Monday, August 22, 2016

Beauregard Gothic Jail - Deridder, LA (The Famed Hanging Jail)

Courthouse Square
Deridder, Louisiana

        Although not necessarily one of the most haunted places I have investigated, the Beauregard Gothic jail has long been one my favorite places to visit. Possibly it is due to my years working inside of prisons; I have always been fascinated with this ornate structure. It’s not often you find a building so beautiful that was meant to house the complete opposite. This jail is definitely that example.
This three-story Gothic structure was built in 1914 and operated as the local jail until 1984. Its design is quite ingenious, as a single spiral staircase takes you to each floor. The first floor consists of a few offices and what I can best describe as a “drunk tank”, as it is one large dormitory-style room. The second and third floors are similar, as there are four identical cells that branch out from the small rotunda. A dumb waiter took food and supplies through the different levels.
         Another interesting feature is the underground tunnel that connects the jail to the adjacent courthouse. This conveniently allowed officers to escort inmates directly from the jail to a back staircase of the courthouse that led directly into the court room. This definitely kept security at a maximum and never allowed the inmates to come in contact with anyone from the general public. The most notable section of the jail is the third floor, which served as a makeshift gallows of sorts, as several executions were carried out here. Two in particular would go down in the record books due to one of Beauregard Parish’s most heinous crimes!

         On August 28, 1926, Joe Genna and Milton Brasseaux were hard up for some quick cash so they came up with idea of robbing the first person they had the chance to encounter. It is at this time that they met Deridder taxi driver, J.J. Brevelle. The two men coaxed Brevelle into driving them to John Miller Place which was off what is now the Three Pine Church road. Once there, however, the simple robbery attempt went wrong and Brevelle was severely beaten with a car leaf spring, stabbed in the head, and his throat was slashed. After getting away with only fourteen dollars, the two men disposed of the body in an old mill pond in Pickering and the taxi was found burned in Calcasieu Parish.
          On September 2, 1926, the two men were arrested, Genna in Orange, Texas and Brasseaux, in
Ominous look up the stairs to the makeshift gallows
Sulphur, Louisiana. Six days after their arrest, the jury indicted the two men. On December 11, 1926, both men were sentenced to death. After several failed attempts at appeals, the two men were executed on March 9, 1928. The men were hung from make shift gallows with the noose tied from the barred grate above the three-story spiral staircase. In addition to these notable events, the jail has also been home to several suicides and several serious assaults, one of which left an inmate brain dead.
           With such an interesting history, I was determined to investigate this place. After several meetings with the local town officials, we were given unprecedented access to investigate. Prior to the investigation, I made several visits to the jail with a local historian. He showed me around, pinpointing which jail cells had encountered violent events. He and I were the only two people who knew that of the fourteen jail cells, one contained the serious assault that left the inmate I mentioned brain dead. On my next visit, I brought a friend of mine who is a sensitive. I have always been weary of people who claim to be sensitive, as I often need some pretty concrete proof that they are legitimate. I was definitely sure that my friend had no prior knowledge of the building’s history. After walking around the jail, my friend went straight to the cell I mentioned, and pointed to an area where a small toilet was. He stated that something had happened here. He felt either a murder or a severe beating that literally left the inmate a vegetable! Needless to say, he earned his credit with me that day!
           As we exited the jail, we encountered an old man walking nearby. After talking with him a while, he advised us that he had once spent the night in the jail in the early 1980’s after being arrested for being drunk in public. He did confirm my speculations that the large cell on the first floor was, in fact, a drunk tank, as that is where he had to spend his night!
             We then met with a staff member for the local tourist committee who shared some of the
Photo some believe to be the apparition of a former jailer
haunted tales associated with the jail. Most commonly, people have reported seeing the apparition of an elderly man, appearing in an old jailor uniform. She then showed us a picture that was taken of the building at Christmas time. You can clearly see an elderly bearded man standing on the porch area. The staff member advised me that no one was present when the photo was taken. She also advised us that people have heard strange sounds and voices generating from inside the abandoned jail. With all of these stories, we could not wait to investigate!
             We were determined to capture as much evidence as possible so we brought more equipment than we normally would use. With three DVR systems leading a total of sixteen IR cameras throughout the jail, we pulled out everything we had. We began the investigation and started a walkthrough, conducting base EMF readings. As we entered one of the cells, one of the investigators got a significant EMF spike. As he backed up to find the source, he noticed one of our IR cameras, which were attached to a sturdy tri-pod, fell over. Upon replay of the video, we found no one to of knocked the camera over, nor did anyone get caught up in the video cable.
              Following this, we conducted our normal investigation until around 3:00am, when we all camped out in different cells! You know you’re a ghost hunter when you prefer to sleep in an ice cold haunted jail cell instead of a nice warm bed! During the night, several investigators claimed they heard footsteps and running water when no one was moving throughout the building. We awoke that morning and packed up, knowing we had hours of evidence to go through.
             After going through the audio, several interesting clips were obtained. In one case, an investigator and I were alone in one of the cells that served as solitary confinement. As the recorder
One of several solitary confinement cells
captures us speaking, we heard a third voice saying "NO", louder than the two of us were speaking. We were about five feet from the recorder so for something to sound that close, it had to have been about two to three feet away. I am positive that we were the only two people in the room at that time, so the source of the third voice has remained unknown. The audio was captured on two different recorders at different distances from where we were sitting. Another interesting audio clip captured a voice saying what sounds like, "warden." To listen to these audio clips, click here:
   -"NO" 1
   -"NO" 2
             I have not visited the jail in several years. Last I heard, it was a dangerous place to walk in, as time has begun to take toll; however plans were underway to remodel the jail. I really hope this is done because it is truly a unique place that would make an incredible museum. If anyone is ever passing through the lovely down of Deridder, I highly recommend at least passing by to catch a glimpse of this unconventional jail.

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