By Jim Miles
Washington County Historical society is headquartered in the Old Jail Museum in Sandersville. Essie English was a 16-year-old girl living upstairs in the family portion of the jail on a Saturday morning in 1901, happily engaged to be married. When she stood too close to a fireplace, her dress caught fire and she was horribly burned. Newspaper accounts record the frantic but useless effects of her father and brother to extinguish the fire. After two weeks of excruciating pain, English died. Essie lies in an unmarked grave in a cemetery behind the jail, so she doesn’t have a long commute to haunt the building 116 years after her death.
What Is Experienced at the Haunted Jail!
For years, workers at the Old Jail Museum have experienced paranormal events.
“I went upstairs to Essie’s room,” stated Clara Brookins, “and the Victrola is by the door and I saw it was spinning and it was no air conditioning, no windows up there, no draft, so I stopped it. I continued to look around the room and I turned around to look at it and it started spinning again.”
“We have different things happening,” said Loretta Cato, chairman of the Genealogy Department, “that were not normal and not just one person, but several of us have felt these spirits. And different things have happened, and we witnessed it. So we knew there was something here.”
She recognized that ghosts “don’t act on your wishes. They act when they want to and it is usually at a most unusual time. It’s usually shocking when it happens.”
Workers and visitors have both detected spirits in the house. “There’s a pressure…you feel like there’s something back behind you or around you and it’s an awesome feeling.
Visitors “have noticed her, that she did live here and her spirit is still here. She didn’t live here long enough to really enjoy life.”
To investigate these events, a 10-member team from Lost Souls Paranormal in South Carolina arrived on August 11 to spend the night at haunted jail and conduct a scientific search for evidence of the supernatural. TV station WMAZ CBS Macon tagged along for the experience.
The equipment utilized included video cameras, audio recorders, motion sensors, and K-2 meters which measure electromagnetic fields. In short, they were loaded for Casper.
What Did the Ghost Hunters Find at the Haunted Jail?
Three rooms within the jail were investigated, Essie’s Room, Miss Elizabeth’s Room, and a cell used for female inmates.
In Essie’s Room the motion detector went off multiple times, which might have indicated the prescience of a spirit or merely movements of the living, investigators frankly admitted.
After they exited Essie’s Room a camera photographed an orb. Again, the investigators allowed that orbs were also open for interpretation. Said Steven Hicks, “a lot of the people believe it’s a ball of energy. But it could be debunked between bugs, dust, anything like that.”
In the cell another investigator, Nicolle Gredzky, felt a pull on her ponytail. “It was definitely a weird sensation,” she said, explaining, “you never know what to expect and you should always expect the unexpected.”
Within a month Lost Souls Paranormal submitted their report to the Washington County Historical Society detailing what they saw, heard, and experienced during their investigation. They concluded that there was some evidence of paranormal activity, particularly a taped EVP and a fast moving orb caught on camera.
Staff were glad to have their experiences confirmed by Lost Souls. Cato said that future tours of the jail would include information about the supernatural. And why not, since the first news report of Essie increased visitation to the jail by 33 percent.” Just imagine what a full bodied apparition could draw.
For a Halloween feature in 2012 WMGT, Macon’s NBC TV station, visited the Old Jail Museum.
“I think you would classify me more as a skeptic,” said Marilyn Daniel, Cato’s assistant, “but I have seen strange things and heard strange things in this building that have caused me to take second thoughts. The front door opens and closes a lot…and no one is there. The toilet occasionally will flush.”
WMGT reporter Andrew Reeser invited Darkside Syndicate, ghost hunters from Milner, to investigate the historic building. Will Aymerich, Lead Investigator, was excited by the challenge.
“I’m going to count to ten,” Aymerich addressed Essie, “and then if you don’t communicate with us, we’re going to move to the other room.”
At that point an audio recorder captured the words, “That’s quick,” apparently indicating it had difficulty complying in such a short span of time.
Another audio recording revealed footsteps climbing the stairs of the haunted jail when no one was there.
Aymerich believes the dead can explain the “mystery of life after death-what happens after we die.”
Visit the Old Jail Museum, 129 Jones Street, Sandersville, Georgia 31082
478-552-6965. Open Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 2:00 – 5:00 p.m.; Open Saturday10:00 a.m. – 3 p.m., or by appointment email@example.com
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org