Ulster County Jail
I have to admit that at first I was under the impression that county jails were relatively low-key facilities where shoplifters and drivers caught under the influence spent the night. In reality, county jails are some of the toughest of prison facilities because all offenders are brought here, from the petty thief to the serial rapist, pedophiles, and murderers. This is where everyone is held until trial and sentencing, and then they are relocated to the proper state or federal prison. County jails are such intense, high stress places that the suicide rate is actually nine times higher than that of other types of jails. The bottom line is that these are bad places with very bad people.
The Ulster County Jail encompasses three tiers of cells, a one-story modular addition, rec rooms, sick bays, and maintenance rooms, all monitored from a central control area on the first floor. That control area leads directly into the female section of the jail, where a large percentage of the activity has occurred.
One night Pat Meddors was running her key card through a security check point in front of the door to the female section. Out of the corner of her eye she saw movement in the doorway, and as everyone was supposed to be in their cells, this was not a good thing. Turning to get a better look, she saw a man in his fifties, dressed in denim overalls and wearing a cap, peering around the edge of the door to see if anyone was coming. He looked mostly solid, and he clearly had distinct facial features and clothing.
"I took a few steps back, and just stared. All the hair went up on the back of my neck and arms," Pat explained as she pointed to the spot where the apparition had stood, not more than ten feet away. "Then he just disappeared and I tried to figure out what I had just seen."
On the second and third floors were the men’s cells, and several different sightings of male figures occurred there. On the second floor, one of the corrections officers (who shall remain nameless) was making his rounds. The cells are in the center of the floor, and a hallway goes completely around all four sides, giving clear views down each long hall. The officer, who is known for being a by-the-book, no nonsense, stickler for details kind of guy, was turning the corner to walk down "D" corridor when he stopped dead in his tracks.
About half way down the corridor was the figure of man. The figure was only visible from the waist up (there were no legs) and he was floating near the ceiling in a grayish fog. The legless figure was moving slowly through the air toward the other end of the hall and it passed right through the ceiling, wall, and top of a heavy metal locked door to the emergency staircase. The officer admits he was frozen in place as he watched this apparition moving, and understandably, he never reported the incident to his supervisor.
For some reason, there is a lot of activity connected with these doors on each of the three floors. Many figures and shadows have been witnessed moving both in and out of the cell blocks by passing through these locked doors. Is there some significance or naturally occurring energy in this area of the property that would account for the high number of sightings? Or is it simply that so many desperate prisoners focused their attention and energy on those doors, seeing them as their escape route to freedom?
Everything was relatively quiet, just a few knocking sounds here or there, when suddenly Mike got up and hurried down the cell block. He didn’t even stop when he reached the hall, he continued right out of the tier, saying he had to get out of there. I knew that meant something serious had happened, so I hurried after him. He was sitting in the central hall, looking as though he had just been through a terrible ordeal.
"Are you okay? Do you want to tell me what happened?" I asked, then waited while he took a few deep breaths.
"I had trouble breathing…it felt like I was being strangled…then this awful feeling came over me…I had to get out of there because it felt like I wasn’t going to be able to take another breath," Mike said, as the look in his eyes told me this was no joke.
I told him to just take it easy, and not to come back in that tier. He didn’t argue.
The county law enforcement officer and his daughter who had been with us earlier had left before this incident. Later, when Hank was telling this man about Mike’s experience in front of that particular cell, the cell number rang a bell—a prisoner had committed suicide by hanging himself right where Mike had been sitting, feeling as though he was being strangled to death! This demonstrates that while it pays to be sensitive in the ghost hunting field, sometimes you have to pay a very high price for that sensitivity.
The surprises didn’t end there, however, as a few days later when reviewing the audio files I discovered something equally shocking that had been recorded on the digital recorder by the locked emergency exit. I could clearly hear the distant echo of our voices from the other end of the tier. Then suddenly, very close to the microphone, was the distinct sound of sighing or exhaling, twice. The sounds came as a startling contrast to the rest of the recording. I focused my attention even more on the audio file, and a few moments later there was something that really made my blood run cold.
