Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blue Skies and Iron Bars: Paranormal Penitentiary

Normally, I would post photos and experiences much quicker after visiting a place, but I've delayed this particular post because it contains a more person reveal of what I feel, see and do. I completely understand skepticism. Heck, I'm pretty darn skeptical about many areas and people investigating the paranormal. I think we all have to maintain a grounded approach, while still remaining open to the not so easily explained. I give much thought to power of suggestion, placebo effect, psychosomatic reaction, expectations, physiology, and natural or man-made contamination. Science and faith can collaborate if we allow it to. I can't always explain why or how these things happen - or why some individuals can sense and others can't -- I simply know...well, me

sensing certain things is no more strange than being able to smell, taste or hear. It feels natural and I sometimes forget (until I'm reminded or made fun of) that not everyone picks up on the same things that I do. For me, it seems like a basic instinct, but I'm often reminded that it is supposedly 'paranormal' to do and feel what I sometimes can. Since childhood, I've been called: weird, unusual, eccentric, imaginative, nutter, creepy, freak, psycho and crazy by kids and yes, adults. Yeah, I've heard it all and for a long time I've kept my mouth shut, isolating myself from most things (which doesn't really work too well), and not speaking about it except to a very close and trusted inner circle of friends. I was actually letting others lack of perception rule my daily life.

Even though my suppression may have eased an individual's discomfort with the subject matter, it caused a toxic level of anxiety, nightmares, phobias, frustration and unhappiness that built over the years within myself. Finally I reached the critical point where I had to say, "Tell Hell with the Haters!"  Now, I can laugh at being 'stranage' or 'crazy' because I'm secure enough with whom I am to know that I'm not. I'm actually lucky and gifted and God bless me, different! I have much to offer and enjoy exploring the world again (with all its extras). There is a science, exploration, richness, balance and understanding that comes with listening to all the senses. There is good and bad, harmony and disturbing chaos. I've decided to share this part of my life with others and hope it facilitates discussions, questions, generates answers, validations and shares experiences that lead to understanding or more theories.  In addition, I want to be a confident source and example to my children.  Strength wins over cowardliness and light over dark.

Old Idaho Penitentiary
Whenever I travel, whether it's for work, vacation or family, I try to make the most of my time in every place. You never know when you might get back and I can't stand missing out on an opportunity. Recently, I've been traveling with my daughter to various college campuses. After narrowing down her choices, we decided the final decision had to be based on our personal experience and tours. Our last college to visit was Boise State located in Idaho. We literally had 24 hours (the turn and burn travel method) in the city. 

Unfortunately, by the time we landed, the Old Penitentiary was closing. Hey, I'm flexible...I can re-work the schedule in a heartbeat! Time is a wasting, so we had to switch gears. Instead, we toured the immediate area around the campus, stores, historical areas, capitol building, parks etc. We located everything a college kid would need or want -- as well as, conducting my very scientific 'is this a relatively safe place for my daughter at night' assessment. Then it was dinner, shower, and bed because we had an early morning.  

At 8:45 am we were up (not completely awake), but functioning the best I can at this hour. We skipped breakfast, because who the hell can eat at this ungodly hour, and went straight to the parking garage. We embarked on the student guided campus tour, learning all we needed to know about prancing ponies and bright orange skinny jeans at Boise St. Promptly, following the campus tour, we hit the Student Union for some authentic college cuisine. Afterward, I swiftly spotted a Starbucks located in the library (bonus) before hoofing it to the Honors College to meet with an advisor. After a Q&A and quick tour, we were off across campus to the science building to grill the Biology department representative.  

Now, the clock hands are pointing at 2:30 pm. Determined to make it to the penitentiary before our plane departs, we hustled to the parking garage. Oh, wait...we hustled to the wrong parking garage, oops! Yep, after a slight panic attack that our rental car got towed and wasting valuable time, we were soon back on track, found our car and sped across town to the penitentiary for a quick history and spook session. 

May I begin by saying that for those who know me or have read previous posts, know that I travel and tour many places that have paranormal claims. I've grown up with the paranormal and I'm not readily frightened or anxious around such things. I must say, either I was having an 'off' day, or Idaho Pen let me have it because even in the daylight, with clear beautiful blue skies and birdies cooing, this place left me a bit more than unsettled. I had a hard time entering almost every building and remaining. A few places I even refused to go through or into. I rarely do that!  I can honestly say, I don't know if I'd go back at night to this particular location. Perhaps, I wouldn't sense as much or have such a strong reaction, but it definitely made a lasting impression. My advice, investigators beware and don't fool around. This is a place for the seasoned and serious paranormal researcher or intuitive. Enter with respect (as you should all places) and protection. You've been warned.

Boise Blue Sky and Bars (the iron kind)
Inside the main yard
At the Old Idaho Penitentiary, we were greeted by a volunteer and given a map. This site provides the unique opportunity for visitors to explore (self-guide) the buildings. Most historical sites and museums are rather restricted, crammed with tourists or monitored, that can alter or hinder the experience, both normal and paranormal. This place was amazing because we pretty much had the entire area to ourselves, and most of it was open and left in its natural state.  

