Ghost Hunters Visit Jail
From Clay Today:
By Benjamin Krasowski
UNF student correspondent
GREEN COVE SPRINGS — A cold January wind blew across the Clay County ground on Saturday night, raising goose bumps on the back of necks, and perhaps sweeping in with it spirits of a forgotten past.
That was the atmosphere at the old Clay County Jail, which is located in the historic triangle of Clay County in Green Cove Springs, and has sat empty for over 30 years now. Passionate ghost hunters from the group Catch Any Paranormal Event dissected the building with hopes of observing a being from another realm.
Walking into the jail, the age of the building truly showed itself. The paint on the walls was peeling, and everyone was warned not to touch it due to the fact that it was lead-based.
The cells were all fairly small, only large enough to house 2-3 inmates in each. They contained fold down beds, and a toilet and sink in each. There were mannequins spread throughout the jail. They were dressed in striped jumpsuits, the common garb seen on prisoners of the time period. Their blank eyes stared back at you, and you felt that every step you took in the ancient corridors was being watched by a presence not of this world.
The jail is two stories, and the staircase that leads to the second floor looked as rickety as a metal staircase could get. Even after being reassured that it had been recently re-welded, but walking up it took courage. You could feel the anxiety of the prisoners of the past, while they were being led to their cells, and perhaps one of them was seeking some mischievous revenge.
The cells on the second floor had the same layout as the ones below, with the exception of some cells that had been added on in the 1920’s. A section of the ceiling had fallen in, leaving plaster all over the floor. Walking up and down the narrow corridor in between the cells created sounds similar to bones cracking.
It took time for the group to get prepared, and anticipation was growing thick in the air. The electricity kept cutting in and out, causing the lights to flicker on and off. It felt as if something was beckoning us in. Then the command was given, and the lights were turned off for good, and the investigation began.
Al and Wanda Thackrah are the ringleaders of Orlando-based C.A.P.E. They have been hunting ghosts for about 20 years.
“Years ago, I used to be a commercial diver on the St. Lawrence Seaway,” Al Thackrah said. “I used to go on treasure hunting exhibitions on the St. Lawrence, and with treasure you get the paranormal. That’s how I got started.”
C.A.P.E. uses different techniques to see spirits. They set up infrared cameras and audio monitors to catch any images or sounds created by the supernatural. Their members walk around the haunted structure taking flash photos with digital cameras, and using Electromagnetic Field Monitors to detect ghosts.
“E.M.F. monitors are set off by electronic fields, and get interfered with by wiring and cell phones,” a team member explained. “So if it goes off in a building with no power flow and no electronics it can show us that there is a presence.”
The group is made up of about a dozen members, ranging all ages. The Duco family has been ghost hunting for around two years now. Carlos, his wife Marilyn, and their son Daniel have all had experiences with the paranormal.
“I was touched while on a ghost tour in St. Augustine,” said Carlos. “It was a still night, and bug free. I was taking a picture and it felt like a hand brushed my neck, but no one was around. I asked the guide and he told me other people had had the same experience.”
His wife Marilyn told about how their son had gotten locked in a garage in a haunted structure while nobody was around. When asked, Daniel refused to talk about the experience.
The group also conducted an investigation at the Little Ruth Church Graveyard, which is located four miles south of Green Cove Springs. The process was the same as in the jail, but the atmosphere was much more tranquil. There were no initial findings, and the dead seemed to be resting peacefully.
The group wrapped up their investigation at the jail around 1:30 a.m., and are still reviewing and debunking the material for utmost accuracy. It will be a week before the group releases any information about the jail and it being haunted or not, but this is to insure utmost accuracy.
The old Clay County jail was erected in 1894, and additions were built in the 1920’s. It is the second oldest jail in the State of Florida. Two known executions were carried out at the jail, one in 1903 and the other in 1924. Gallows were erected where the parking lot is now.