While many of us have had problems at school, I’d be willing to bet most of us didn’t end up in a reform school, especially not one as creepy as today’s subject: Preston Castle. Imposing in the romanesque architectural style, which it should be noted has been used for some of the most famous prisons in the turn of the century. The castle does feel a little like a prison, and for some it certainly was. This castle still holds the spirits of young boys who lived there, angry apparitions, and more than a few bumps in the night. Today, we’re in California as we explore Preston Castle in Ione.
The castle was built between 1890 and 1894, when it opened its doors officially as the Preston School of Industry. The first seven occupants were wards of the state, not necessarily juvenile delinquents, who had previously been housed as San Quentin Prison without other facilities to care for them. Over the years, the boy’s reform school would see hundreds of occupants come and do, even a few well known ones like Merle Haggard and Tony Cornero, the latter of which would built the Stardust Casino in Las Vegas.
The school would only operate until its vacating during the 1960s as other accommodations would be arranged for the inmates and residents of the school. It would be abandoned from the 1960s to 2014, when the Preston Castle Foundation purchased the property and began to offer tours and history lessons, much like the learning for which it previously existed. The Castle is said to be one of the most striking buildings in the Mother Lode region of California.
The ghostly happenings begin with a tragic tale from the 1950s, when a housekeeper named Anna Corbin suffered a brutal bludgeoning, Anna’s murder is still unsolved, but her spirit seems to keep the mystery alive. It’s reported her grave and a number of others of boys who passed in the school, 23 former inmates in all, are in an undiscovered cemetery somewhere on the grounds.
Young children can be seen peeking around corners in every part of the old reformatory. Children’s laughter can still be heard in some parts of the castle, and a few apparitions seem to like to prank guests and tourists, pulling on their pants leg as if asking for attention, and when the recipient looks, nothing is there. Anna’s ghost is seen around the school as well, potentially still looking for her murderer, who was never caught but was strongly suspected to be a young man named Eugene Monroe. Monroe has previously confessed to the rape and murder of a woman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but swore til his dying day that he never laid a hand on Anna Corbin, who appeared to be a beloved staff member among the boys of the school.
The hauntings are so powerful that famous paranormal investigators like Ghost Adventures have toured the location looking for the supernatural. The foundation itself offers special paranormal tours, many of which sell out quickly. In october, the location is even decked out to become a haunted attraction, complete with the scares and screams one would expect.
Preston School of Industry is a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s open to the public with more tours than just the paranormal, and the Foundation that runs the site keeps the history alive within the beautiful red brick building, and the stories of what happened behind those tall, imposing walls.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.