I practically jumped out of my seat when I heard the name whispered, and it sounded as if the person was right next to the recorder. I played that section of audio over and over again to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, but there it was in all its chilling clarity; a man’s voice whispering the name Sarah.
I immediately copied the recording to my computer and sent the clip to Hank and Mike. I needed their opinion of the mysterious voice. Both of them got right back to me, agreeing that they also heard the name Sarah. Shortly after, I spoke to Hank on the phone, and he asked why I thought a woman’s name had been whispered in this male section of the jail. I speculated that perhaps one of the men who had committed suicide here had a wife or girlfriend named Sarah, and that he had spoken her name with his last breath. Little did I realize how close to the truth I actually was with this theory.
The audio clips were soon circulating among the jail staff, but no one had an explanation for the woman’s name being spoken. Then about a month later, Hank was discussing the subject with two other corrections officers. One of the men was an "old-timer," having worked at the jail for over twenty years, several years longer than Hank. After hearing the story of the audio, he said, "There’s only one Sarah I know that has any connection to that jail." The story he went on to tell was startling.
One day, twenty years ago, this guard had watched over a prisoner who had been granted a request to phone his wife. The purpose of the call was forgiveness, with the prisoner being the one begging for forgiveness for the awful things he had done. His crimes had been among the most despicable a man could commit—for years he had been molesting his own daughter.
The guard overheard the prisoner repeatedly asking his wife to tell the daughter how sorry he was, and he begged for forgiveness from both of them, over and over again. The name of the daughter, and the name that the prisoner kept saying throughout the conversation, was Sarah.
When the prisoner hung up the phone, the guard noticed that he had an odd smile; a peaceful, almost contented look had come over him. The guard led the man back to his cell, and that would be the last time he saw him alive. Within an hour after the call of forgiveness for his crimes against his daughter, the man committed suicide by hanging himself, and the name of Sarah was no doubt the last word to pass his lips…
When Hank relayed this story to me I felt a chill from head to foot. Here was the smoking gun, the link to tie together a tragic episode in the jail from twenty years ago, and a bizarre voice whispered and recorded in the dead of night. Is this man still seeking forgiveness even in death? Did he want us to know how sorry he was for the horrible things he did? The pieces of this awful puzzle do all seem to fit together. But I’m not about to pat myself on the back for this one. As remarkable as it is, the nature of the crimes and events still leaves me feeling sick about it all.
Mike and I set up camcorders in the female cell block, while the group sat in the hall just outside the doorway. Things were fairly quiet in the cell block, but I was called back to the hall as they were hearing things out there. I grabbed my camera and digital recorder and headed back to the central area. Just before stepping through the doorway, there was a loud banging noise in the ceiling above me. The digital recorder captured the following:
"All right, knocking sounds right above me."
I sound remarkably calm at that moment, even though I’m standing in a haunted jail and something is making an unholy racket just over my head. In fact, I was far more curious than scared, but that changed in a heartbeat. What didn’t get recorded for some reason, but what I clearly heard a few moments later, was a host of whispering voices in front of me. It was like a crowd of people, male and female, all speaking low, about fifteen feet ahead.
Still, my fascination level was high, until the voices started moving toward me, and I heard the shuffle of dozens of feet. Instinctively I started stepping backward as the sounds came closer. It was an intensely creepy and overwhelming feeling, and I became very concerned about what would happen when these sounds caught up to me and engulfed me.
Fortunately, that didn’t happen, because as I backed through the doorway the voices and shuffling feet suddenly stopped. I waited breathlessly for a moment or two, then gingerly stepped back through the door. Nothing. Whatever this group had been trying to impress upon me, I guess they had decided they had made their point. And believe me, I was duly impressed!
Pat then came up the hall to see if I was okay. The group (of the living) had seen me backing up and wondered what had happened. I told everyone what had just occurred, and lest they think I was completely crazy, played back the banging noises I had recorded. Those sounds were most likely just the bait to get me alone in the central area and then demonstrate just what we were dealing with here—a lot of wandering souls, and a hell of a night ahead of us!