Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 10, 2009
Standing outside the massive brick building half covered in vines, it’s easy to imagine the inmates of the old Covington County Jail haunting its abandoned cells – their moanings of perceived injustice echoing down the hallways.
Imagine no more, because according to the Alabama Paranormal Research Team, it’s a fact the old county jail is haunted – and they have the audio and video to back it up.
The group, which is based from Salem, Ala., was invited to the county by local historical society member Sue Bass Wilson and a local police officer, Roger Cender. There was no charge for the visit and each member works on a volunteer basis.
Faith Serafin, co-founder of the team, said she and five other team members made two trips to the old jail and were quite surprised at what they found inside.
“At first impression, at night, that building is massive,” Serafin said. “It’s weird at night, so naturally we wanted to get in there. Standing in front of it, we could get a feeling there was something odd about the building. (Bass) explained some of the things that had happened there and we researched it a little more before we went in.”
What the group discovered was that the old county jail was added to the National Historic Register in 1989. It was used beginning circa 1900, and closed until the current jail was built.
“This jail housed inmates from one-nighters to the most seasoned criminal,” she said. “And when we found out that Hank Williams did an overnighter there drunk and disorderly, we knew we had to get in.”
Serafin, along with local team member and Opp resident Michelle Smith, also discovered the Covington County Jail was involved in one of the few cases of martial law in the state, when on Dec. 6, 1901, Sheriff Bradshaw and Gov. Jenks contacted the Greenville National Guard and warned them of a pending riot totaling about 400 men on the jail after 25 black men were arrested for the murder of a merchant and a U.S. Marshall in Opp. The mob never made it to the jail, but they left four men dead in their wake, killing three black men in Opp and another by tying him to a tree and setting him on fire.
So it would stand to reason such a building would have one or two ghosts, especially when one considers it’s nearest neighbor – the Magnolia Cemetery, she said.
When the team arrived, they came armed with a variety of equipment.
“We brought everything from night surveillance equipment, thermal readers that measure air temperature, digital cameras, electromagnetic frequency detectors,” she said. “We even used dowsing rods or water-witch rods made of copper.”
What they were looking for were electromagnetic spikes that signified the presence of paranormal activity, she said.
And did they find it.
“While we were inside, the solitary confinement cell on second floor was interesting,” she said. “It really was an odd feeling, an off odd sensation. One of the places inside the jail that had a lot of activity was the boiler room in basement.
“The challenge about the building is that it’s large, massive steel and concrete,” she said. “Sound reverberates. Audio equipment use can hear inside a noisy room. It’s that good.
Inside the building, we were able to pick up what we call electronic voice phenomenon. It’s sound you can’t hear with human ear. That’s why use real sensitive equipment.
“And we got some good ones,” she said. “Roger and I were standing inside of the general population area, popping a set of hand cuffs. We asked out loud, ‘Are you upset a police officer is in a room?’ Well, we didn’t hear anything then, but on the audio, it said, ‘Yep.’ It was definite man’s voice.”
So when asked if the old jail is definitely haunted, Serafin said: “Absolutely. Ask anyone on the team. That place is haunted beyond a shadow of a doubt. There’s too much evidence, and it’s haunted by more than a few ghosts.”
To watch video, hear audio and to read more about the group’s trip to the old county jail, visit their Web site at http://www.alabamaghosthunters.com/CovingtonCountyJail.html.