November 26th, 2018
WE WOKE ON day two to gray skies, frigid temperatures & a wind that cut right through you! It was going to be a miserable day. Oh & did I mention it was also day number two of NO HOT WATER!! The sink would scald you for hours BUT the shower…Not so much! I figured this out our very 1st morning & while E was totally willing to brave it that that day, I was NOT willing to start my morning freezing my bunzos off. Fortunately my addiction to Dunkin Donuts sweet tea came to the rescue! I used my high tech D & D cup & MacGyvered myself a steaming hot, kinda shower & although I had been quite proud of myself, I was NOT going to do it a 2nd time. It was freaking 36 degrees out with a gusty wind that cut right through you; I’d be saving my shower for a place with a large hot water tank! I waited while E decided today was HER day to “Run On Dunkin!” We then Layering up, we finally headed out. Time to head back to the school & get a better look at the damage Hurricane Michael had caused. But 1st, we had a quick stop on what was deemed the “Highest Point” of Marianna.
AS THE CROW SPIES
IT SAT ON top of an enormous hill, looming over the tiny town. Although we had driven by probably a dozen OR more times since arriving, however, the extent of the damage wouldn’t be known until we were actually standing in front of it. We drove up a steep side road, through a neighborhood where the debris was still piled up & after finally finding the street that the church sat on, pulled into a parking lot of a hurricane damaged business that sat just across the street. Getting out we both craned our necks & looked up. It was unbelievable.
WE DIDN’T NEED to cross the street to even see that the gothic style church had been mostly reduced to rubble. The building had crumbled so much that there was no way to even access the church due to its brick steps & entry way lying in a heap. Taking photos around the outside would have to suffice.
IN MY LAST post, I chose not to focus on the town itself, other than the graveyard as it pertained directly to the school. So why in this post am I focusing on the rubble of this particular church instead of just mentioning that we stopped & moved on to the school? Well, there are two reasons:
1) I wanted to mention the old red bricks that the church was constructed from as they were more than likely made by the boys in the brick factory located on campus.
2) The ENTIRE time we were at the church we were being watched….By a very large, jet black crow. He was perched on the top of the steeple staring down at us. If we moved to the left, he moved to the left. If we went right, he did the same. At one point we moved to a side of the building where he couldn’t easily see us & he then flew to where he could. That damn creepy ass bird sat there, staring us down, even as we got back into the car & drove away. It really made for a chilling picture.
THE DEVIL’S GATE IS OPEN!
AS WE DID the day before, we pulled onto the North Campus & took the fork to the left. Heading up the rough path, you could clearly see the destruction that had taken place weeks earlier. The biggest change was the absence of most of the trees that had always stood on the land. Now they were in piles all over the place. It looked like a bomb went off.
IN ADDITION TO the massive amounts of debris littering the property, there was also a flurry of activity on the North Campus grounds. Vehicles were parked at the fence of the main school building, reminding us that it was a Monday. Of course this sent the Bestie into a slight panic, to which I reminded her that it was no big deal as we blended in with all of the extra people currently frequenting the area. It was during this discussion that E noticed that there was a gate wide open at the back of the property. In spite of the nerves, we headed that way…And drove right through it, landing ourselves smack in the middle of a wooded area that we’d never been able to get to before.
FINDING LEE & MONROE?
THE PLAN WAS to head directly to Boothill & spend time searching in & around the area in the hopes of finding ANYTHING that could be used as evidence. That plan changed the minute we came upon yet another large structure.
THIS ONE WAS just as large as the one we had found the day before & was of similar style. The concrete entryway was framed by the same massive stone columns & once again, the inside was made up of concrete floors, tile walls & the narrow, inaccessible staircases. Water from the rain was pooled in various areas of the floor, making it slick to walk on.
NOT EXPECTING TO find the firstdorm the day before, our minds were completely blown to find a 3rd right next door to it! The field of debris continued as we frequently stepped over & around branches, garbage, old furniture, wood & even what looked to be a large pile of couch cushions. Why anyone would go through the trouble of dragging out that many cushions is beyond me…Unless they were thinking about building a bonfire but decided that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to do so when surrounded by 100+ year old buildings. Thank God for that at least!
