I tried to keep the details of my recent research secret from my friends. I didn’t want to be the weird guy in the group, and I also didn’t want my friends to bring up that I was the one who liked to look for ghosts anytime they introduced me at a party. So, I’ve kept my research relatively quiet. One night though, I did end up slipping.
I had a buddy from college over to my house one night. He had stopped back in town to visit family, and since he can’t stand to be around them for more than a few hours at a time, I let him crash on my couch for the night. Ted works for the Illinois Department of Corrections, and we compared the usual job stories, both funny and frustrating. After a few beers the conversation turned to spooky things he’s heard about on the job. He told me some stories he heard about Joliet Prison, and rumors of the ghosts of murdered inmates that stalk the halls.
I in turn, told him about the research I was doing. The research that was rapidly eclipsing the original reach of the mapping project. He went pretty quiet, and after a few moments told me that he had a story for me that he probably shouldn’t be telling, but it was too strange to keep to himself.
There was an inmate in one of the maximum security women’s facilities that was in for murder, she killed her boyfriend and his lover. He said her name was Cassie, and that she had been in there for a few months now and everyone pretty much left her alone. Guards, inmates, everybody. When she was initially transferred in she requested a portable CD player, headphones, and ear plugs for sleeping. Then, she wouldn’t talk to anyone. She would follow instructions and go through her day-to-day, but she would ignore any attempts to communicate with her. After a while, some of the inmates decided to pick on her, and she would just sit there and take it, not saying a word.
That night, the leader of the gang was found in her cell, dead from asphyxiation. The security footage shows no one leaving or entering her cell from the time lights out went into effect, until the guards found her in the morning.
Prison officials passed it off as some kind of suicide attempt, but Ted was on the detail that had to transport her to the prison morgue. He saw the bruising around her neck. Bruises that looked like large hand prints.
Rumors spread around the guards like wildfire of monsters and vengeful spirits, things like that, and he figured it would be something I would be interested in.
I tried to downplay it but I could tell he knew I was chomping at the bit to find out more. Ted said he could arrange a visitation session with Cassie for me; however I shouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t acknowledge my presence.
So, I made my way to the prison for visiting hours, and was set in a small room where she was handcuffed to a table, while Ted and another guard stood by. I was able to bring in a tape recorder, and what follows is my interview transcript. In parenthesis I try to convey her body language as I could remember.
Me: Hello Cassie, my name is John Evans, I was hoping I could talk to you today about why you’re here; I’m putting together a project about –
Cassie: What do you want to know? (Cassie leans forward and tilts her head to the side, with almost a childlike curiosity.)
Me: Oh, um, I was told… Sorry, ok, I wanted to know what happened to the woman who had mistreated you a few months ago.
Cassie: She was taken care of. I wasn’t bothering her at all and she said all of those horrible things to me and kept hitting me and no one stopped it. My Guardian Angel saved me. (She leans back, her voice now hardened and firm.)
Me: Your guardian angel? Who is your guardian angel? Is it one of the guards here or another inmate?
Cassie: Oh no, he doesn’t work here and no one can see him but me. He protects me when people are mean to me. Just like when he killed my boyfriend for saying those hurtful things about me and sleeping with my whore of a best friend. He got her too.
Me: So this angel, he kills those who have wronged you somehow?
Cassie: Yes, and he keeps them around me to show them that I’m still alive and they’re not. They don’t realize that they’re dead and no one can hear them. No one but me. (Cassie leans forward again, voice almost a whisper. The guard at the door becomes perceivably nervous.)
Me: Are they here with us now? The people he’s killed?
Cassie: Yes, they’re usually so loud and it makes it hard to sleep without my music. He said that it’s the price I pay for his love though. I have to have them around, and if I do, he’ll protect me from more people who deserve it.
Me: How many are there?
Cassie: Eight. No one ever found out about the others, but they had been mean to me and they had to be punished he said. My angel said it was good that I ended up here, I get to be alone most of the day and can spend all my time not worrying and just thinking of him.
Me: Is there any reason you’re opening up to me though? We just met and you have a bit of a reputation for being a bit, well, shy.
Cassie: Yes, because the voices are all stopped. They’re quiet, even my angel is quiet, they’re just watching.
Me: They stopped talking because I came to interview you? Why did they stop for that?
Cassie: They’re scared.
Me: What are they scared of Cassie?
Cassie: The thing you brought with you. The one that won’t let you see it.
Me: What thing? Cassie? Cassie?
Cassie: I’m sorry! I’m sorry I told him but he asked! Please don’t take my friends! (Begins to sob.)
She didn’t respond to any more of my questions, and the guards took her back to her cell. I really don’t know what to make of it, but I certainly don’t feel safe anymore. I was probably just listening to the delusions of a mad woman, but what if I am being followed? What if I’m not alone right now? My project is certainly more personal now, and I don’t think I ever wanted it to be. I contemplated stopping all of this and just moving on, but I need to understand what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve been practicing with the .30-30 and the .45 and I’ve applied for a concealed weapons permit, but I’m still carrying the handgun in the meantime. I figure the least of my worries at this point is getting arrested.