Compared to other prison tours, you're not going to get fancy headphones and talking information boards, or a gift shop at the end of a guided tour at this Old Idaho Pen. It's authentic, raw and worth the stop.  If you happen to have questions or just feel chatty, the gentleman at the front office is extremely informative, approachable and friendly. He was happy to answer inquiries, without being intrusive.    

Cell House 2  Was built in 1899 and is also referred to as the "North Wing." This building houses two-man cells with no indoor plumbing.  During the years of operation, a "honey bucket" was placed in the corner of each cell and served as a toilet. During the riot in 1973, parts of this building burned in a fire set by inmates. You can observe charred areas on the underside of the overhangs.  

The doorways are very narrow and the partial ceiling, including the height of cells, is rather low. My daughter stands at a whopping 5'2" and she didn't have a lot of clearance. We both wondered how normal size or large men functioned and moved within these spaces. It must have been extremely uncomfortable and claustrophobic.
The left photo shows the spacious two-man bunk.  In the right photo is the ventilation hole where each honey bucket toilet (similar to a chamber pot) would sit. Remember, this building was used until 1973.  Gross!

Okay, that is the brief documented tourist history, but what did I experience?  

From the onset, I had difficultly putting one foot in front of the other at this place. Even though I really wanted to see everything, it was actually hard to force myself to enter any of the buildings. Both my daughter and I couldn't bring ourselves to walk through the connecting hallways. It literally felt as if there was a barrier or energy field that kept us out. We'd approach, turn, look at each other and ask if the other 'felt' that. Oh, I know I could have pressed on, but something didn't want us back there, so we respected the warning. 

As soon as I crossed the threshold of Cell House 2, I paused to focus on my breathing. There is anxiety from being nervous, then there is anxiety from energy. I was dealing with processing the energy of the place. In this particular space, I never felt like I could fully catch my breath.  

In the entry I was immediately met by something that keep touching my hair and left side. This ghost stuck close to me the entire time I toured the prison and wouldn't stop messing with my hair, sending tingling sensations (the creepy kind) down my neck and arms.  It felt like someone lightly touching you while at the same time walking through cobwebs.  

Even though my daughter has grown up around me, I still tend to contain or control my reaction to things because I don't want to startle or frighten her. So in this case, I let her go ahead and observed her (and the space around her) and hung back. Yep, while she wasn't looking I was swatting at invisible cobwebs and mumbling to the ghost man to stop touching me. Of course, he didn't listen, so I had to exert my will a bit louder. Now, I'm shuddering and wiping at invisible stuff, while squirming around. Yeah, I imagine I looked liked a schizophrenic off her meds, but hell, no one was in the building (thank God!) so public embarrassment wasn't an issue this time. However, my daughter started laughing (instead of being scared), she asked me what was going on? I told her that this guy was giving me the willies and messing with me. She confidently walked by and said, "Guess he likes you -- better you than me," and marched toward the next building. Geez, thanks partner!

Admittedly, the only history I know about the Idaho Penitentiary is what was given to me by the volunteer. I know even less about the inmates and guards who resided or worked there. For this reason, I'm including a description/impressions of the man who tagged along with me. If any other, readers, PN researchers or historians have info. or know who this might be, I'd love to hear from you.

How my new admirer appeared to me:  He didn't give me a name. He wasn't interested in revealing that information to me. He wasn't much taller than me, guessing around 5'8-5'9. He was younger, I'd say in his 20's with a fit build, but thin.  His hair was in a buzz cut and was a dark blondish tone. He had blueish gray eyes and a country boy smile. However, he was mischievous and despite his flirty demeanor, I felt he had a darker side. He enjoyed being annoying, liked watching for a reaction, was curious but also quick-tempered if offended. I'm sure he could convince a lot of people of his innocence, but my impression is he was the type of good-looking boy that could turn mean, fast. He had no problem invading personal space and enjoyed staying uncomfortably close - either to intimidate or creep. Throughout the tour I referred to him as my temporary hitchhiker, because he went everywhere I did. He didn't just follow, he was so close, that he continual touched my left side the entire time. With one exception: He did not enter Cell House 3. Instead he lingered in the yard with his hands in his pockets as if he was watching (stand-offish) the other inmates and activities going on.

