Ghost Labs investigated two locations conspiracy theory had long associated with President Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth AFTER he killed Lincoln in April of 1865 at Forbes Theatre in Washington, DC.
Booth’s fate as recorded in the history books was supposedly decided at the Garrett barn where he was shot dead by Federal troops while trying to escape the barn after it was torched to drive out Booth and one of his accomplices.
A modern day descendant of Booth, Ms. J. Holmes was interviewed by Barry. She bluntly claimed Booth family history relates a vastly different story. Growing up she was told that John Wilkes Booth was never captured, it was not his body identified outside the remnants of the Garrett barn, that he lived a number of years after the assassination and somebody else was buried in his official grave.
Furthermore, Historian Nate Orlowek disputed the identity of Booth’s body made at the Garrett barn. According to Orloweck three witnesses described the dead man as having reddish hair and a freckled face. Booth was known to have jet black hair and a smooth complexion.
The story after Garrett’s barn goes that Booth turned up under the name John St. Helen and continued his acting career at Granbury Opera House in Granbury, Texas. St. Helen was known for his Shakespearean performances, as was Booth prior to the Lincoln assassination. Ghostly activity at this location has been reported in the form of seeing a male actor in a white shirt with puffy sleeves wearing black pants and boots. There have also been claims of footsteps and lights turning themselves off an on. An apparition of a man wearing white in the balcony of the Opera House was photographed and according to Brad Klinge similarities to Booth were found.
St. John shared some minor physical injuries with Booth. Both men had a scar over their right eyebrow, pulling the brow up considerably higher than the left eyebrow. Both had a damaged right thumb and at some point had broken their left leg. In the case of Booth the broken leg was suffered when he jumped out of the Presidential Box at Ford’s Theatre and onto the stage before fleeing.
I was surprised to find Booth’s ghost was not only present at the Granbury Opera House but also had a belligerent attitude.
Ghost Lab got creative about the era cue’s for the Granbury Opera House. They procured a replica of the gun Booth used to murder President Lincoln. Booth’s ghost thought it was the original gun and recoiled violently from it saying, “Get that thing away from me!” This wasn’t caught on any of the teams equipment.
Brad and Barry started their investigation on the stage of the auditorium, Barry up in the balcony. Brad asked, “Are you truly John Wilkes Booth?” The answer I heard, “I was.” Brad was winding up about the killing of Lincoln and Booth said with great weariness and exasperation, “… not again…” Brad was waving around the gun replica again and Booth was seriously upset by it for the second time. He did not want to think, look at or comment about the gun. The brothers switched places and the same question about St. Helen possibly being Booth started to annoy Booth’s ghost who said, “I TOLD you…” who he was. About this time both Brad and Barry heard footsteps nearby Brad in the balcony that descended into the auditorium. Unfortunately they were not caught on tape.
Once he heard the footsteps Brad challenged Booth by ordering him to “Stop sneaking around!” I heard Booth respond, “Who is sneaking?” and saw him stride past Barry and head down from the balcony for the stage.
At this juncture Brad got sidetracked by an auditorium chair that was registering as cold on his thermal camera. Barry moved down from the balcony to join him, but they debunked the cold chair as absorbing condensation from an overhead AC unit. Water stains on the seat fabric backed up this conclusion.
Brad resumed provoking, telling Booth that Brad would get him. Booth was well ticked off by now and spat back, “Fool!” During the next EVP session Brad asked Booth to “Say something or do something to prove you are present.” The EVP response was a clear, “No.”
The second era cue was a live audience. Brad hoped Booth would be drawn out by the energy of an expectant audience. The “Simulated Performance Experiment” seemed to work. Some of the questions asked in front of the live audience were answered by Booth but not caught by Ghost Lab equipment. Booth was getting increasingly angry with the Klinge brothers.
In response to the live audience Booth said, “I will give them a show!” When asked what he was doing at the Opera House he responded, “Making a living.” One of Brad’s comments about the Federal Marshalls who had hunted Booth after the Lincoln assassination prompted Booth to call them dumb. Right after this unrecorded bit of give and take Brad observed a “solid movement” of something heading up to the balcony. Brad had the gun out again and was haranguing Booth about killing Lincoln. Booth nearly spat back, “He (Lincoln) wasn’t a President, he was a traitor!”