ARMED WITH MY little recorder, I scanned the room silently for several minutes before catching up with E. She immediately let me know that the other side of the building would not be accessible. Knowing we still had at around 2 miles of dense woods to get through, we had to keep going. We exited through the back, stepping over the door that was lying on the ground & found ourselves standing in another small courtyard area. To our left was a smaller brick structure that upon closer inspection looked like a storage room for recreation equipment. Deflated balls were all over the place & a wooden bench, that matched others that we had seen randomly around the campus, lined the 3 main walls that made up the little room. The door to this structure was damaged but oddly still attached with the lock firmly in place. It wasn’t going to open without a fight; A fight neither of us really wanted to have since we still had too much to do & as usual NOT enough time!
AS WE MADE our way to the woods, I barely noticed that there was a steep set of concrete steps leading down to a some type of cellar straight out of one of the Freddy Kruger movies, but more on that later…
A SECOND BOOTHILL?
STANDING AT THE entrance of the woods, there was something so ominous about knowing what had been there & what could still be Inside of those woods. They held the Boothill Cemetery …Not necessarily where this story began but definitely where it would be blown wide open, showing the rest of the world that evil did exist & continues to live happily in a little town nestled in Florida’s panhandle. In fact, It would put Marianna on the map & send officials scrambling to cover up 111 years of child neglect, torture, rape & murder.
IT DIDN’T MATTER how uneasy those woods made us feel, there was NO turning back now. I plugged in the coordinates for Boothill into my phone & we were off! It took only a few steps before we realized that it was NOT going to be an, easy, leisurely hike. Every other step resulted in one OR both of us were either getting tangled up in vines, whacking each other in the face with branches OR having to become a contortionist to get through the impossibly small openings in the trees. Factor in the frigid, damp weather & we had ourselves a pretty miserable trek through the forest.
OTHER THAN THE above mentioned unpleasantness, the first half of the walk was uneventful…Until it wasn’t. It started when we saw another of those old homemade wooden benches that were apparently a campus staple. After a couple of comments, we moved on. If the GPS could be believed (Mine hates me & often lies!), we were about 400 yards from Boothill. We moved forward, hearing the crunching of dead leaves & snapping of branches under our feet. Crunch, Crunch, Snap; Crunch, Crunch, Snap; Crunch Crunch, THUNK! WTF?? It was a change in the sound that our boots made as we were walking; The sound that you’d hear if you were to walk on a hard wood floor. The ground texture was also way off…Like spongy. Stopping in our tracks, E started digging while I pulled out my phone to take video. As she kept digging, I started tapping on the ground around her just to see how big of an area we may be dealing with. I didn’t get far when she threw up both of her hands & began freaking the “F” out! She backed up so fast you’d think she had stumbled on a nest of clowns! Myself, however, stayed calm. I’d spent most of my life being afraid of EVERYTHING & here I was completely level headed, even though I damn well knew what we could be standing on. I Handed E my phone & took over digging.
THE EARTH ON top peeled back like a section of carpet & that’s exactly what it felt like. Digging revealed something long & wooden. A few minutes later 2 more sides similar to the 1st were revealed. The end of each was attached to the next, almost like it outlined the surface. The wood looked very similar to the benches that we had seen earlier.
I STOPPED DIGGING immediately. I’d seen enough to know that what may be further down was something that neither of us was qualified to deal with. With the videos & still shots we had taken, I believed we had enough proof to at the very least have someone be willing to review it. It certainly wouldn’t be ANY person in OR related to Marianna that’s for damn sure! I knew just the person to send it to…BUT before then, I was Hoping that I could edit out the curse words that were flying.
AS BADLY AS I wanted to add those videos to this post, most will understand that I’m unable to do so at this time. Maybe at some point, I’ll be able to show the world & let everyone make their own determination as to what it looks like we found. For now, I’m only comfortable with posting a few of the pics & some still shots from our videos. Knowing that we had thoroughly documented the spot & the coordinates were marked gave me peace about moving on….
