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Haunted Jail House in Small Town Texas

A. Chambers

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I went to high school in Llano, Texas (pop. 3,500, or thereabouts), about 70 miles west of Austin. It's a pretty cute town, what with it's antiques and local color. Now, about a block off of main street, tucked against the neighborhood where I used to live, is Llano county's old jail house. The City of Llano website gives us the skinny (a pretty darn bland skinny) on the jail house's history. Built in 1895 from local granite, used until the late 70's, known as the Red Top because of it's red shingles (ominoooouus), now a historical landmark, yadda yadda blah.
What the city website doesn't mention at all is that the Red Top is a very, very evil place. The most evil place I've ever been.
The building is closed up most of the time, but they open it for tours a couple of times of year during festivals and such, and when I lived in Llano my dad was usually one of the tour guides, so I've been inside a few times.

Seriously bad vibes.

The first floor was where the jailer and his family lived (home sweet home). I've never seen it, but my dad and some of the other guides have heard people moving around down there when, of course, there was no one. Some kitchen noises, banging screen doors, etc. The second floor is where the cells and drunk tank are, and that's where you'll first feel the dread bang into your chest. It's just a dismal, dark, awful place. They never installed electric lights, so the only light comes from the windows, which are all (naturally) barred and/or boarded up. I imagine at night it's pitch black in some of the cells, especially the high security ones in the middle. The really spooky thing here is how high the ceiling is, because there should be a third floor, but there just isn't. It goes from second floor to fourth (or fifth, rather). There's windows set in the walls around where the third floor would be, but nothing else. Just a lot of pointless space. People have heard some banging on this floor, seen people in the windows from outside.
Okay, so from the third floor you go up these rickety little metal stairs past the phantom third floor to the fourth floor, which is really just a landing. Nothing too special here, except the mysterious tiny door set in the wall.
Storage? I dunno, maybe at some point, but it just opens into solid granite now.

From the little landing, you go up some more rickety, creaking, swaying, break-your-neck stairs (13 of them of course--and watch your forehead on that low rafter!) to the very tippy top of the Red Top which is, of course, the gallows. If you weren't feeling that ache-in-your-chest-wrongness before, you'll feel it here. It's just a tiny little room with lots of high windows and some names and dates scratched in the walls. Oh, and there's a big honking hole in the floor. There's a rafter over the hole with a nice worn strip around it where the rope used to hang. Now, here's the thing about the gallows that really gets me: when they hung you, you fell down right through the middle of the jail house. The hole in fifth floor opens right into all that open space where the fourth and third floor should be. If you were hanged, the rope wouldn't go taut until you were dangling smack dab in
the middle of the second floor, just hanging there in front of everyone in the cells.

The official city records say that nobody was ever actually hanged there. BUT town gossip and lore has it that (surprise surprise) lots of people were hanged--vagrants and black people and other "undesirables". I'm not sure how true that is, but I am utterly convinced that people did suffer and die there. Like I've said, you can absolutely feel the bad energy in that place, and I was feelin' it before I ever knew the its dubious history.

Couple more things of note with the Red Top.

The building is mostly square, and on each corner is an inverted pentagram. Now, I did my homework, and it's likely these are signs of the Order of the Eastern Star, which is a gender-inclusive organization similar to the Freemasons that use inverted pentagrams as their emblem. It makes sense, as the jail house was built when the Masons were maybe still associated with, y'know, masonry. But still. Eerie.

Now, beyond my bad vibe feelings I've never really experienced any Red Top spookiness first hand, except ONCE. One afternoon I was walking home from the library (which is all of 30 feet from the Red Top), and I stopped to look at the ol' jail house for a sec. It was covered in pigeons. There were white pigeons in the trees around the jail house, and normal gray ones and brownish ones, but (and here's the kicker) only black pigeons were perching on the Red Top. No exaggeration--normal pigeons everywhere else, but black, and only black, pigeons on the jail house. I know what you're thinking; crows. Nope, they were definitely, definitely black pigeons. Explanations? I got none.

So that's my little tale of the creepiest, most evil place I've been. Any other Texans with small town haunted locals? (What is it about small Texas towns that give people the freakies?) Or anybody anywhere with their own evil hometown landmarks?
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I don't live in Texas, so I'll never be able to check this out myself, unfortunatly, but the story was fascinating, so thank's for that. Also, are you sure the Bird's were Pigeon's and not Raven's, I mean, Raven's are pretty chubby, too.

If they were Pigeon's, and the "Red Top" represented an inverted pentagram, then perhap's the building was once home to some psychotic, devil-worshipping cult... Make's sence.

Edit: Almost forgot to say: Welcome to UM, by the way. :]

Edited by Insaniac
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Excellent post, I too would love to visit there someday.

What really got my attention is that you feel the dread bang into your chest when you go down there. You said there is no electricity, and if that is true that is some very solid paranormal evidence. Usually a feeling of dread can be explained away by electromagnetism or an electrostatic charge in the air from poorly shielded wiring or other man made sources. I am assuming there isn't a massive geomagnetic field in the earth beneath the land and if that is true than there is really no way to explain a feeling of dread in that jail.

