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In June of 1894, the Preston School of Industry was opened in Ione, Amador County, California, as a reform/trade school for young orphans and juvenile offenders.
The State Legislature had established the school in an attempt to rehabilitate the youths rather than imprisoning them with hardened criminals.
A beautiful building of bricks and sandstone, and an excellent example of Romanesque Revival architecture, locals called the school "Preston Castle."
The building has 77 rooms within its four floors, basement, and bell tower. Adorned with lovely fireplaces, massive beams, Winchester stairways, dumb waiters, mahogany pocket doors, a library, a swimming pool, and even a bakery, it is easy to understand why it was compared to a castle. The school also had its own cemetery.
The first residents of the school were seven male juvenile offenders, "wards" transferred from San Quentin State Prison, ranging in age from 16 to 18. Their crimes included grand larceny, burglary and robbery.
The United States was in a depression during this time, and many of the children at the school had been abandoned by their parents who had left to try to find work in other areas.
The school was in operation until 1969 when new facilities were completed, and the Castle was closed. Through the years, the wards were able to learn a variety of skills including farming and carpentry. . . And murder.
On Thursday, February 23, 1950, the attractive and much loved 52-year-old Anna Corbin, head housekeeper, was found murdered in the closet off the basement kitchen. She had been violently bludgeoned, strangled with a hemp cord around her neck, and then hauled down the stairs.
A 19-year-old black man, Eugene Monroe, was arrested for the murder. Two school employees had seen Monroe near Corbin’s office near the time of the murder, and Monroe had been in trouble for burglary in California.
Monroe went to trial three times for the crime, but was fully acquitted in the end because there was not enough evidence for conviction. A year later, he was arrested for rape and murder in Tulsa. No one ever paid for taking Anna’s life so brutally.
Today, ghost hunters and psychics who visit Preston Castle claim that Anna Corbin is still there. Roses have been found scattered on the floor of her old apartment, and the sound of a woman screaming can be heard. A mist-like shape has been seen near the closet where Anna’s body was found.
Anna wasn’t the only individual to die at the school. A young man was shot in 1919 trying to escape. A boy attempting to escape with him died mysteriously a few months later. They are both buried in the cemetery nearby.
Many wards died during the years the school was open. Many succumbed to sickness and some, perhaps, from abuse.
The smell of sulphur is prevalent in certain areas of the school. Sounds of something be dragged across a floor, a little girl crying, knocking noises, and the sounds of a buzz saw have all been reported. Ghost hunters have captured EVPs including “come on, you can do it,” and “never again.”
Legs are pinched, scratches appear on arms and legs, and electromagnetic equipment is drained of energy.
Preston Castle is considered one of the most haunted places in America. If you are a skeptic, a visit to this old school just might change your mind.
Tours and overnight stays at Preston School are conducted regularly. Visit www.prestoncastle.com for more information.
Travel Channel/Ghost Adventures/Preston Castle Episode
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