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Lake County Jail oozes with oddness

Roger Peterson
A pile of granola bars and a knotted cross appeared on a trustee's bunk while he was out of his cell. Even the jailers are beginning to believe that there could be a ghost haunting the Lake County Jail. Leadville Chronicle/Roger Peterson
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LEADVILLE – When there’s something strange in the neighborhood – who ya gonna call?Calls might not help, because for more than a week, reports of the oddest sort have emanated from inside the Lake County Jail, where trustees and department employees tell of bizarre events that have left even the most hardened and skeptical deputies scratching their heads.”There have been occasional strange things that have transpired here in the past,” said Sheriff Ed Holte in the wake of the most recent series of unusual episodes. “This is an old jail, and considering the things that have gone on in here, I accept that it’s possible, but I haven’t seen it.”But jail trustees Scott Gordon and Frank Musslewhite, who had been at best skeptical of things paranormal, are now thoroughly convinced the dead have returned to haunt the lockup. An apparent increase otherworldly activity culminated in the recording of disembodied voices on tape and a closet full of freak physical manifestations, possibly pointing to the presence of an unseen visitor from the nether realm. In short, the Lake County Jail appears to have a ghost.Sheriff’s Lt. Carl Martschinske, a longtime law enforcement man who professes solid religious faith, was taken aback when he reviewed the events and listened to the seemingly otherworldly sounds captured on tape.”It’s pretty odd and a little disturbing,” he said. “If that were me back there, I’d never go in there again as long as I lived.”Strange transmissionsMusslewhite and Gordon occupy trustee cells on the west side of the jail. The rooms are isolated from the general inmate population. Throughout the day, they undertake a variety of tasks around the courthouse and jail environs, including cooking, cleaning and other odd jobs. The events of recent days have brought an entirely new dimension into their world. Disturbing at first, and now only occasionally terrifying, they’re getting used to unexpected and odd happenings.”I’ve never had anything like this happen to me before,” Gordon said. “It’s strange. I get the feeling that the more attention we pay, the more aggressive he gets.”

Gordon, who said he had one strange experience with a Ouija board and witnessed a door close and stereo turn on by themselves in his younger years, was not convinced ghosts existed until now.The strange activity at the jail started May 23, when Gordon’s television began acting up. As he lay on the bed reading, the screen changed to blue. It popped back on after 10 minutes, changing channels and turning on and off rapidly. The problems worsened and continued into the early evening hours. The trustee thought the set was malfunctioning of its own accord.”We basically thought the TV was toast,” Gordon said. “Then I unplugged the two cords and left them about eight inches apart. I laid down and 10 minutes later, it came on by itself. I looked and the cords were plugged in lightly.”The following day, the television developed volume problems to go along with the power glitches. Things took an even stranger course when Gordon went to make a telephone call and returned to find the television was turned 90 degrees to face the wall of the shower. Granola ghostThat evening after dinner, he returned to his room and, he said, he was greeted by a drastic drop in temperature in the hallway just outside the cell. He noticed one of two stacks of granola bars were moved from a shelf to the middle of his bed across the room. Gordon called Musslewhite and jailer Mike French, both of whom also noticed the cold spot.The television problems continued on May 25 and the icy presence made repeated appearances. To wrap up the day’s activity, a large cross, wedged in the bars of Musslewhite’s cell across the hall, mysteriously found its way to Gordon’s room, the trustees said. It was discovered laying on the bed in the precise spot where the granola bars were placed, they said. The owner of the cross returned it to its place. However, after dinner he found that the cross had been moved by unseen hands to a location two feet higher on the wall.The next day, the entity demonstrated a continued interest in the operation of Gordon’s television, he said. Along with the usual fluctuations, the trustees said they saw the power cords unplug themselves from the wall and lying on the floor several times. The cords also raised off the floor and snapped back to the concrete with considerable force. The activity continued through the end of the week. Interestingly, when the cold air is present, objects move and other manifestations take place, the trustees said.On Saturday, the ghost found new ways to attract attention, they said. It moved a vitamin bottle to the top of the television, left a bar of soap on the bed, lifted the shower curtain to the top of the shower stall, forcefully unplugged power cords and again turned the television 90 degrees. The candy bars, once again, were removed from the shelf and found on the bed, this time beneath the covers.

Getting used to itLast Sunday afternoon and evening, the surreal pranks became increasingly bizarre. Just after 3:30 p.m., Gordon and Musslewhite said, they found six small, adhesive gold letters on a pad of yellow writing paper. The letter “B” lay by itself, with a cluster of five other letters, including D, G, I, N and O nearby. The men left to get a camera, but returned to find the letters had disappeared. Several hours later, when Musslewhite noticed something white move across the hallway, Gordon returned to his cell from the booking area to find a cross, hand-knotted from white nylon cord, hanging from the bars above the doorway to his room, he said. They photographed the phenomenon, removed it and showed it to officers and a dispatcher. Gordon looped the cross over the door and left the cell. It was missing when he returned five minutes later. A complete search of the jail failed to turn up the mysterious cross, the trustees said. Other evidence of the ghostly intruder turned up on tape recordings. Called Electronic Voice Phenomenon, the trustees recorded what they say are sounds of a disembodied male voice, uttering whispers, moans, whistling and choking sounds, as well as the phrases “Bless me” and “Higher.” The invisible trickster dropped cookie crumbs from directly above onto Gordon as he listened to the recorder, he said. The recent periods of intense ghostly activity usually occur during the daylight hours and last 15 to 30 minutes. It has resulted in some sleepless nights for the trustees.”At first I wanted to move out,” Musslewhite said. “It was disturbing, but we’re getting used to it.” ==========================================SIDEBAR: Voices of the dead or just unstable weather? Electronic Voice Phenomenon is a process in which voices, inaudible to the ear, are recorded on magnetic tape using a tape recorder. The study has created much controversy.

Some of the first examples were recorded by a Swedish birdwatcher in 1959, while alone in the countryside. At the time, they were believed to be communications from the dead. During the 1960s and ’70s, a Latvian psychologist reportedly recorded more than 100,000 voice phrases in different languages. Some were very clear and others were barely discernible, but voices of men, women and children were supposedly recorded.Some investigators now believe that changes in earth’s geomagnetic activity, solar storms or the weather can affect the frequency and intensity of “hauntings.”Kris Stevens is a paranormal investigator for “Fear”, a program featured on MTV. She said paranormal activity reported at the Lake County Jail in Leadville is typical fare when ghosts are present.”Most jails do seem to be haunted. It’s usually because (the ghosts) can’t move on because of mental instability,” Stevens said. “Maybe the entity thinks it can get a message across or is obsessed with that particular area.”Ghosts are particularly keen on messing with TVs while stacking is another common event, she said. “Ghosts try to get people’s attention, scare them or play a joke,” Stevens added. “It’s hard to figure out the motive for a haunting. I’m surprised the authorities in the jail are that open about it. Most keep it under wraps.”During the past month, Stevens added, there has been widespread ghostly activity in many locations. She has received reports from around the world, including New Zealand, Germany and the United States. Investigators theorize that the rise in such activity could be the result of powerful storms on the surface of the sun.In the case of the Lake County jail, trustee Frank Musslewhite said, the eerie events of recent days could be the work of an inmate who killed himself in his cell during the 1980s. It was one of three deaths chronicled at the facility since its construction in the 1950s.”Nobody is trying to hurt us,” said Scott Gordon, another trustee. “It’s obviously a ghost … too many things are happening for it not to be.”- Roger Peterson==========================================


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