Monday, May 31, 2021

Cadets Who Served In The Military


During World War I and World War II, many of Preston's wards or cadets wanted to do their part to serve their country, or at least aid in the war effort the best they could. One such person was Percy Blanchfield.  He was paroled from Preston in January of 1916, and because he grew impatient to join in the conflict, and since the U.S. hadn't involved itself just yet, he moved to Canada. In Vancouver, B.C., he enlisted in the Canadian Infantry, 47th Battalion. Percy was originally a native of Canada, having been born in Toronto. His father worked at the post office there but later moved his family to Fairbanks, Alaska, and even later to San Francisco.

The Sacramento Union dated May 28, 1918, quotes a letter from Percy, addressed to his Parole Officer in 1917:

"I have enlisted in the Canadian army here; at first it was more for an adventure, as it did not seem possible that this enormous and useless expenditure of lives and resources could or would continue much longer. When I return I want to resume my interrupted program and prepare to matriculate at the university. While here I received a letter from  my father and also from you in which you stated you would like to hear from me so that you could include my name in your report and help me on my way toward an honorable discharge from the school. That cheered me immensely and I hope I can remain in good standing. I want you to understand that I will act in good faith with you and that is my earnest desire to prove myself worthy in every respect. I remain, your friend, Percy Blanchfield."-

Historic Photo of soldiers who fought in the Battle for Hill 70 (Canadian Govt)

Sadly, Percy would not return home from the war,  but would face his fate at the Battle of Hill 70 near Lens, France. The article in the Sacramento Union goes on to state that Percy was "instantly killed on a battlefield." According to Captain Howard of his company, Percy stood post in a "gallant manner during all the ten days fighting."

Percy Blanchfield's body remained in France, on the outskirts of Lens, where a small grave was marked by a white cross at the time. He was the first former Preston cadet to die in a war. Canadian Veterans Affairs records state that Percy Joseph Blanchfield, Military Service # 826820, died on August 27, 1917. His name, along with thousands of others who died during that battle, has now been inscribed and honored by a memorial in Pas de Calais, France.

The Ione Valley Echo states that in 1918, twenty-five boys from Preston volunteered to be recruited into the military and were brought to Fort McDowell, on Angel Island in San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to their commitments, all were rejected and sent back to Preston, though three of the twenty-five boys ran away. This set back didn't deter other wards from wanting to be involved in the war effort though.

In WWI alone, there were approximately 148 boys that were on parole from Preston who went to serve their country. In between WWI and WWII, a number of boys joined the services.  According to the "Preston School of Industry: A Centennial History," 378 boys who were former wards were serving in different branches of the military by WWII. 

Because of the strict military training and discipline instilled in each cadet while at Preston, this better prepared many of these boys for military life. I am sure there were many more young men from Preston who went to war during WWI and WWII, some who many have even sacrificed their lives to serve their country. Whatever mistakes they had made earlier on in their youth would now be forgiven and forgotten the very moment they made the decision to think of someone other than themselves. Let us never forget this chapter in Preston's history as a positive one. ----

From Chapter 14. Cadets Who Served In The Military, from the book "If These Walls Could Talk: More Preston Castle History," by J'aime Rubio.

Copyright © 2017 J’aime Rubio, Author ISBN-13: 978-1548569907 ISBN-10: 1548569909

Monday, December 30, 2019

Deaths at Preston Castle

When you watch a paranormal television program, or maybe even one of the films that have come out that exploit Preston Castle’s history, you will find a common theme: Ghosts. This is because of the fact that it is documented that there were some people who died on the property over the many years that the school was in operation.

So many times, when people re-tell history, the stories are told incorrectly, over embellished or just made up all together. Once these over-the-top ghost stories get started, well, it’s hard to stop it. I am not just talking about Preston Castle stuff either, this happens in all sorts of historic locations all over the world.