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We actually don't get ravens in that part of Texas. The first time I ever even saw one was a couple of years ago when I went to New Mexico, and I was shocked at just how big (and chubby!) they really were. Naw, these birds were fat, sleek, and had stubby beaks. I won't rule out the possibility they were some other kind of bird, but even if they were the question remains why the black birds only perched on the building and the lighter ones in the trees. And as far as shady cults go, I actually wouldn't put it past that town. I'm pretty sure Llano has it's secrets. I have some Texas pride, but I won't try to deny that rural Texas was home to a lot of serious ugliness in the past. If you ask me, in it's early days LLano was likely a hotbed for two things: A ) the KKK and other radical hate organizations (which is actually just an unspoken fact around town) and B ) witchcraft, which is just my gut-feeling opinion. It's a witchy kinda town. In fact, a cursory glance at a Wiccan website recently showed that there's still two or three modern day covens operating out of Llano, which, for a town of less than 4,000 people, is kinda remarkable. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these covens are up to anything or have any connection to past shady doings (I looooove witches, in fact), but the town clearly has some mystical roots, and if anyone was dabbling in witchcraft there, say, a hundred ago, it was probably of a more twisted, sinister sort than peace/nature-loving witches of today.

As for electromagnetism, there are actually some pretty screwy things going on under the soil around town. There's everything from gold to iron (lots and lots of iron) under Llano, but it's all trapped in massive deposits of granite. You can sometimes pick a piece of granite off the ground and see the veins of all the other minerals in it. It's really a pretty geologically interesting place (they even have a type of mineral completely unique to the area--Llanite!), however I can't say if anything down there has an effect on the surface. There's nowhere else around town I've felt that dread feeling--not even outside the jail house. Just inside.

Edited by A. Chambers
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:tu: Thanks for the information on LLano.I was there once, years ago, when we took a drive up that way from Schertz.

We never did go on any jail tour, but kind of just drove through the place.

Don't know about the occult in the town, but they might have had the KKK there once,and the Masons are all over the place and still are.

As far as the hangings go, there is no other reason to put a gallows in a jail or on jail property, unless you plan on having executions.

They would string up murderers and horse and cattle thieves.Lots of gunslingers around Texas in those days. i believe John Wesley Hardin had a home in Rancho, Texas, which was near the Guadalupe -Wilson County lines.The town has disappeared I think, and his wife Jane is buried at Asher Cemetery near Mound Creek,Tx.There used to be a Texas Highway department sign pointing the way to Mound Creek, but the last time I went that way towards, Gillette, the sign was gone, so i guess little remains of the town but the cemeteries and maybe a house or two.

Anyone who says there were no hangings there at the jail, isn't telling the truth.For some reason no one talks about it.

Oh, by the way check out www.texasescapes.com They have information on various Texas ghosts,and while some renovation work was being done on the old Blanco County courthouse in Blanco, they found some bones in the wall.

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Creepy story, thanks!

I don't understand why anyone would deny the hangings in the face of the evidence of worn wood where the rope was situated. Surely you're not the only one who has climbed up to the gallows and seen the worn rafter. I guess, though, if no one's taken photos, its easily denied. I'm thinking, though, that possibly the only hangings that occurred were probably of blacks and vagrants, because a body dropped down in front of me doing a "death dance" would surely put me on the right side of the law!! And if the only deaths were KKK related, I can see how the townsfolk would deny deaths happened. What town by today's standards would want to admit they have a history of KKK killings?

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Excellent post, I too would love to visit there someday.

What really got my attention is that you feel the dread bang into your chest when you go down there. You said there is no electricity, and if that is true that is some very solid paranormal evidence. Usually a feeling of dread can be explained away by electromagnetism or an electrostatic charge in the air from poorly shielded wiring or other man made sources. I am assuming there isn't a massive geomagnetic field in the earth beneath the land and if that is true than there is really no way to explain a feeling of dread in that jail.

I used to think that too :yes: and in some cases this sensation may be attributed to electromagnetism or even "infrasound" but do you really think this is the case when you get that "dread bang in the chest"?

the "psychic center" is called the Solar Plexus Chakra if you want the new age terminology :)

why not embrace this as opposed to questioning it? sure critical thinking is prudent but don't let it suppress and seriously hinder development IMO :hmm:

edit: just the photo dread bangs my chest

Edited by BorisTheSpider2
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Devil worship, as suggested by Insaniac is an interesting thesis.

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I'm of the school of thought that ghosts and other paranormal activity aren't linked to any kind of conscious sentience. As in, I don't think ghosts are actually the souls of people acting of their own accord beyond death. Rather, I believe in impressions, that is something really big and significant happens in place (specifically, something really bad) an impression of that event and the emotions it elicited can linger in a place. Bad things create bad energies which can stick, in other words.

That's what I think causes "bad vibes" and, for certain people who are sensitive to these energies, paranormal sightings and whatnot.

That said, I think some kind of cult activity is likely in the case of the jail house, possibly tied to the KKK. Around the time the Red Top was built, the workings of the KKK weren't yet set or organized. The KKK as we know it didn't really come about until the 20's or so, and before that I think it's likely that individual chapters were much more loose and free form, with participants blending their own spiritual beliefs into their practices. As I said, I strongly believe that Llano has mystical ties. What I'm getting at here is a kind of combo of the KKK's radical practices with niche mystical beliefs.

Now, I don't personally believe in demonic activity or hell or other types of dark spirituality, but I know there are those who do wholeheartedly believe in these things, and (tying into my rant above) their belief, and their actions as a result of this belief, can generate energies and impressions, and, in a way, make it real.

This is all to say that I think sometime in the past, some people with some very radical beliefs did some very bad things in that jail house, and that's why it is the way it is today.

And I, of course, completely agree that you don't go and slap a gallows on top of your jail if you don't intend to use it. And since the local law enforcement was almost certainly involved with the little KKK cult, it would have been more than easy to keep a few (dozen?) hangings off the books.

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