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Georgia State Prison Farm

The Georgia State Prison Farm was built in 1911 to house female, infirm, and juvenile convicts. This was also the site of Georgia’s first electric chair, which was nicknamed “Old Sparky.” The prison was the site of 162 executions between 1924 and 1937. It was said that in the room where the electric chair once stood, there were deep gashes made in the window sash to mark each execution and they could still be seen when the building was torn down in 2018. It is also suggested that inmates suffered from inhumane treatment. Many death certificates showed inmates dying from cerebral hemorrhages and fractured skulls, indicating that beatings were a common occurrence.


Leo Frank was perhaps the most notorious inmate to be housed at the old prison. Frank was a Jewish man from Atlanta who was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old employee, Mary Phagan. He was the director at the National Pencil Company at the time of her death. She was strangled on April 26, 1913, and found in the basement of the factory the next day. There were two notes found with her body, which made mention of a “night witch.” This led to the implication of the night watchman, Newt Lee. During the investigation, the police arrested several men, including Lee, Frank, and Jim Conley, a janitor at the factory.


Frank was indicted on May 24, 1913, for Mary’s murder. The prosecution heavily relied on the word of Jim Conley, who made himself out to sound like an accomplice in the aftermath of Mary’s murder. Frank’s defense attorneys argued that Conley was the actual murderer because when he was arrested, he was found rinsing what appeared to be bloodstains out of a shirt. On August 25th, Leo Frank was found guilty and was sentenced to death. Governor John M. Slaton later commuted his sentence to life imprisonment after considering both side’s arguments and evidence that wasn’t available in the trial. He assumed that Frank’s innocence would eventually be fully established, and he would be set free. Boy was he wrong…


The case ended up drawing national attention and many people believed his conviction to be “a travesty.” Antisemitism and hatred towards Frank burned like the hottest of wildfires. On the night of August 16, 1915, while housed at the old prison farm, twenty-five citizens from Marietta who coined themselves the Knights of Mary Phagan came to Milledgeville and kidnapped Frank from his cell. They drove him back to Marietta (Phagan’s hometown) and hanged him from an oak tree. Some time later, many of these same men who took part in Frank’s lynching would take part in the nighttime ceremony at Stone Mountain that established the modern Ku Klux Klan. Almost 3,000 people gathered to view Frank’s body before the crowd became unruly and his body taken down. In 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Frank after receiving testimony from 83-year-old Alonzo Mann, who was an office boy at the factory at the time of Mary’s murder. He stated that he saw Jim Conley carry Phagan’s body to the basement on the day she died. Conley had threatened to kill him if he ever said anything. Justice was finally served for Mary Phagan, but poor Leo Frank ended up paying the ultimate price for a crime he didn’t even commit.


Before the building was torn down, people would report hearing the trees out front cracking loudly on clear days as if something were moving them. Perhaps spirits trying to let them know that they’re still there? People have also reported that they felt like they were being touched or guided to certain places on the grounds by a spiritual force. Photographs that have been take at the site come out with cloudy spots and “red columns.”

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