Ghosts of The Brentsville Jail

Brentsville, Virginia is a little village in Prince William County just south of Manassas. Both its courthouse and jail were built in 1822 and as such have a sordid past. The haunting at the jail is well documented but its origin is a bit clouded. We try to bring light to who, or what is haunting the Brentsville jail...

Neighbors of the jail swear that it's haunted and investigators have come far and wide to see the site at night. Those that do come have not be disappointed. Recordings of voices screaming "Get out!" and "Don't turn out the lights!" have been heard and dark figures dart in and out of the shadows and things are thrown at visitors. The site manager has been quoted as saying the jail "Is one of those buildings that gives you the creeps".

The who, or what is haunting the building is unknown, but a few stories rise to the top of the list.

In the Pre-Civil War era the jail was used to hold both slaves and free black men in an attempt to return them to their masters. In 1839 a slave held in the jail tried setting it on fire.He was, as the local paper put it, "Moved and seduced by instigation of the Devil". He was hanged for the offense. Six years later a slave named Katy was convicted and executed at the jail for the murder of her master, Gerald Mason. In 1859, five slaves were convicted of the brutal slaying of their master with axes, shovels and sticks. The three adults were hanged, but two young twins were sparred because of their "youth and feeble intellect".

However, the front runner in the haunting of The Brentsville jail is that of James F. Clark. Clark was an attorney in Prince William County who was accused of having an affair with Fannie Fewell, the sixteen year old daughter of a prominent citizen of Manassas. The trial gained massive media attention and has been called the O.J. Simpson trial of the 1800's. Clark told anyone who would listen that he was innocent, but it was of no use as in the publics mind at least, he was already convinced. One reporter for the Alexandria Gazette wrote: "Excited interest in this case is on the increase and will undoubtedly continue until the trial and he (Clark) shall leave the county, or, what is feared by many, buried under the already blood stained sod - the victim of vengeance of a grief-crazed father or an enraged and desperate brother".

That quote proved prophetic as on August 30, 1872, Lucien Fewell, Fannie's brother walked into the jail and shot Clark dead as he sat in his cell. Lucien was brought to trial and charged with murder. Represented by two Civil War Generals, one defending Fewell's actions by saying "When a man's wife, or daughter (or sister) has been seduced, the laws of Virginia confer upon the injured party the privilege of taking the live of the accuser". It took the jury less than five minutes to return a verdict of not guilty. When they did so, the courtroom erupted in applause.

That verdict, a travesty of justice if there ever was one, is the reason some claim that at least a few of the ghostly sightings at the Brentsville jail is that of James Clark, a man executed for a crime for which he was never allowed to have his day in court.

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