This bothers me because I stick to the facts, and although I do believe that there is a spirit realm and that it does in fact exist, I choose not to go there with my work unless I have to.  My primary purpose for sharing history with the world is to share an accurate telling of the past. And in turn by telling the truth, and shining a light on that truth by way of debunking the false stories and sharing the documented facts, I am honoring the very souls that have been lost to us in death. That is my gift to those who have passed on, to remember them – with respect and with accuracy. To be a voice for the voiceless, and honor the forgotten ones so they will be forgotten no more.

Here is a list and summary of some of the deaths that have occurred at Preston Castle. This list is so that those who are truly seeking the facts about the souls who have lost their lives here can have accurate information in their quest for Preston Castle’s history.

Natural Deaths At Preston

To give you a list of all the deaths at Preston would be nearly impossible. Reason being is that so many of the records of the school have been purged over the years, and what is left at the State Archives do not reflect all of the wards who have walked through those castle doors. It is a known fact that there were deaths from the time the school opened until it closed (even the newer facility).  The first death at the school that was due to illness or health related issues, was Adolf Antron who died on February 20, 1895, from Pulmonary Edema.  The next boy who died that year was Grant Walker, which I will get into a little further in this blog.  Both Adolf and Grant are buried out back behind the castle in the cemetery. (The Preston Cemetery is not accessible; it is on Cal-Fire property. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO VISIT).

According to the Preston School of Industry’s Biennial Report, dated August 1, 1896, the school’s physician, A.L. Adams report states that given the conditions the boys were in when committed to the school, they were not surprised by the high rate of “hospital inmates” as he put it. In fact, he speaks of the entire facility having been exposed to some of the worst illnesses including incipient phthisis (known today as Tuberculosis), typhoid fever, scarlet fever, epidemic influenza, tonsillitis, malarial fever and pneumonia, as well as chronic illnesses such as epilepsy, chorea, and the regular fractures, bruises, abscesses and contusions.

Another thing I would like to add is that even though there was an outbreak of the Spanish Influenza between 1918-1920, and despite the fact that half of the officers working there and a third of the wards committed there were affected by the virus, none of the infected died from the illness.

In total, there are 18 boys buried in the Preston Cemetery. Of these 18 boys, 15 are ones that are listed as dying from illnesses.

Adolf Antron (1/22/1877-2/20/1895) COD: Pulmonary Edema

Grant Walker (7/15/1886-6/17/1895) COD: Typhoid Fever (?)

William C. Williams (8/26/1879-6/6/1897) COD: Acute Meningitis

Nicholas Hamilton (1/13/1878-5/17/1898) COD: Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Frank Ward (unknown- 7/17/1898) COD: Paralytic Dementia

Woolrich Leonard Wooldridge (5/23/1880-10/17/1899) COD: Acute Cerebral Meningitis

Hugh Simms (6/4/1893-1912) COD: Tuberculosis

Roy Scoville (9/14/1895-4/29/1913) COD: Meningitis

Eddie Heath (7/19/1894-5/13/1913) COD: Myocarditis

John Miller (8/13/1898-6/13/1913) COD: Meningitis

Joseph Howe (10/20/1897-12/11/1913) COD: Tuberculosis

Peter Miller (6/28/1897-1/20/1914) COD: Stroke of Apoplexy

Benjamin Kealohi (5/13/1897-6/17/1915) COD: Acute Nephritis, Peritonitis, Appendicitis rupture.

James Lopez (4/7/1903-12/23/1919) COD: Bronchial Pneumonia

Raydell Holliday (1/31/1909-3/23/1922) COD: Influenza, Rheumatic Fever, Heart disease.

The only reason we have such detailed information for the above boys listed is because of the fact they were buried on the property. Why were they buried there? Well, the school gave a certain allotment of time for next of kin to claim the body of the deceased so they could have funeral arrangements made elsewhere, but unfortunately many times the boys either had no family to notify or their family were destitute, meaning they had no financial means to recover their child to bury him properly. In that case, the school had the cemetery available to bury their unclaimed dead there, so they could rest in peace, properly.

