This is the next installment of my constantly growing list of locations that I consider must-visit locations that every paranormal enthusiast, investigator, explorer, or adventurer needs to see before they die. A (before I kick the) bucket list. Most of the places that will appear on the list are places I haven’t visited yet, some are places I have visited and I’ll share my experiences there in both the form of a travelogue and a report of my take on the site from a paranormal investigator’s point of view. Others still fall into the middle category where I have visited the location, but a return trip to seek out more information and/or deeper investigation is still in order. This entry falls into the first category – a place I’ve never visited.
In addition to just pure entertainment, the series “Ghost Adventures” is a great resource for finding new locations. In fact, the episode at Preston Castle (season 2) was the first episode I had seen and based on how great that location was, I think that’s what kept me tuning in. Will they feature another place as amazing?
Preston Castle, or the Preston School of Industry as it’s officially known, was a reform school in Northern California, about 90 miles northeast of San Francisco in Ione, CA. Amazingly, it operated from 1894 to 2011 (in truth, the main building ceased usage in 1960 and instead a number of other buildings on the campus were put into use). Over the years, this institution housed minors who were wards of the state (generally, orphans, not necessarily criminals), but, yes, also juvenile offenders.
This was a reform school that attempted to teach trades to the young inmates while they served their time, ideally allowing them to join the workforce with a skilled trade when they were discharged.
Of course, a building full of adolescent and young adult criminals did not make for a peaceful locations. Countless fights broke out over the years and some escalated to murder. One known murder was that of housekeeper Anna Corbin in 1950, who was apparently beaten to death. There are legends of two other inmates, allegedly killed by guards.
There is a cemetery on the grounds, holding 18 graves, largely victims of disease outbreaks and accidents. These burials span 1895-1929.
One aspect of the grounds I would like to explore further is the reality that the institution is surrounded by a suburban neighborhood. What’s it like to raise a family in a nice house, but in the shadow of this notorious castle?
What is this property like today? There is a foundation that owns the lease to the land until the year 2051, so fortunately these historic grounds should be protected and looked after for the foreseeable future. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places. However, the image to the right does show signs of deterioration.
In an upcoming article I will dig deeper into some of the ghost stories and the most famous criminals to serve time here.
Rather than go through all the details of the deaths on site or the background of those buried in the cemetery, I will leave that to a great couple of articles from a Preston Castle History website.
- Deaths – https://prestoncastlehistory.blogspot.com/2019/12/deaths-at-preston-castle.html
- Cemetery – https://prestoncastlehistory.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-boys-buried-in-cemetery.html
More video of the location (obviously, not shot by me as it’s still on my Bucket List):