Once the guides were done talking about the history and stories about the building, the members proceeded inside. When all were inside, Ray spoke about how the penitentiary was haunted and how he had seen a tall guy with a white lab coat and pants that used to work as a doctor there. Ray mentioned that he had not been the first person to see him; many people before had seen him, too.
When the group went out to the courtyard where the inmates got their exercise, Ray showed them a graveyard that belonged to Mike the Cat, who was loved by all the inmates. Ray said Mike was loved because he was the messenger. They would put notes on the cat; then the cat would go to different living quarters and deliver them. He would also bring back cigarettes that were prohibited in the housing units.
The FBLA members were then shown two different housing units. In the first unit, the members were free to walk around and look inside the cells. Erica Kotthoff mentioned, “getting to walk around and look at the different rooms was completely different than what I imagined.” However, the only rule was that students could not try to close the cell doors, otherwise they would be stuck in the cell for a while.
In the same housing unit, they were shown the dungeon where the prisoners who kept breaking the rules were kept. In order to get a feel for what those prisoners felt, Aloha turned off the lights, and the dungeon went pitch black. Lauren Bergner exclaimed, “The dungeon was pretty cool.” In the second housing units, there were also cells, including cell 45 where the killer of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Earl Ray, was kept.
The last stop on the tour was the gas chambers. The members were shown the two chairs in which thirty-nine inmates were executed. They were also shown the viewing room where people, such as family members, could watch the execution take place. Andrew Menke remarked, “I thought it was creepy because people were actually taking pictures where people died.”
On the way out from the chambers, the members thanked Ray and Aloha for the tour and even took a group picture with them. The group then boarded the bus to head back to school. “I would definitely go again because it was very interesting to learn about and to tour,” quoted MacKenzie Bauer.
Mrs. Strickland was impressed with the students’ behavior and stated, “We received praise from both tour guides. They continually said how respectful and well-behaved all the students were. Because of their behavior, the students were allowed to explore one building without hindrance, and the tour went over the two hours that were allotted. I was very proud of the students that day.”
-by Jenny Alvarez