WHAT HAPPENS AT BOOTHILL…GETS SHARED ON THE BLOG!
WE MOVED ON, closing the approximately 400 yards between us & Boothill. The distance wasn’t far but it took forever to get through the thick vines, bushes & trees. We were both pretty quiet for the rest of the walk. As we got closer, the hill got steeper & the space got tighter. A thin, silver cable ran from where we were standing, through the trees & up an even steeper hill. There was something up there but to get through the thick line of trees while trying to climb that hill would take a considerable amount of time…And as usual, we were almost out of it. I followed it as far as I could comfortably go, taking video & pics along the way.
I THEN TURNED back around to follow the map again. Eventually we made it, at least according to the GPS although there was nothing really left to see. Everything that had once made up the only known burial ground at the Dozier school had been removed long ago. I take a tiny bit of comfort knowing that at least a few families finally got closure, however, I wanted so badly for ALL of the families to have their boys back. Standing on the hill, looking out over the campus, I wasn’t sure if that would ever happen & as a mom of a young boy, my heart ached.
WE ONLY SPENT a short amount of time on Boothill before deciding to head back to the car. We could see people in the distance & hear the sound of the work trucks pulling in & the cars pulling out. This put E on edge but it didn’t really concern me as I knew we’d encounter somebody at some point…After all, it was a Monday afternoon. As we hiked off the hill & back through the woods, not one person paid us any mind. By the time we got back to the car, we were both frozen. The plan had been to head back through the gate & down to the other cottages (I had to see a dorm about a mirror!) that we explored on our last trip.
ON A WING & A DARE!
THERE ARE A few things that Y’all should know about me:
1) Don’t EVER tell me that I can’t do something because I will do it just to prove you wrong!
2) Don’t EVER dare me to do something because I will do it, NO matter how stupid it may be!
THIS INCLUDES ANYTHING that can even be misconstrued as a dare…Which is actually closer to what happened. We were sitting in the car, heat blasting, when E said “I wished I wasn’t so freaked out because I would have loved to have gone down into that basement.” I whipped around to look at her & said “Basement? What Basement??” Remember that Freddy Kruger looking cellar that I’d mentioned earlier? Yeah well…
CHALLENGE EXCEPTED BESTIE! I grabbed my backpack, flashlight & phone, bundled up & with the parting words “If I’m not back by dark, call somebody”, I set off to see about one old, creepy ass basement/cellar! I have to say that getting through the woods the second time wasn’t nearly as bad as the 1st. I now knew the best place to enter, the safe places to step & the fastest, most direct way to get to where I needed to be. Within a few minutes I was inside of the dorm; about a minute more & I was standing behind it. There was a small window like opening at ground level but tree limbs & more vines blocked my view. I had to crouch down to see inside & even then it was too dark to actually tell what was inside. I could hear water constantly dripping & every drop echoed.
SINCE THE WINDOW was a no go, I decided to take a better look at the stairs. They looked like they were ALL in place, even covered with a ton of crap. Guess it was time to give it a go!
TURNS OUT THE steps weren’t going to be the problem. I made it almost all the way down when I figured out where the dripping noise was coming from. At the bottom of the stairs, just at the entryway was about a foot of water & it didn’t stop there. If I stood on the slab of concrete the water would be slightly above my ankle…Not too much of a problem because my rain boots came up to mid-calf. I put one foot in the puddle & peered into the dark room.
