Case Background and Claims:
Michigan State Prison or Jackson State Prison, which opened in 1839, was the first prison in Michigan. For a time, it was the largest walled prison in the world with nearly 6,000 inmates.
With more than 6,000 prisoners on 56 acres, the largest part called Central Complex was referred to by both inmates and staff as “inside the walls.” The facility allowed a large number of inmates to congregate at one time and it was too big to control. The Big Top, as the cafeteria area was known, was rife with violence. The largest section of the prison, the maximum security unit, housed more than 3,000 people. The eight huge square cell blocks had five tiers with 600 cells apiece. In 1857 the first building designed for solitary was completed. The cells had doors of heavy oak plank, shutting out all light. Ventilation was permitted by five-inch openings at the top and bottom of the door. From this time on until 1861 the inmates confined to solitary never left the cells. When it was finally decided to permit these prisoners to work, nine of the twenty men were found to be insane. For many years afterwards this block was used for the confinement of mentally ill prisoners until state hospital wards for the criminally insane were opened in 1885. It was closed in 2007 and has become the “Armory Arts Village” where artists can find affordable housing and studio space.
Investigator: Patti H. joined the Pircom team for their investigation
Conditions: Overcast, warm- 80’s
The team got a tour of the prison from Judy, our tour guide. We started in what is now a large dining or gathering area in the West End cell block but used to hold cells for 300 men.
We were then showed tunnels; solitary confinement; an artist studio (Jean’s) that used to be prisoner cells; an apartment (Judy’s) that was also cells at one time; and finally what used to be the dining room which is in a separate building.
While in Jean’s studio, I walked into what is her work area and felt very different. Almost like a change in air pressure and felt a little dizzy. I don’t get odd feelings very often, so I thought it was worth noting. Other investigators who walked in there also said there was a marked difference when walking into the work area of Jean’s studio.
Patti and Laura went to solitary confinement. At first, we sat in approximately the middle of the long hallway that makes up solitary confinement and tried to get EVPs on our recorders. We asked for someone to knock on something to let us know they were there and we did hear a soft metallic bang at the end of the hallway furthest from the entrance. We asked for them to make the sound again, and it did. We asked it to bang twice, but it only banged once.
We got up and walked down the hallway and I was banging on everything metal that I could see thinking maybe it was the sound of water pipes or something natural from the building itself. Nothing I banged on had the same metallic sound, so we were perplexed. I knew there must be something metallic that made the sound but could not replicate it.
When we got to the end of the hall, we sat down there to do another EVP session. I had left my recorder back in the middle of the hallway recording there, but Laura had her recorder with her. I sat in a metal folding chair that was at the end of the hallway and we started asking questions again but didn’t’t hear the metallic bang.
Then, while I was getting up from the chair, it made a sound and we both said “that’s it!”. The metallic banging sound we had heard was from the folding chair – so it wasn’t water pipes, heating or cooling or natural sounds from the building. Somehow, something banged on the metal folding chair when we asked for a response in solitary confinement. The investigation wrapped up at 11pm.
Audio Evidence Obtained During Investigation
“?” EVP Class C: So named because it was recorded 8 min and 40 sec after we started recording. Laura and I were sitting close to the entrance chatting with the recorder next to us. At about 3 and a half seconds in, it sounds like a male voice that says 2 syllables. We have no idea what it says. What do you think?
“Whistling” EVP Class A:Patti’s recorder was close to the door, but we were all the way down at the other end of solitary. At 2 seconds in, it sounds like someone whistling. You can barely hear her and Laura talking far away from the recorder. They didn’t hear the whistling when they were down there. they did hear water running through the pipes, but we don’t believe it had this kind of musical sound to it.
Spending the evening investigating this historic prison was enjoyed by all who took part. Looking forward to someday returning with the rest of MCGH to investigate.