One expects to see memorabilia inside the Franklin County Jail Museum but hearing voices, and seeing ghostly wisps of activity is something many people would not expect.
Using a Sony ABCHD camcorder, Bill DeBoer of Mt. Vernon saw and recorded things he could not explain using the infrared lens and audio features of the camcorder.
"We had driven by the place the day before and looked at the gallows sitting outside the old jail," he said. "My wife said the museum is open for tours. We called and went inside to walk around the place on July 11.
"It turned out to be more than meets the eye," DeBoer said. "A team of five of us do paranormal investigation. We have been doing this for the past five or six years but only started to take it seriously within the past month and a half."
He said everything seemed normal until later when he was uploading the video to the computer at home. "I took photos outside and then uploaded them to the computer," DeBoer said. "I listened to the video and watched the clips."
He said everything was recorded at the highest possible level. "While replaying the video, I could hear things I did not hear while inside the jail museum," DeBoer said. "There are voices on the video. In one case, a voice says to 'Get the pail of water.' Another voice says 'Get out,' and another asks 'Who are you?'
He returned to the jail that was constructed in 1905 and restored by the Franklin County Historic Preservation Society before being opened to the public and placed on the register of historic places on Feb. 1, 1999.
"I returned to the museum a few days later with the camcorder and talked with the tour guide," DeBoer said. "I pointed the camcorder near the floor while we talked.
"Later, when I uploaded the video onto the computer, you can hear the two of us talking, and you can hear trucks going by outside but you can also hear voices that are not ours," he said.
DeBoer cautions anyone who visits the museum. "Since visiting the museum, I am still feeling the residual effects," he said. "Ghost hunting is not a game. It is very serious."
DeBoer said the team of paranormal investigators typically explore vacant houses. "This was the first museum we have visited," he said. "The video I shot is on the website, www.extremumspiritum.com, which is Latin for last or dying breath. I uploaded the video to YouTube in case forensic investigators want to check it out for themselves."
DeBoer said since his visits to the jail museum, he has been in contact with another paranormal investigative team. "I contacted the East Coast Angels," he said. "They told me about some of the mistakes that I made when I went inside the jail. While I was there, I asked if there was anyone else in there and I started getting answers.
Page 2 of 2 - "At one point while upstairs where the women were kept and where Charlie Birger's cell was, I asked if there were any women inside," DeBoer said. "A EVP or electronic voice phenomena female voice answered, 'One.'
He explained an EVP is hearing unexplained voices during the playback of a recording.
The original gallows used to hang Birger on April 19, 1928 were located earlier this year inside a Grand Tower barn and are now on display in the upper floor of the jail museum. They were loaned to Franklin County by Jackson County because gallows were not available for the last public hanging to occur in the state.
Birger was hanged for crimes during the Prohibition Era and for the murder West City mayor Joe Adams.
Even Birger made an appearance, DeBoer said. "While I was recording in Charlie Birger's cell, a voice asked if I wanted him to 'Stand near the screen,'" he said. "There is a ghostly mist down the right side of the screen in one clip of the video and there are all kinds of faces behind the bars of the cells.
"I also saw Charlie Birger's face looking out from the upstairs window and that is also on the website," he said. "While listening to the video, you can hear the sound of heavy boots walking, the sound of a wooden chair scraping across the floor, someone softly singing 'Charlie Boy,' and the sound of the cell door closing and locking although the cell door was open the entire time I was on each floor."
DeBoer encourages others to do the same thing he did. "So many people don't believe these things are real," he said. "All you have to do is take a recording device and leave it in there for 20 minutes. Take it home and listen to it."
The Franklin County Jail Museum is located at 209 W. Main in Benton. It is open from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is home to the Franklin County Tourism Bureau.