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Style · July 24, 2017

Film crew records Old Jail Museum’s paranormal past

It sounded like somebody was coming up the stairs and then my door swung open. And it actually made contact with the bookcase behind it. And the next thing I knew, it sounded like somebody was walking across the attic.
— Old Jail Museum Curator Maggie Lovitt
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Staff Journalist
A Reiki master instructor recalled that a pair of hands had clasped her neck during a wine-tasting fundraiser at Warrenton’s Old Jail Museum.

A retired federal government worker from Prince William spoke of the ghost of a “very angry and very mean” Nazi soldier who followed him home one night from the historic building at 10 Ashby St.

And, the jail museum’s part-time curator remembered the sound of footsteps in the building’s attic — defying any logical explanation.

All three recounted their spooky stories Saturday afternoon for Twisted Paranormal Society film crews at the museum.

Based in Fishersville south of Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, Twisted Paranormal plans to produce a 30- to 60-minute program on the Old Jail, weaving purported beyond-the-grave happenings and local history.

Founded six years ago by Lyle Lotts, Twisted Paranormal has produced several programs dealing with psychic phenomena for WVPT-TV, the Harrisonburg-based Public Broadcasting Station.

WVPT in late fall probably will broadcast the Old Jail piece, which can be viewed via a link from Twisted Paranormal’s Facebook page, Mr. Lotts says.

Lori Bakewell practices Reiki, a healing technique that involves therapists channeling “energy” into patients.

During a wine-tasting tour several years ago of the jail, Ms. Bakewell and her group entered a room across from what had served as maximum security cells.

Established in 1823, the jail shut in 1966.

“I was at the back of my group,” she told a camera crew. “I sensed something — someone standing behind me, behind my right shoulder. I knew there wasn’t an actual person behind me.

“I felt whatever that was come closer, and it didn’t feel friendly. And then I felt hands close around my neck.”

Frightened, Ms. Bakewell immediately fled the museum.

“I’ve felt a lot of physical energy” over the years, she said. “I’ve seen and heard things — seen things and heard messages. Never felt threatened. This was very stunning; very uncomfortable.”

A retired Justice Department employee, Tony Padded has “seen ghosts ever since I was a child.”

About three years ago, Mr. Padden began giving paranormal tours of the jail and Old Town.

He recalled “seeing” two or three times the dress of a jailer’s wife from the 1860s become engulfed in flames.

On one tour, the figure of a woman “came out of the stairway in the kitchen and crossed the room . . . . She turned and looked at me, came over, stood in front of me and curtseyed and then walked through the wall.”

But, one of his “worst” jail experiences involved the ghost of a Nazi soldier who followed him to his Prince William home.

“He tries to make noise,” Mr. Padden said. “He tries to scare people; he tries to attack people. He’s very angry and very mean. He shows his presence basically by knocking things around.”

Part-time Old Jail Curator Maggie Lovitt had worked late at the office a couple of years ago when she heard noises.

“It sounded like somebody was coming up the stairs and then my door swung open,” Ms. Lovitt said. “And it actually made contact with the bookcase behind it. And the next thing I knew, it sounded like somebody was walking across the attic.

“It had such a negative feeling to the energy . . . that I got up and hid in the bathroom and called my mom.”

Using re-enactors from various eras since the jail’s establishment in 1823, Twisted Paranormal filmed several scenes entailing ghosts, including:

• The so-called “woman in white” who walks through walls.

• A woman whose image appears in a large mirror.

• A young girl who likes to play with people’s hair and roll balls around the property.

A crew also filmed a mock hanging in the jail yard, as a group of re-enactors shouted at the prisoner “kill him!” and “hang him!”

“Frequently, prisoners were actually lynched,” Ms. Lovitt said. “It seems like the residents of Warrenton enjoyed a good lynching. So after executions became more private, they still kind of got prisoners and hung them somewhere outside of the jail.”

Probably two or three hangings took place at the jail, she said.

“Got a lot of good, weird stuff in there,” said Mr. Lotts, after completing the last of the afternoon shots.

WVPT doesn’t pay him for the paranormal episodes.

What little income the company generates comes from the sale of DVD sets of the programs and branded t-shirts, hats and the like to help pay for equipment, said Mr. Lotts, service department manager of McDonough Toyota of Staunton.

“There’s no money in this business to get rich. The only way that happens is if you get to be one of the lucky ones and get signed by one of the major networks or something.”

The Twisted Paranormal team Saturday night visited the Warrenton Cemetery and until about 12:30 a.m. the next day filmed Old Jail Museum rooms.

“They had lots of evidence of paranormal,” said Karen Lovitt — the curator’s mother and a board member of the Fauquier Historic Society, which maintains the museum. “They got actual voices, which is kind of cool.”
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cat · July 27, 2017 at 9:41 am
I recently visited the museum with two of my kids and when we went upstairs into room with medical display, my ears suddenly popped for no reason. My kids' did not. It definitely was not normal and spooked me!!!
BJ · July 24, 2017 at 3:42 pm
Maybe it was the angry Nazi soldier who knocked over the headstones in the Cemetery.......
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