wonder if she was answering questions being asked in a nearby cell. So we moved. We decided to use the Spirit Box in the open. (Spirit Box) I'm thinking that the "life" might have been Mike since I heard that name before. And then we got that clear five. Then Christine and Sarah tried their hand at the Estes Method. (Christine Estes) So Christine heard a female voice and she was clearly scared. Then Sarah gave it a try. (Sarah Estes) They got initiated good!

We all gathered in a cell together and turned on the Spirit Box. (Group Estes) We got a "yes" and "It's me." I decided to do the Estes Method because it was hard to hear. (Diane Group Estes) I loved that the response was "boo" to what you want to say to Jo. I find it interesting that we got Michael and Em, which could be Emily and her husband Mike? And I love when Christine asks why the dowsing rods keep pointing at Luke and I say "I don't know dammit." Emily picked up some EVP. On this first one she asks about the cell that they are in and I believe they are doing a dowsing rod session. (Emily Cell No) And here is is amped. (Emily Cell No Amped) Definitely sounds like a male voice saying no. And what is convincing to us is that if this had been Emily's husband saying that, it would contradict that she is saying that the rods indicate yes and she says something else again really quickly, which we don't think she would had her husband said the no.

We then investigated outside where the gallows had been located. We set up the EMF detector and flashlight and then Kelly started a dowsing rod session and Diane did the Estes Method with the Spirit Box. We seemed to be communicating with some other type of entity. (Gallows Investigation) There was that sentence "Go to the box" and now we wonder if it was the sweat box that was used for solitary confinement. We didn't know about the sweat box until Diane researched this episode after the investigation. And then the "That's Laughable." Flashlight turned on as well. And about 2 minutes after the flashlight turned on, it turned off again and then turned right back on. The rest of the group joined us outside and we talked to Jo for a moment. (Jo Dad) That part where we were talking about Sarah, we had a Sarah with us, but Jo's wife's name is Sarah too.

 Jo seemed to be the center of much of our activity, which was interesting because it seemed that her father was trying to communicate with her. He passed away when Jo was 13 and from talking to her at dinner, even though she was probably the same age as us, it still was painful for her. This revealed itself in dowsing rod sessions and perhaps this EVP that Emily caught. (Emily Jo EVP) It's really hard to hear what we heard, so here is the part we want you to hear amped. (Emily Jo EVP Amped) Sure sounds like a breathy Jo to us. Now later, Emily asks the spirit about this and we think there might be a couple of things here. (Emily EVP Hans) Now we will amp the two places we hear EVPs. (Emily EVP Hans Amped) We hear wow and Hans. Here's (Hans EVP) again. Hans is Jo's father's name.

We had some very interesting experiences at this old jail. It seemed as though we were getting communication with some former occupants and possibly Jo's father. Is the Old Clay County Jail haunted? That is for you to decide!

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