We know there were other illness related deaths at the school over the years, but since their families came to retrieve their remains, we do not have a complete list of all of them.

Unnatural Deaths at or around Preston Castle

When I say unnatural death, I mean that the death was either a homicide, accidental, suicide or questionable. Four of these listed are buried at the cemetery on the property. These are the deaths that I have found in my many years of researching this school. 


Grant Walker  (died on June 17, 1895)
Going back to Grant Walker, you will notice he is listed as one of the boys who died from illness on my first list above (typhoid fever).  However, the 1896 Biennial report lists two deaths that year and one of the deaths was from accidental burns, intestinal ulceration. It is as if he ingested something toxic which burned his insides. Now, the only two deaths listed that year were Grant Walker and Adolf Antron, and Adolf's death is listed in the Biennial Report matching the description of the one with pulmonary edema. So how did Grant die? Did he have typhoid fever, or did he accidentally ingest something toxic? And if so, what did he ingest? That is a mystery to which we will never have the answers to. We can only speculate, and so, this is why I have listed him on both lists (Natural and Unnatural Deaths).

Joseph Morgan (died July 1899)
Shot after escaping the school, his wounds proved to be fatal. He was not killed on Preston property, but instead he died at Sheldon which is located near Elk Grove, California. 

Herman Huber (died October 17, 1911)
At the time that staff was ringing the dinner bell, Herman and another friend, John Kirrane, attempted to escape the school in the dark. The night watchman J.D. French went after them. Although French claimed he only meant to shoot a warning shot to to sound the alarm so that the Superintendent would know something was happening, another ward, Ernest Reed, claimed that he watched French shoot Herman in cold blood. 

Tahema Vann (died on June 6, 1914)
According to official reports, the boys from Company (I) went down to the pond to swim about twenty minutes after finishing their supper. Captain Enright told the boys that if they were not good swimmers, to stay at the shallow end of the pond. Tehama claimed that he could swim "dog fashion" just before he dove in head-first. The boys who witnesses the incident said that he came up once for air and raised his hand and arms in a panic, just before he went under and never surfaced again. Two boys, Robert Rains and Albert Rubidoux tried to dive in after him, to no avail. It wasn't until the next morning that they were able to retrieve his lifeless body that had sunk to the bottom of the pond. He is buried at the Preston Cemetery.

Frank Cardarella (died February 12, 1917)
On Valentine's day, Frank was found in his cell, dangling from a pipe above him. He had ripped his sleeping shirt into pieces, fashioning for himself a makeshift noose in which he used to commit suicide. He had been suffering from seizures due to epilepsy. Instead of the staff sending him to the infirmary to be treated, they took him back to his cell and left him there. Such a sad ending for a young man who just needed someone to care for him. 

Sam Goins (died April 19, 1919)
After escaping the school, Sam made it all the way to the Thornton ranch, Northeast of Lodi.  He threatened to kill anyone who attempted to apprehend him. J.E. Kelly, who had gone after Sam, shot aiming at Sam's leg to stop him. But at the same moment Sam was attempting to jump over the wire fence, he tripped. As he fell, the bullet hit him in the back and this wound proved to be fatal. The staff brought him back to Preston, where he lived a short time on the way up there. He admitted to the men who apprehended him that he knew he was at fault for the incident and therefore he exonerated Kelly from being responsible for his death. 

Frank Aljers (died May 13, 1922)
Frank arrived at Preston on May 6, 1922. He had been in a motorcycle accident just prior to him being sentenced to Preston. His injuries were worse than they expected and when he arrived at Preston he went straight to the hospital at the school. He died a week later.

Ray Baker (died July 26, 1924)
While in an attempt to escape, Ray Baker attacked and tried to murder guard Thomas Dooley, by choking him. During the struggle, Dooley managed to get his pistol out and he shot Baker. The ward died 10 minutes after arriving at the hospital.