Brad finally challenged Booth, “So if you are mad at me, come make yourself known.” A captured EVP was interpreted as saying, “Yes, I’m John Wilkes Booth”. Brad, Barry the rest of the team were incredibly excited by this EVP. I had a hard time hearing what they did on it. The EVP was thin and scratchy. Audio Forensic Expert Arlan Boll confirmed the frequency used was within the same range used by humans for dialogue. However Boll couldn’t make out any distinct words. Listening to the EVP loop I could possibly hear …”I am John Wilkes” but Booth didn’t seem to be there. I wish it had been a clearer EVP, but I do believe Booth was present in ghost form. Kudos to Ghost Lab for not cutting out the less than supportive feedback of Arlan Boll.
The Booth saga may have had one more chapter. Garfield Furniture store in Enid, OK is in some circles considered the place Booth finally died. In 1903 the building was a boarding house called the Grand Ave. Hotel. An elderly man calling himself David E. George had a narrow, plain room there. He also had the same physical features that made St. Helen resemble Booth. The healed cut above the right eyebrow, the damaged thumb and the once broken left leg.
I do think David E. George was John Wilkes Booth in his later years because he didn’t waste any time complaining to me that, “I should have been buried like a gentleman” and was upset about his “common” burial. Booth told me he picked the middle initial E in his old age alias to honor Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
David E. George, AKA John Wilkes Booth committed suicide in that squalid, narrow room by drinking strychnine (commonly used as rat poison) in 1903. It was a nasty, painful way to die, complete with convulsions and vomiting.
Before his suicide I saw Booth as a slightly bent, white haired old man seated on the metal frame bed reading books late into the night by the light of a kerosene lamp. Electricity was used in nicer hotels by 1903, but Booth told me he couldn’t afford it in his room. Considering his living space looked like a converted box room or storage space sandwiched between more important rooms in the building, I believe him. Booth would have been 65 years old at the time of George’s death in 1903. That was a ripe old age for the time. Perhaps after 38 years as a fugitive his rather delusional actors ego couldn’t face a poverty stricken death by inches in a ratty hotel room? It could also be because he had spilled the beans on himself. Thinking he was on his deathbed he allegedly told a priest he was John Wilkes Booth. Unfortunately for him, Booth recovered. So now it was only a matter of time before authorities came calling. Booth was almost obligated to now make sure he died or face arrest, incarceration and execution.
Some presence on the third floor of Garfield’s Furniture isn’t happy as the current building’s owner has reported frequent incidents of doors slamming at odd hours. Ghost Lab researcher Katie noted that none of the rooms on the third floor have doors these days.
I would like to see Brad’s Image Looping era cue tried in some other haunted situation. In this situation it only served to piss Booth off. Having building owner Russ Frazee put on a fake beard and stovepipe hat was rather insulting to a professional actor like Booth. He was not impressed, calling Brad, Russ and the rest of the Ghost Lab crew involved, “Charlatan’s!” Brad got a personal experience of Booth’s ire when he felt two cold fingers on the back of his neck.
The final stop was the basement of Garfield Furniture where modern day employees have often felt watched. Brad and Barry got an indistinct EVP that sounded like someone screaming in agony. Some questions prior to the scream caught on the data recorders did get responses the equipment failed to pick up. Brad was asking Booth, “Do you roam around this entire building?” The answer I got was, “As I like.” When Brad asked, “Are you in fact the David E. George who lived in this building” an unexplained noise was heard. The screaming EVP seemed to be coming from above the basement level, higher up in the building. If it was George/Booth, that would make sense as his small room was on the third floor.
A lot of what Booth’s ghost had to say in this episode seemed to be from the William Shatner school of overacting. Regardless of when he died Booth had a proven flair for the dramatic. After shooting Lincoln and jumping onto the stage at Ford’s Theatre, he ignored his broken leg and the paniced audience long enough to shout “Thus ever to tyrants” in Latin. He clearly considered himself a hero and an educated gentleman of the South. History disagrees, but based on what came up in this Ghost Lab episode I don’t think the passing of 144 years since Lincoln’s death changed a thing. John Wilkes Booth still clings to his political and social convictions.
Ghost Lab continues to explore interesting locations, have creative provoking ideas and keep me interested for a full hour episode.
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(C) 2010 Lynne Olson. All rights reserved.