When the Lawrenceville GA Ghost Tours began in 2005, I was one of the original guides. I have been director of the tour since 2008. Lawrenceville is in the metro Atlanta area and is a 35 mile drive from where I live, but I keep with the tour because I love the stories and the charm of the historic courthouse square.
There is lots of recent paranormal activity that is reported on our route. When I drop by the shops on the square to deliver brochures, again and again I am told about how their particular shop has activity; books flying off the shelves in the antique shop, a cold spot in the basement of the salon. There is a great deal of activity at a particular coffee house, but that's another story.
This story is about the historic jail. On an alley (called Calaboose Alley) just west of the courthouse square is this squat, non-descript building that people pass by everyday. They do not realize that it is the historic jail, built in 1832. And on the Lawrenceville Ghost Tour, we go inside. Well, that is, if the ghost that resides there deems to let us in. But I'll get to that later.
The jail is built out of double blocks of solid granite that are doweled together for strength. It was actually used as a jail until 1940 - for over one hundred years! At some point, they added electricity, but they never added indoor plumbing. (ICK)
The story that we tell in the jail comes from 1840 and it is about a slave by the name of Elleck. One day, Elleck's master comes after him in a fit of rage. Elleck tries to escape by going into his quarters. His master follows. Elleck scrambles up the little ladder to his sleeping loft but his master follows and draws his sword. Elleck tries to defend himself and his master ends up falling to the floor below. With his master dead at his feet, Elleck does not run; instead he goes to the sheriff and tells him that his master had been killed but that it was in self defense. Elleck is the only slave ever to be tried in Lawrenceville and the jury finds him guilty. He is sentenced to be hanged and brought back to the jail and locked into the cell on the right.
Not accepting this horrible miscarriage of justice, Elleck starts to chip his way though that granite wall. You can still see the large mark on the wall that shows the progress that he made. However, someone on the street hears a noise and alerts the sheriff. When the sheriff sees what Elleck has done to the jail, he is enraged. He chains Elleck to the floor by his wrists and ankles and leaves him there for three days. Elleck pleads to be allowed to sit in a more comfortable position, but his pleas are ignored. To pass the time Elleck sings to his beloved:
"Oh, Betsy will you meet me
Betsy will you meet me
Betsy will you meet me in heaven above"
On the fourth day, Elleck is taken from the jail to the gallows were he is hanged. But his spirit never has left the jail where he was so tightly bound for so long, and people still swear that they can hear him sing... "Betsy can you meet me in heaven above."
Well, that's the story that has been handed down through the years. Now, I have never heard the ghost sing, but I have felt Elleck's presence in many ways.
In 2006, a team of paranormal investigators came to the jail and documented all sorts of activity. One person feels someone tapping her on the shoulders. They take a picture of the cell and it shows all of these red orbs in an arc.
So, that is what I talk about on the tour. Now, here is my personal experience. I feel the presence of something else when I am in that jail. The feeling does not frighten me. Rather it makes me feel more alive. Here are some specific incidences:
There were three guides that helped develop the tour in 2005. During this process each of us developed horrible insomnia. My insomnia broke the first night that we performed the tour.
While the words of the song were handed down over the years, the melody had been lost, so it was up to us to create our own. I wanted mine to sound low and mournful; similar to the song sung in "Oh, Brother Where Art Thou" in the scene with the three gravediggers where George Clooney is just about to be hanged. But once I created this song, I could not get it out of my mind. Over and over and over, I kept hearing it, hour after hour, day after day after day. It would not go away for the longest time.
When I have a tour group inside of the jail and am singing this song, there are times that I really feel filled by the presence of someone else. If I get this light-headed feeling while I'm singing, I know that I've connected with the paranormal. One tour this year, I felt it strongly and after the song was done, I could tell that one lady felt it too. It disturbed her so much that she had to walk into the open doorway so she would no longer feel surrounded by the presence.
Now, one October I told this story seventeen times. Seventeen times! It's hard to do the tour over and over and make sure that you are keeping it fresh. One time in the jail, I was singing and heard my voice sounding not deep and full as it usually does. Well, all of the sudden, I hear my voice deepen. I could feel that it came not from within me but from outside of me.
Let's talk about getting into the jail. The door is metal and has this amazing key, like nothing you've ever seen before. And most of the time, it works easily. But there are times that the guides cannot open the door. All of the guides will talk about struggling and struggling and finally giving up but on the very next tour, the key turns with ease.
One time I went to the jail before my tour to change the batteries in flashlight that we keep in there. I could not get the key to turn. I struggled and struggled and struggled for a good three minutes. Finally, I pleaded out loud, "Please let me in!" I tried the key one more time and it turned with no problem.
On another tour, a group had two little dogs. Now, according to our website, dogs are not allowed, but it was a small tour that night and the dogs were small enough to pick up if there was a problem. I wondered how they would react to the jail, but did not say anything to their owner. Once inside, they started growling (for the first time that night) and had to be taken outside.
In October 2008, I'm giving a tour on the weekend. Now, on weekends in October, we may have 7 tours using 3 different guides going out of an evening, so it is essential to keep on schedule. Well, this night, early in the tour, when I'm talking about the historic cemetery (which Patrick Burns of Ghost Hounds calls the 'most active' cemetery he has ever seen) the word 'jail' pops out of my mouth instead of 'cemetery'. A couple of stories later, it happened again; I mean to say one word, but instead the word 'jail' comes out of my mouth.
So, I'm thinking, "What's going to happen in the jail tonight?"
At the half-way point of the tour (where Larry Flynt of Hustler was shot), I look at my watch and am delighted that I am running five minutes ahead of schedule. I am never ahead of schedule; I am always fighting time. But that night, for the first time, I was running ahead.
Next, we cross Crogan Street and head down Calaboose Alley to the jail. While we are in the jail we hear all sorts of sirens screaming very close to us. I make a joke that when the bombing begins that the jail is where we want to be because it will be the last thing in town left standing. I finish Elleck's story and the other story we tell in the jail. Now, I'm a little disappointed because nothing out of ordinary happens in the jail. But when I head back to Crogan Street, I first see a police car then another police car then a fire truck and an ambulance. Then I see the horrible accident that had taken place. A truck had plowed into a car so hard that the car was on its side. Had I been on schedule instead of running five minutes early, I would have been right at that intersection at the moment that that accident happened.
Finally, I'm in the jail one night and have a large group of about 25. Now, there is one small cell that has an open door and two large cells that we see through the bars of the closed cell doors. Since it is pretty crowded, I stand in the little recessed area in front of one of the cell doors. As I'm telling Elleck's story, I do something that I have never done before, I casually place the palm of my left hand against one of those granite blocks of the cell wall. Suddenly, I am filled with almost unbearable sorrow. I struggle to keep my hand there for the duration of the story. When I take my hand off that wall, the feeling of being filled with sorrow stops as suddenly as it began.
So, come and take a Lawrenceville Ghost Tour and see what you feel, hear or see inside the jail. That is if Elleck deems to let the door unlock that night.
For more information about the tour go to scarystroll.com
To see me tell the story as I tell it on the tour (complete with costume and outrageous southern accent) go to YouTube and enter Lawrenceville Ghost Tour in the search engine.