WHEN I REALIZED what I was seeing I literally rolled my eyes & said “Awe Shit!” A River Runs Through It was the understatement of the year! The River ran OVER it, filled it up & decided to build an island in the middle of it! Water was midway up the wall & spilling out to gather where I was currently standing. If I had to throw out a guess, there was possibly 3 OR 4 feet of water in that room & you could hear it sloshing around in there. Now I’m only 5’5″ & I suck at math so even 3 feet would equal HELL NO! I shined my flashlight inside but still could only see shadows. Nope, NOT doing it! I climbed back up & crouched down by the rusty railing to see if I could get a better view. It was slightly better…At least I could see enough to know that I’d made the right choice NOT going swimming in the indoor pool! I took some video & a few pics & made my way back to the car…
YEP, I HAD FINALLY come back for it…The mirror, that is & hopefully NOT what I had captured in its reflection last time! As we pulled in front of the dorm that held it & got out, I glanced across the street at the South Campus. I could see so much of it now & was starting to get pissed at myself . I had now been here 6 times & still hadn’t found a way to get inside of that fence. I heard E say “If you want your mirror, we better get in there.” At that moment, I decided that it could wait. If we only had a few minutes left, they’d be better spent across the road, where the secrets stayed guarded under lock & key. We got back into the car & onto the main stretch of road that separated North from South. I probably should have just gone for the mirror…
BEFORE I HAD the chance to think about it, E took a sharp left onto a rough clay road. It took me a 2nd before I realized what she was doing…She had figured out a back road that ran behind the school…OR possibly in front of it as I still didn’t know which side was which. We bumped along for a few minutes, seeing a handful of houses & more piles from the cleanup. Mostly it was just forest & fields on both sides of the road. I focused my attention on the left side, waiting to see if a clear sign of an unguarded entrance. Though we never saw a neon sign saying “ENTER HERE!” with an arrow pointing, a particular field caught my eye & I just knew that we had found another way. At this time the sun was setting so I don’t honestly know what I had expected. I’m pretty sure it involved parking on the side of the road & army crawling in the dusk like a pair of trespassing Ninjas. I watched it as we drove right on by. Guess we weren’t stopping.
A HAIL MARY PLAY
WE HAD COME to the end of the road; Both figuratively & literally! We were now next to the school & would be passing it soon. The next stop would be the interstate to head home. Not knowing what else to do I blurted out “JUST PULL INTO THE GODDAMN GUARD SHACK!” She looked at me like I’d finally lost my mind but in her defense, she did it. Slowly creeping up to the guard’s booth, a uniformed man came out of the little office. I jumped out & started walking toward him. Pasting on my sweetest smile & adding a bit more “Southern Charm” to my voice, I walked right up to him. He was very friendly & polite as I told him what my request was. Unfortunately for me, he was NOT affiliated with the school in any way, he just worked for the security firm that was hired to keep me & everyone else out. I asked him who I could talk to & he pointed to a sign that was posted on the gate. It said “In Case Of Emergency Contact…” & it listed 2 faded names & numbers. The guard was nice enough to give me the names & numbers, adding that both women came by every day & we had just missed one of them by minutes. Well Shit! I thanked him for his time & turned to go BUT not before I attempted to pump him for info about things like the hours they worked & how often they had to patrol the property. The final words I said to him could have potentially been taken as a bit of a bribe. I, however, prefer to consider it a gesture of kindness from one person to another. I was only offering to bring the hard working man a coffee on a cold night but as it turns out he had given up coffee & booze years ago! Well wasn’t that just fabulous…
CALLING THE GAME
BACK IN THE car I filled E in on what had happened & in one final attempt, I dialed the number of the DJJ contact that the guard had given me. It rang several times before a woman’s voice answered. I quickly explained what I wanted & in the bitchiest tone of voice she replied with “I’m sorry but we don’t allow people on the school property as it’s too much of a liability.” Another thing most people know about me is that I happen to speak “Bitch” very well. In fact, I’m fluent in it! So I responded with “Thank you, I guess I’ll be reaching out to my contacts that are higher up.” She didn’t give 2 shits & I could almost hear the paper that she was reading that official answer from.” The entire call was done within a minute OR less & I hung up wanting to karate chop the chick in the throat! At least I have the call recorded & apparently E decided to take video of both my interaction with the guard & the snotty DJJ troll guarding the Dozier “bridge.” With ALL options exhausted, there was nothing left to do but head home.
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