Who knew there was a haunted castle in California? Sure, it’s not a castle in the lived-in-by-royalty sense of the word. Preston Castle was actually built in the 1890s as a headquarters for an innovative reform school for boys. The government employees lived and worked in the luxuriously appointed castle. The boys… slept in the basement. At least until more outbuildings were created to house them.
But it’s spectacularly creepy, especially at night. The castle was abandoned to neglect decades ago, and now water streams through great, gaping holes in the roof and down the walls. Its ornamentation has been stripped, and missing plaster in the ceiling exposes the fragile strips of wood above. Before our flashlight tour, we received a safety warning: If anyone falls through the floor, do NOT follow them.
I came to Preston Castle, nee the Preston School of Industry, at the request of an author friend of mine. She’s writing a mystery novel with a ghost reality TV show in a castle inspired by Preston. It’s perfect for it. The bricks were made in the local California prisons, so the misery is sort of etched in the walls.
Believed to be haunted by some of the boys that resided there, the castle has had its share of deaths. Convicted burglar, Samuel Goins, tried to escape three times. The third time, the guards shot him in the back, and he died. Goins was buried in the Castle’s cemetery, along with 19 other people.
Later, a staff member Anna Corbin, was beaten to death in the basement, her body left to be discovered in the basement’s kitchen pantry. That murder was never solved, but the ghost hunters who do regular overnight tours, insist her spirit has left the building.
The town the castle is located in, Ione, California, is a super-charming old west town. If you want to visit, don’t wait. The place if falling down about the ears and may not be much longer for this world.