Leland Price (died December 1924)
During the middle of a Saturday night football game at Preston, a fight between wards Edgar Hough and Leland Price broke out. As a punishment the two were locked in the basement alone. The fight resumed, and at some point Price was knocked down or slipped, fracturing his skull on the concrete floor. He fell into a coma from which he never recovered. He died the following morning.

William Reppert &  Henry Herstein (died December 4, 1928)
While digging a sewer ditch on the school property, six boys were buried alive when the trench the boys were digging in, caved in. Four of the boys were saved, but both William and Henry perished in the ground. Their bodies were recovered and Henry's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.


Anna Corbin (died February 24, 1950) 
The most widely talked about murder that took place at Preston, is that of Anna Corbin's death. There is no way I can summarize her murder in one short paragraph as there is so much complexity to the case. The facts of the case was that she was found in the basement store room in a half-sitting position in the corner. Rugs had been placed in an attempt to hide the body. She had been choked and bludgeoned. Her cause of death was from skull fractures due to her head hitting the concrete floor of the basement. 

To read in depth about her life and death please visit my blog here: The Life and Death of Anna Corbin. 

James Wieden (died December 5, 1965)
On December 2, 1965, Preston's agricultural teacher James "Jim" Wieden was brutally attacked by two wards on the Preston property. After assaulting Wieden, they stole his vehicle and his wallet and escaped. They were eventually caught and tried as adults. Although the "Ghost Adventures" show tried to claim that the "agricultural teacher" was murdered at Preston, history proves that he was transferred to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries and passed away on December 5, 1965. 

Non-Staff/Non-Ward Death:

Fred Downs (died August 4, 1902)
During my years of researching the Preston School of Industry's various history, I've come across many interesting stories. This particular story was about a man who met his fate at the Preston Reservoir, but he wasn't a staff member, nor was he a ward. In fact, Fred Downs was just a regular guy who happened to have been on a hunting trip with his two buddies George Gorman and Ed Tibbitts when he met his fatal ending.

The group of men were coming from Sutter Creek, but decided to hunt for doves near Mount Echo, just northeast of the reservoir. Nightfall was coming, so Fred made his last kill for the night, but the dove fell into the reservoir. Seeing that it was beyond his reach, he decided to go in after it and wanted to take a little swim as well. His friends claimed that he had only got chest deep in the water, wading normally when all of a sudden he went under.

There was no sign of distress, no sound, nothing. In a panic his friend ran to the man attending the reservoir, Mr. Henderson, who arrived "within seconds". Fred's friends claimed they couldn't swim and that is why they didn't go in after him immediately, however given the amount of time between him going under and Mr. Henderson arriving it was said that it was nearly impossible for him to have drowned so fast. They pulled him out of the water, but he died on the banks of reservoir, before the doctor could reach him.

They didn't know whether he drowned, collapsed in the water from heart failure or had some sort of heat stroke, but Fred Downs died suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday, August 4th, 1902. He was well liked within the community of Sutter Creek, where he was raised. He was 34 years old, unmarried and it was said that "He was a great favorite with all who knew him, and his sudden and untimely death would be deplored by all."


In ending, these are the forgotten ones of Preston's past that I strive so hard to protect and respect. I hope that those of you who are honestly seeking to learn the truth about Preston and its very complicated history, enjoy reading my research. 

(Copyright 2019 - J'aime Rubio,

APParition Distorts Real Preston Castle History

With the latest film that came out, APParition (2019) there has been a flood of misinformation that has been spread about not only the history of the Preston School of Industry, but that of Anna Corbin, a victim of a heinous murder that took place there in 1950. This blog is to sift through what has been spoon-fed to you by way of Hollywood, and what the real facts are, so that you can make an informed opinion about the real history of Preston.

First and foremost, The Preston School of Industry had gained a bad reputation over the years that it was open. There is no doubt about that. In fact, my blogs that I initially published on my "Dreaming Casually" blog site exposed a lot of the true stories that took place there that no one had written about since the events had taken place, some in upwards of over 100 years or more.