Cell House 3 Was originally condemned for habitation in 1921 and was converted into a shoe factory. Then in 1928, was remodeled for inmate occupancy and became the first house with indoor plumbing. Bonus!  
Both my daughter and I experienced the same sensations while in this building. First, we felt like we were on a boat. You get this sort of rocking, unstable feeling even when standing still. Although, this is an old building, it is solid. I can't say the flooring is completely even, but usually in spaces with varying flooring, you get what I call a 'fun house effect,' this was more like a continually rocking back and forth sensation. If I didn't know better, I would have thought we had entered the haul of a vessel. Secondly, and this happened when we were climbing the stairs, we both got a strange poking/stabbing feeling in our stomach area. We agreed it felt like when a person pokes to tickle you, but it actually hurts instead.  That is the best way we could describe it. It was uncomfortable and felt like someone was sticking a finger in my left side and wiggling it around.

second floor  
On the second floor (see pic. right) is a row of cells and the railing to the right. Today, there is fencing that runs from floor to ceiling to prevent anyone from tumbling over, but back in the day, it was open until a few inmates took a dive with the help of a hostile peer or guard. As you can see, it is very narrow. People would have to walk single file. Again, the place and how it is designed already gives a 'clastraphobic' feeling, which does heighten anxiety. It truly wasn't that high up, but it felt like you could fall at any moment, and the swaying sensation didn't help. Lauren was more daring than I was and ventured nearly to the end, but was spooked by something in a cell further down. Like I said above, I'm typically not spooked, but I had a very difficult time navigating this location.  

Cell House 5 - Maximum Security Built in 1954, this building housed the most violent offenders. It also included a gallows and 'Death Row.'
Above is a photo taken in the observation room of the gallows execution area. The metal trap door on the floor in where the prisoner would stand, the metal level on the right was for the executioner. This was on the upper floor, directly next to the Death Row hall and cells. In the reflection (behind my daughter) is a wood bench. This is what visitors of the execution would sit on to witness a prisoner's death. 
In the exterior hall I found a foot print stain on the concrete. It looked as if it had been burned or charred in the cement. I don't know if this occurred during the fire/riot or who it might have belonged too. I have a rather large foot (for a female) wearing a size 9, so you can estimate the size of the boot that made this print.
As I approached Death Row I was hit by a horrible and excruciating stabbing pain in my heart. I gasped and froze. My daughter obviously heard me and turned around. I happened to snap a picture (mostly because I was squeezing the crap out of my phone) due to the pain I suddenly felt. I caught my daughter's reaction to my reaction. She's wondering if I'm okay. She later confessed that she was worried that I was looking at something standing behind her. I didn't mean to freak her out, but this time, I couldn't stop my immediate reaction. My eyes were wide and I immediately had tears welling up. I backed up and let her know I didn't think I'd be able to go in the Death Row hallway. I honestly was trying not to cry because it hurt. I was thinking, "I might be having a real heart attack!" We did immediately leave the area and after a few minutes outside, I was cleared of any strange feelings. 

Later, the volunteer told us a few Death Row inmates had commented suicide, one man hung himself. However, many inmates were stabbed in this facility and several items were confiscated from cells and the prison yard.  

Siberia and The Cooler

I think a quote from my daughter pretty much sums up our impressions: "This place is Hell on Earth." Naturally, the state of the cells, size, conditions and confinement are all designed for discomfort. It's not such a big stretch to find these places dismal, depressing, repressive and creepy. Putting that all aside, we found it very difficult to enter the "Cooler," which was built in the early 1920's. Was it a trick of the eye, perception of light or construction that made us hesitate? The interior is so dark, that even with the door open, you can't see what is inside. It is simply, pitch black. Blacker than black (those who have experienced this, know what I mean). However, once you take the blind plunge across the threshold, you'll be able to see perfectly.  
That's the entire width of the cell. There is a round 'skylight' in the ceiling - but that is it. No cot or toilet. You can easily put out your arms and touch both walls at the same time. Amazingly, each cell contained between 4- 6 men.  Yep, you heard me correctly! This place makes Death Row look like a four star hotel!

Siberia (Solitary Confinement)
Damp, cold and completely maddening. I can't imagine that anyone who went in with their mental capacities intact, came out with them.  
Each door (with slot) is a separate cell. There is only one entrance and one hall. This the entire interior.
That's it. The building housed twelve 3x8 cells! A single inmate per cell lived in here sometimes up to 6-12 months!  It's an abomination, but might still be better than the cooler. Either place is just horrifying. I can't imagine the psychological fall out from places like these. Would it work to deter behavior? Interestingly, some of the rule breaking or actions that could land you in here were ones that a person might be forced to do to protect themselves. Suffer injury, assault, abuse, death or Siberia? What would you do?

I often find it difficult to put into words what I feel or see. For me, In my mind's eye, many imagines can pop up.  I'm slowly learning what they mean to me, but they might not make sense to others. While in these two places (Siberia and The Cooler), besides the obvious horrid rush of emotions: anger, sadness, depression, exhaustion, hopelessness and yes, crazy - I didn't see or necessarily feel any new ghosts. Instead what I saw was black scribbles everywhere I looked. It's as if someone is drawing all over the place, scribbling in a madness with a black sharpie.  
The energy is just a dark incoherent mess of chaos.  It's busy, frantic and all over the place.  It reminds me of a big energy tantrum. Definitely, not something I like to see or feel.  Sometimes it remains in this state, but other times it can actually gather and form into a inky dark blob or form.  What I experienced during my time in Siberia and the Cooler was what I refer to as black scribbles or static (like snow on a TV).  

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