Ghost hunt at 1925 Runnels County Jail

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register

Ballinger has become a go-to destination for paranormal investigators from around the world. That isn't just a bunch of hyperbole to drum up interest. Teams from the Discovery Channel to the Travel Channel and everyone from Jack Osbourne (son of Ozzy) to Chad Lindberg to the famous Klinge brothers have come to Ballinger to investigate paranormal activity at the Olde Park Hotel. The hotel is considered one of the most haunted places in America. But there might just be another haunted place in Ballinger.

The 1925 Runnels County Jail will host 2 upcoming ghost hunts to help fund renovations via the 501c3, 1925 Runnels County Jail project.

This paranormal investigation isn't going to happen at the hotel, it's going to happen across the street, at the 1925 Runnels County Jail. Runnels County Clerk Julia Miller and Jail Administrator Kimberly Dunn have formed a 501c3, the 1925 Runnels County Jail, to restore the jail. This ghost hunt will help raise funds for the project.

Dan and Connie LaFave, who own the Olde Park Hotel, will be conducting the investigation at the jail. The LaFaves were asked if there was an increased level of excitement investigating a place for the first time.

Connie said the feeling goes beyond excitement.

"There is absolutely a euphoric feeling when we investigate a location for the first time. It’s the moment we discover or expel any rumors of any activity," she said.  

Dan said the planning started months ago and the two upcoming events sold out quickly, "This is something that has been in planning with Runnels County officials for awhile now. Things like this do take a lot of time due to everything involved and the fact that money needed to be raised for all the things needing to be done to the Old Runnels Jail in preparing it to be turned into a historic museum. When we first mentioned that we could help tremendously by offering exploration in the building via events people were very ecstatic and could not wait to be in the first groups."

These first two public events on Saturday, April 24 and Saturday, May 8 have sold out.

Connie says they have been looking at the jail for years, "I think there is always some residual energy next to locations that are known to have activity. Chances are high we might find something. We are going in quite blind. We have no clue what to expect. All we know are stories about people from guards who worked there. We have been staring at it for several years, dying to know what is inside it! This is our chance to see how the two buildings (jail and hotel) are intertwined."

Dan says they've already had a paranormal experience at the jail. While visiting the old building on a hot day, cold air surrounded them unexpectedly while they were on the third floor. 

"I think everyone, including us, are very excited to see what is found and discovered," he said. "It cooled us down, and when we went back out, there were no breezes or wind. This building already feels very historic and mysterious to us. It will be great exploring all its history and it’s possible paranormal occurrences."

Ghost stories aren't uncommon around historic buildings, especially locations where there was pain, strife or illness. The LaFaves had another experience with  the old jail, "There are rumors of things experienced before and through the ages. There have also been very strange experiences including seeing what looked like two figures with a light in the building (several witnesses in our group saw this) one night. We saw and surrounded the building while calling Ballinger PD to respond, which they did. The Ballinger PD officer went in searching the building with no one found. Since we had surrounded the building, we are sure no one escaped. Maybe an old jail guard from the past doing their rounds checking cells?"

Dan spoke about the haunting of old jails overall, "We have seen several old jails across Texas with paranormal occurrences in them happening to people. These old jails had a lot of emotions in them such as sadness and sometimes possible violent behavior. Time will tell now what people feel, see, and experience while exploring the history of the Old Runnels Jail building."

Dan said they appreciate the donations being made to preserve the building.  While the paranormal side of the investigation is exciting, Dan says that helping restore an historic place is highly important.

"We mainly came up with the idea because we saw that we could help tremendously with restoration and other costs of the old jail building this way. There were rumors and people were feeling and seeing strange things, including us, being right across the street at night. We have already helped raise a lot of money which we will keep donating to help with everything on the jail. Everyone that does these things will be very professional and respectful of the history and this old jail building which we love. It’s about helping that old building to stay around through the ages in the end. We are very happy to be a part of it and Connie and I are also joining the Runnels County Historical Commission as members soon."

Dan says paranormal investigations help the local economy as well, "Many people from all over are now traveling to Ballinger to enjoy the old jail and town."

Some of the paranormal investigations at the Olde Park Hotel have brought in large groups of 30 or more visitors to take part in and witness the investigations. There are also film crews who come in with the paranormal investigators from the various television channels. Local restaurants and stores have received a boost in business while the investigations are being conducted. Typically, the investigations are overnight, into the wee hours of the morning. With the old jail being added to the list of go-to paranormal investigations, it too could help provide a boost to local businesses.