Photos Cameron Flaisch
In downtown Rome, Ga., across the street from the Law Enforcement Center and home to a bell tower standing guard over the confluence of Rome’s three mighty rivers is a structure of many names. Some call it The Old Courthouse; the Tag Office also is one of the more commonly used monikers.
When you enter its doors, the age of the building reveals itself. Mile-high ceilings, carefully chiseled columns, and regal marble floors all transport its visitors to a time of pride in craftsmanship and the hours invested in a passion. So, it is certainly fitting that the deep appreciation for dedication, loyalty and the grind would often lead to unforgivable disappointment, served up by those careless with the hearts of the passionate. This, almost always, is a recipe for disaster. Often, the pain is the motive for murder.
If you head towards the the restroom, inside the front doors and just to your left before the stairs, the walls tell a story. This is the story of justice served cold, delivered from a woman scorned and in the form of a revolver. Time is great at hiding what these walls have seen so the evidence will not stick out to the average passerby. Those who have wandered the hallways of our beloved Floyd County Courthouse during the hours when the lights are low and the room is still tell a different tale. They say a spirit trapped between here and the unknown is still mad as hell and some have the evidence to prove it.
In the early 1950s, the building served as the courthouse where defendants were tried and sentences were handed down. One case, involving a woman on the brink of divorce, a cheating man and his prideful lover would not need the ruling from the bench to decide the fate of all. It was a contentious session that spanned multiple days. Things were said, secrets were revealed and, of course, some feelings were hurt.
As the old story goes, during testimony the jilted wife was laughed at by her husband’s other woman. This laughter plagued the wife throughout the night. There she sat, sleepless and going through a divorce. She was losing her husband to a lady who was once a friend, and then there was the laughter. She heard it echo through her mind until she toed the line between rationality and revenge. She was fed up and was about to take action. Tomorrow would be the day the laughter would stop, for good.
The next morning, the mistress and her sisters were walking into the courthouse for another day of proceedings. As the man’s lover walked through the doors, out stepped the wife who was waiting with a loaded firearm.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom, boom, boom!
The wife fired six shots, three into the mistress, two into the wall, and one hit the restroom door molding. That damage is still there if you look closely, in both the door and “something happened here” patches in the plaster beside the door.
This is just one of many events that happened in the old courthouse that has seemingly left a residue. There have always been rumors of people seeing or hearing things. Doors closing, chains dragging and footsteps when no one is around are all regular experiences around this place. “I’ve never seen anything during the day. But at times when I must come by at night, this is a creepy place,” says Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne.
The courthouse has been here since 1892, 126 years to be exact. It was home to a courthouse (upstairs) and holding cells (downstairs). These two locations have seemed to be the sources of a lot of the strange occurrences and paranormal activity.
Payne says the Southern Paranormal Investigators, a group who looks into events to determine if they are explainable, have conducted studies on the building and they have come to some eerie conclusions.
“They go to the extreme to debunk strange events and to define why a sound was heard, or why something was seen,” Payne explains with a very serious look on his face. “They will eliminate things in the event of an occupancy such a making light come from a certain direction, searching for hidden pipe leaks, etc. Nine out of ten times, they do debunk an event, because they find an explainable reason for why something was seen or heard.”
But then, there’s the Courthouse.
The Southern Paranormal Investigators have been to the Courthouse at least eight times, spending the night most of the time. It has been quiet some nights, and some nights they have recorded action. “The investigators have top-of-the-line video and audio recording equipment. They cover numerous angles of the building to see what they find”, says Mr. Payne. “They ask questions aloud, or make requests for actions, and there are occasions where the requests were complied with.”
Barry Caudle of Southern Paranormal Investigators has said the Courthouse is one of the most active sites he has ever visited in his investigation career. They have asked for and received knocks, gunshots and voices. The holding cells and courtroom have been the most active locations. “After investigating the Floyd County Courthouse several times, I have come to the realization that spirits do exist and that there is something going on that must be investigated further,” said Caudle who heads up this group of paranormal specialists.
“We have documented prisoners, judges and evidence recorded from the shooting that took place in the entrance of the Courthouse. Investigators have been touched, pushed and scratched in the main courtroom and in the prisoner holding cell in the basement,” Caudle explains. “In my opinion the Floyd County Courthouse is one of, if not the most, haunted locations in Rome.”
“There is video of what appears to be people walking down the stairs. Two clear, people-like somethings, walking down the stairs on video” says Payne. “They’ve also heard the mistress say the name of the wife who shot her and was then found innocent of the crime in court.”
Is it possible that the murdered mistress and many criminals who were rightly (or wrongly) prosecuted hang around in spirit? It all depends on what you believe, and according to Payne, “There have been a number of events that can not be explained on audio and video in that courthouse.”
There is a Special Local Option Sales Tax in place that will renovate the courthouse in the coming years. Things that go bump in the night become too real to most, especially when there is evidence to back up the claims. Will the spirits that are not at rest be receptive to the change? Let’s hope they are.
When you go to pick up your vehicle registration, take a look to the left after you walk through the doors at the restroom door right before the stairs. Look at the hole in the door casing, and then find the two bad spots in the wall and remember this piece. Happy Halloween.