24 June 2013

Greensboro's Spooky Old "Gaol" (1807-1895)

It sits ominously behind the Greene County courthouse... [Cue Twilight Zone music.]

I'm referring to Greensboro's Old Gaol (that's pronounced "jail"). It was built in 1807, "patterned after the bastilles where prisoners were housed and punished...Built of granite about two feet thick, it is two stories in height and has a trap door in the floor of the upper story where condemned prisoners were hanged. An iron bar supported the trap door. When the signal was given, the hangman pulled the lever that controlled the bar and the culprit was launched into eternity...It was used as a jail until about 1895." [from historical marker]

While I felt no uneasiness around the structure, I still would describe it as one spooky sight. Here's an article from the 4 November 1873 Macon Telegraph (Georgia) describing a (botched?) hanging:

"THE last Greensboro Herald has a long account of the hanging of George Copelan, negro, last Friday, for the murder of Miss S. A. Richards in May, 1871, from which we quote as follows:

[a description of the crime was given by the condemned man]...At precisely 12 o'clock, the sheriff cut the cord that held the trap-door; the rope broke and he fell with a crash down the stairway, caught in a sitting posture, and remained silent and motionless; not a tremor shook his frame; his countenance was placid, and indicated no pain whatever. He seemed in a perfect sleep. At fifteen minutes past twelve, he was again drawn up, making a gutteral sound and struggling considerably. In four minutes he ceased to struggle, at the expiration of the fifth minute a slight tremor struck him and he drew one breath. In fifteen minutes his pulse ceased, but his heart still beat feebly. At thirty minutes it was doubtful whether there was any pulsation, at thirty-five minutes Mr. Walker again detected pulsation at the heart, at ten minutes past one life was pronounced extinct. No blame attaches to the sheriff for the accident to the rope. It was large and deemed strong enough by all who saw it."

I don't want to stir the pot, so to speak, but has anyone ever heard of this place being haunted? I have no evidence to support this, but it just seems like if there ever was such a place to ascribe the adjective...

...this place would be it. Maybe "haunting" is a better way to state it.

(Photos © 2013 S. Lincecum.)

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