Lavaca County Jail May 28-29, 2019
The Old Lavaca County Jail is located at 305 N. Main Street in Hallettsville, Texas about 110 miles east of San Antonio, Tx. The original structure was built in 1884 and opened in 1885. In 1976 additional jail cells were added to the first floor. After a devastating flood damaged the ground-level space, repairs were made and additional office space and a kitchen were added in 1981. The area saw extensive flooding in 1940 when 8 feet of water flooded the jail.
It is a relatively small structure, but there is enough to keep you busy throughout the night. The original jail cells upstairs are in extremely good shape and are sufficiently creepy with its medieval flat bar steel cells. The jail cells themselves are quite spacious but even on a sunny day, they are very dark and gloomy because little light can get through the steel lattices. So, at night, it's practically pitch black!
The jail recently earned the distinction of being on Haunted Journey's "7 Most Haunted and Unforgiving Penitentiaries in America." This honor is well deserved and earned because there is something really weird that happens when you spend some quality alone time in jail, especially the cells.
On countless occasions, while I was there I could hear very distant voices and conversations. They were, most of the time, very to extremely faint, but were definitely there. I could never locate the source or direction they were coming from. I confirmed this with two additional sources, the site manager and a fellow ghost hunter who experienced the same phenomena. In fact, other groups have reported similar experiences.
This almost constant chatter was most prevalent in the jail cells, both upstairs and downstairs. I listened carefully for them in my audio files and they are there, but again, they are extremely low in volume.
There was also a lot of knocking, pinging and door closing sounds throughout the night. I think most of these sounds were simply residual and imprinted.
The first floor is the largest area with a lot of spaces to explore. Downstairs you will find the booking office, the sheriff's office, and bedroom the newer 6 jail cells. Downstairs in the newer jail cells is where I recorded an extraordinarily loud cracking, metallic sound that reverberated with great force. In the main hallway, that leads to the back offices and kitchen I caught a shadow figure, just at my peripheral vision, that seemed to dart out of the booking area across the hall to the visiting room. Even though I did spend a considerable amount of time in the sheriff's office and bedroom, I did not document any activity, in fact, it was quite serene. I did not feel the very back (newer) office space and the kitchen were active at all, so I did not explore those areas.
I also did explore the grounds outside of the jail, which by around 3 am was a bit more pleasant, it was a bit cooler, however, I did not get a sense that anything was going on.
Upstairs is the most oppressive part of the jail and it was the area that gave me the best sense that something could get going. I honestly can't imagine being locked up in such a dark, claustrophobic environment and not develop a severe case of anxiety, panic attacks, and abject depression. Although the cells are ample enough to move about, the flat bar cell lattice walls allowed only a sliver of light to enter the cell. Even in the daytime, or with all the overhead lights on, it is extremely dark. If you are claustrophobic, you may want to re-think this location, or at least, really mentally prepare yourself.
And just my two cents here, but why on earth, if you were in specter form, would you want to spend any more time in such a foreboding, dismally oppressive place? Perhaps this is why a significant experience that has been reported at this location is what appears to be residual or imprinted sound and voices?
There is an interesting theory, that has been around since the 1800s, that proposes that these residual voices are "recorded" in places (place theory) because they occurred when people were experiencing extreme emotion, as in death or severe injuries, and they knowingly or unknowing sent out distress messages or thoughts to loved ones.
I can't emphasize enough how profoundly distressing it is to experience clinical depression and panic attacks. I have had both. At one point in my life, for countless years, I had extreme bouts of depression with occasional severe panic attacks. It was such a desperately intense feeling that I frequently asked, and prayed for relief, even if I had to die, to stop the uncontrollable thoughts of hopelessness, abject sadness, and worthlessness. At the worst, I wished to die to end the suffering.
I can't imagine a more apt place to have these feelings. So yes, this is an unforgiving place.
WHAT TO HIT: You can cover the entire location easily in one night. Again, this is not a big jail like West Virginia Pen, but in some regards, especially the upstairs cells, it just felt much more oppressive. And although it looks quite small from outside, there are a lot of rooms and jail cells to explore and investigate inside. Hit every nook and cranny you can. For me, the most active areas seemed to be downstairs, surprisingly, in the newer cells.
THE FOLKLORE: The haunts that have been attributed to the jail include the spirit of various sheriffs that ran the jail in its long history. The most prevalent seems to be Sherrif Ronnie Ray Dodds, who was shot to death by a teenage prisoner on September 28, 1969. In fact, there is a memorial marker just outside of Hallettsville that pays tribute to the sheriff. A portion of highway 90-A was named in his honor, just west of Hallettsville to the east city limits of Shiner.
Another spirit is said to haunt the hail, however, it comes with some controversy. Laura Lynn Hights was murdered in the old Yoakum Hospital just down the road from the jail. Her husband was imprisoned for the crime at this jail. He was later found hanged in his cell, from an apparent suicide. This is still a very controversial and delicate subject for the area.
IN MY MOST HUMBLE OPINION: Lavaca County Jail has earned its place among one of the most oppressive jails in America. I just wish there was more of it to explore/investigate. Is it haunted? Probably. But there is a least something truly odd going on here with all the aimless voices and conversations. This might be a good place to try to further the idea of the "Stone Tape" theory. The original structure was built with 30-inch thick masonry walls, so maybe there's something to this unorthodox idea?
IF YOU GO: Once again, my Texas advice holds. I would base camp in San Antonio, simply because it's a quick drive East on I-10. HOWEVER, if you are going to hit Yorktown Hospital too, and you really should if you're in the area. Then my best advice is to stay in Gonzales, Tx. and explore this serene but historically rich part of Texas. Gonzales has an HEB grocery, which is the equivalent of a Publix or Wegmans grocery. You will find excellent eateries, both chain and locally owned. Finally, it gets hot down here in the summertime. Try to book your stay at the jail anytime other than June - Mid October.