It's not the type of building you see every day, and even in the daylight, it's pretty spooky. It's the Old Beauregard Parish Jail. According to Cleo Martin, the administrative assistant for Beauregard Parish Tourism, "It's the only jail of its kind in the nation with a Gothic-Collegiate design. Construction began in 1912 and it's not just the architecture, but the facilities that make it impressive.
Martin adds, "It was actually called the Grand Mansion of the Penal System at the time it was created because it was the only jail in America to have bathrooms in every cell. This is in a time where most people were still using outhouses." There are a lot of windows, because it was thought that prisoners with access to fresh air, sunlight, and plenty of room to roam would be better rehabilitated from their crimes. But were they really comfortable?
Martin says, "Probably not, because back in those days, you didn't have glass on the windows. There was no heat in the cells or air conditioning so you were dependent on what was coming though the windows. Not just the heat and the cold, but you dealt with the mosquitoes too."
"So Joe Genna and Milton Brasseaux were the two individuals that were hanged in the jail. They murdered a cab driver for $14." says Dustin Fritts, the Project Design Coordinator and tour guide for the jail. He says there are still some creepy things going on in here.
Fritts saying, "We believe the jailer is still wandering here and it's because of the areas that we experience a little bit of the activity." He continues, "I'm actually a skeptic myself. And I've actually tried to fool myself to think that there's nothing going on here, but those days have kind of ended."
"There's a lot of shadows that like to follow you around." says tour guide Marlena Dougharty, "You see them across the room. I've actually have day tours where someone would ask, 'Hey, who's that around that post over there?' And there's nobody else in the building, because we'd just unlocked the door and walked in. I think I've spent enough time in here to know that it's real."
Most can handle the tours during the day, but if you're brave enough, on select nights you can take part in a lantern tour. Fritts saying, "Five or six people left, the crazy ones like us, that kind of want to hang out for a little bit. We actually will sit in the stairwell and we just kill all of the lights, no flashlights, and we kind of just sit and listen. We've heard footsteps, we've heard cell doors creaking, strange smells. We've smelled cigars and pipe tobacco."
Dougharty adding, "Usually they just run out the front door. One of the kids asked the mom who was the man in the cell and there was nobody in the cell. So the mom was done. It was the shortest tour I've even done after that."
The jail will have their first ever "Ghoul's Night Out" on October 30th. It will be the public's first opportunity to spend the night in the jail! For more information on this event, and daily tours and lantern tours, head to their Facebook Page.
Also visit the Beauregard Parish Tourism Commission, which is also the old DeRidder Post office, across the street from the Jail. There you'll find the Lois Lofton Doll Museum, home to over 3000 dolls. There's also a Conrad Albrizio mural. Albrizio was an artist who won a competition through the WPA in 1936.
Through November 28th, visit CM Farms Corn Maze. The Miracle on Washington Christmas Festival and Lighted Christmas Parade will happen December 4th.
There are plenty of things happening in Beauregard Parish. You can find out more from the Beauregard Parish Tourism website, or you can click the map below.