The Jailhouse Ghost of Pickens County

What is now the Pickens County Museum of Art and History in Pickens South Carolina was once the county jail. In 1944 a string of events occurred around that place that has the ghost of a young boy pleading his innocence until judgement day.

Simon walked past the jail quickly, although he'd heard the stories, he didn't give them much credit. After all, he believed in science. Not ghosts. Just as he got to the door though, he became a believer. From within the walls of the jail came a horrible moan. "I didn't do it" Simon stopped and looked around him. He knew it just had to be one of his friends playing a prank. But the second time he heard it, he knew whatever made that noise was not human. Fueled by fear, Simon raced away from the brick building as fast as his legs could carry him.

He ran as fast as could, as long as he could but finally stopping at a diner just before his legs gave out. He stumbled inside and told the cook what he'd seen. The cook nodded and said "What you heard was the ghost of Willie Earle". Since they were the only two in the diner, the cook came around the counter and sat on the stool next to Simon. He took a long, deep breath and began the story.

It all started in 1944 with a racist cabbie and a black passenger. As they drove towards the destination, the cabbie, a man named Johnny, took shots at his passenger, each more vicious and profanity laced that the last, trying to get a rise out of the man. But the black man stayed quiet. When they got to where they were going, the black man quietly got out of the cab and began to walk away. The cabbie jumped from the car, hollering after the man that he'd not been paid. The black man turned and said he was not paying and the cabbie was lucky not to get a beating. Infuriated, Johnny pulled a gun and shot the black man in the back, killing him.

Johnny was never arrested, but he told almost everyone he knew about the killing. As if he were proud of taking the life. Tensions in the area ran high for some time after. That's when Willie Earle came to town to visit his mother. She left him in the house when she went to work at the diner Simon now sat in. That afternoon, she got a visit from the police telling her Willie had been arrested for the robbing and stabbing of a cab driver.

Willie was taken to the Pickens County jail, but he was never tried. A mob of cab drivers entered the jail and took Willie by force to the old slaughter yard where he was tortured and finally shot twice in the head. The cabbie Johnny was the only one who came to work the next morning. He acted as if nothing had happened. On Febuary 21, 1947 31 cab drivers were arrested for the murder of Willie Earle. That May, they were aquitted. To this day, people tell of hearing the soft moan of Willie Earle as he desperately trys to plead his innocence... "I didn't do it.. I didn't do it"

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