|Medina County Jail, Hondo, Texas|
He recently was spooked into leaving by the sound of unexplained footsteps as he worked alone, after hours.
“I walked all over the building and there wasn't anything there,” Barden, 74, said Wednesday. “I wouldn't have gone home if I hadn't felt something weird and uncomfortable.”
He and co-workers report repeatedly experiencing unexplained phenomena since early 2010 when they moved into the former lockup upon completion of a $1.2 million conversion into offices.
Beside hearing “footsteps” and other noises in a vacant stairwell, reports among the building's six workers include catching glimpses of shadowy figures moving about, hearing voices, even being touched.
“There's something here,” Jennifer Adlong, Barden's administrative assistant, says matter-of-factly. “I could have sworn yesterday I saw something dart in the bathroom.”
Co-worker Laryssa Leyva, theorizes that former inmates are haunting the fortresslike limestone
building, built in 1893, that housed county prisoners until a new 96-bed jail opened in 1999.
“I'm not scared because they never come close to me,” said Leyva, 23, on Wednesday. “I don't feel spirits. I just hear noises.”
The county's human resource director, Stacey Cameron, has developed a more personal relationship with the spirit(s).
Besides hearing strange noises, she's said she's seen a dark shadow the height of an adult in her first-floor office. She initially attributed it to tricks of the mind. But then she had the distinct feeling of being touched and poked, forcing her to confront the ghosts directly.
“I just told them not to touch me anymore, and it hasn't,” said Cameron, 38.
Her assistant, Yvonne Garcia, has grown used to unusual events, like hearing a woman's voice when no one else is in the 1,900-square-foot building.
“Lately I've seen shadows, but I don't know if it's just me,” she said.
Although eager for an explanation, Barden has no plans to hire professional ghost hunters to investigate the mystery.
“We don't want to spend taxpayers' money on that,” said Barden, a retired telephone corporate attorney and executive. “I accept the fact that there are spirits, and we have had unexplained phenomena in this building.”