Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mollie Maguires Ghosts

While both my sisters have had direct paranormal experiences, I myself have not. The closest I have come to such an experience has been my writing of a history of Carbon County, "Smokestacks And Black Diamonds," which was published in 1997--several years later than originally scheduled.
At the time I wrote the book, the famous old Carbon County Jail in which a number of convicted Mollie Maguires were executed late in the 19th century, was still the county jail. I of course knew about its connection with the fate of the "Mollies," and I tried to visit, but without success. I was told it had the potential for being dangerous, which I suppose was true.
I was especially interested in the so-called "Hand On The Jailhouse Wall," said to have been impressed there by either Alexander Campbell or Tom Fisher just before his execution. Whoever made the hand print is said to have declared, "There it will remain forever, to shame the county that is hanging an innocent man."
I didn't get into the jail until it became private property and was opened to the public as a museum, some years after my book was published. I am not sure what year that was.
When I did get in, I must admit that I didn't see much of it; I couldn't stand the oppressive sense, or smell, for that matter.
But I did see the hand mark; Cell 17, where it is imprinted on the wall, is in the main cell block and near the main entrance. It is a strange bruise of a mark, and much has been said and written about it. "Bogus" is, of course, one of those things. But I don't think so.
It's been said that the former sheriff's department used to keep repainting the mark, just to keep the interest going. But I cannot see why County officials would want to do that--presumably calling attention to a great injustice they themselves had perpetrated.
Former Carbon County President Judge John Lavelle, in his book about the history of law and justice in the county, suggests a different story. According to his book, the sheriff's department went to very serious efforts to get rid of the hand mark--painting it over, chipping it out, even replacing the whole wall. Always the mark reappeared.
In 2001 Laurie Hull and a fellow investigator from Tri-County Paranormal were able to visit the jail--including some grim cells in the basement that I had not had the nerve to go down and see. Their report is satisfyingly detailed, at least to me. For me it represents something like "Everything the county historian wanted to know but never got to ask." (Actually, also some things I didn't realize were there to know.)
You too can visit Tri-County Paranormal's website to learn much more about the Mollies and the Carbon County Jail. The site also has some rather depressing photos, as might be expected from a site where grim things have happened.
Go to:
By the way, I had not heard of Tri-County Paranormal before. But they seem to be conscientious researchers, and if you are interested in their subjects you might want to follow them. Or whatever the term for this is.

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