Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Haunted Prisons



I am working on a fascinating series of newsletter articles for work that I’m going to expand into some longer articles about haunted prisons and jails.  You might be surprised to know how many jails and prisons, all over the country, are rumored to be haunted.  I’m no ghost hunter, but I am fascinated by legend and lore, and this is some of the best.
The first prison I am writing about is the Huntsville Unit Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. The ‘Walls,’ as it is called, is the oldest prison in Texas and it still processes and houses inmates. Stories of ghostly apparitions and strange noises abound, and it’s no wonder; history has been made here. All Texas inmate executions are carried out here, so it’s no wonder there are tales of hauntings.

A few years back, a co-worker and I were down and Sam Houston University in Huntsville, and we had the opportunity to tour the Walls unit.  We saw the yard and the education building that were the scene of a hostage siege in 1974 in which four people died.  We also saw the death chamber and the abandon sections of the prison which is where most of the hauntings appear to take place.

The Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the oldest prison in Texas.  It was built in 1948 and 1849, and has been the scene of executions ever since, first through hangings, and then since 1924, through the use of the electric chair, “Old Sparky.” Following that, and up through current day, it is the site for lethal injections.  

Unexplained phenomena often originate from the original death row site located on the first floor of the East Building. The original death row and death chamber of the Walls Unit has not been in use since the 1950s. The South Building, as well as the catwalk connecting the two buildings are also said to be haunted by former inmates, who seek revenge.
One story tells of a Kiowa War Chief, Santanta, who was incarcerated for life, and in 1878, rather than live locked up, he chose to take his life by jumping from an interior third floor walkway.  He’s said to still be there, so it’s especially sad to think he managed to bind himself to the prison even in death, and never achieved the freedom he sought.

In addition, in July of 1974, three inmates took hostages in the educational wing of Huntsville’s Walls Unit.  The siege lasted eleven days, and four people died, including two inmates and two civilians.  Those ghosts remain as well.  Stories tell of officers confronting prisoners who disappear through walls. Others have reported hearing disturbing cries, and even words like “Hey Captain, hey Captain” which is suspected to refer the original warden at the walls, who was called Captain, although, he is by no mean the only Captain it could refer to.  

Excerpt:  Reaching for Beyond
I took a few deep breaths to center myself while we slipped on gloves and paper booties to avoid contaminating the crime scene, but the smell of blood was so strong to my shape shifter senses that when it combined with the darkness, trying to center almost made it worse. The rest of the house looked almost undisturbed. The plant, in the corner of the living room, lay on its side, dirt spilling onto the carpet, but that was the only sign anything had happened, until you got to the bedroom. The lack of footprints leading from the blood should have told an observer that the killer was preternatural if nothing else did, but overall, the rest of the house didn’t look nearly bad enough for the quantity of blood I could smell. 

Death creates a kind of a void of energy in the area of the death, and here, it seemed to have sucked all the air out of the house.  To my empathy, it’s like it’s trying to drain me of all my energy. With every step, the knot of anxiety in my stomach got a little larger and a little colder. The void echoed against my shields. Blood spatter on the outside of the bedroom door told me I wasn’t going to like what I saw, but I’d known that going in.

So much blood.  When I first stepped into the room, all my mind could process was blood.  It occurred to me that I was glad we had the paper booties on, but there was no way they could stand up to that much blood, and it would be a crapshoot as to whether or not I’d ever get the blood out of my shoes.  My feet squished in it when we walked into the room.  I couldn’t see the body at first.  Emotions screamed through the room, and my shields.  Rage. Pain. Terror.  When my mind finally began to process the scene, my stomach revolted, and I swallowed rapidly to keep from bolting for the door.  My anger increased, and I grabbed Jason’s arm again to use his energy for balance.

I hadn’t realized how unprepared I was for what I was seeing and feeling. The scene was beyond anything I could have imagined, and I have a very dark, twisty imagination. I’ve seen some things in this job I would have preferred not to see, but this was in a whole new category.

“Holy shit, what’s that?” Jason breathed the words more than spoke them. The shocked look on his face told me he could feel the energy that was now swirling through me.

“Energy, dark, dark energy.”