Later on, I moved my blogs over to this blog and also published my books on Preston's history. Had I not published these stories in depth on my blogs or in my two books, most people today wouldn't even know about these stories in the first place. Even the people who took over running Preston as a tourist spot weren't aware of most of the real facts behind most of these stories. Besides myself, John Lafferty (former Preston Librarian and author) and Scott Thomas Anderson, a crime reporter/journalist, there really hasn't been many people out there willing to do the research into the history of the school or events that took place there.

After my first book, "Behind The Walls" came out in 2012, even some of the docents that worked there figured out much of the stories they had been sharing with the public were not factually correct and a few of them started using my book as a means of sharing the facts with their guests to make sure they had the stories right. I have since published a follow up book, "If These Walls Could Talk: More Preston Castle History, which has even more information and forgotten stories from Preston's past.

You see, most people over the years had heard rumors about deaths or knew names, but that was about it. They had sensationalized ideas passed down to them from friends or family members, but no one had actually researched and shared these stories with cited sources.  Many of the stories I cover in my two books were not even mentioned in John Lafferty's original Centennial History book. When I was finding the stories, I went to the library in Jackson with a list of stories I had previously uncovered and went through his book to see if he had written about any of these stories so I could reference them. As it turned out, most of the ones I had found earlier on in my research were stories he had not written about, so I was excited to share newly found stories that had been lost to the annals of history. The incidents that Lafferty had covered in his book, that I had also found in my research and put on my list, were in chronological order in his book, mostly with brief mentions of the events in short paragraph form.

For the record, Lafferty's book is a great source for a timeline of events going on from the start of the school until it closed, and his research is invaluable to anyone who wants to get a run down on the school's history. He has been a great support over the years and I have gone to him many times for advice in my research on Preston. In fact, without Lafferty's help no one would have figured out the exact location Anna Corbin had been found. I always knew that she was found in a larger store room in the basement based on witness testimony, but which room it was I was uncertain of. I always knew it wasn't the closet "cubby hole" that everyone else has tried to insinuate, and I have published that time and time again on my blogs and in my books. But thanks to John Lafferty, for transcribing the testimony of Goula Wait, we now know that the store room was the room with the plunge bath.

Going back to my work, when I decided to publish my research, I wanted to do something different with my books than anyone else had done. I wanted to take the time to write in more detail about very specific events, and  I wanted to make sure I did a thorough job detailing every part of each person's story that I possibly could so that these stories would be told with respect but most importantly with accuracy.  I took such care into researching these stories because I knew that for the most part, no one had ever read about them before since they had made headlines at the time the events took place. I also wanted my work to be easy to read and concise, so that my readers could be engaged in the story and not feel like they were reading a boring history book from school, but one that made Preston's history come alive.

This blog post is to go step by step with you to explain that what you saw in the movie APParition is not based on facts. Yes, they took the name of a person who died there but they twisted and distorted the history in such a way that there is nothing left of the real story and all that is left is the fabricated one pushed in the film.

For one, Anna Corbin (whom the character of Anna Collins was inspired by) was never involved romantically with the Superintendent. He also was never called a "Warden" either. He also didn't kill her. Anna did not live at the Castle, and she did not have a baby there either. Anna was in her 50's when she died. She was not found in a closet under the stairs, she was found in the basement store room where the plunge bath is located. At that time period the plunge bath had not been in use for decades, and that room became a store room for supplies. The pool part had been boarded over long before Anna came to work there. Anna was not a cook, she was the head of housekeeping. Anna did not witness any boys being abused or mistreated. She allegedly walked in on two wards, Eugene Monroe and William Mercer in the middle of an "act of sexual perversion" (what it was considered back then), and that was alleged to be the reason Monroe later killed her, to keep her from talking about what she saw. Did she really witness this act? There is no way to know for sure, but according to ward William Mercer during the trial, he claimed this was true.

Anna took her job seriously and proved to be a motherly influence on the boys at the school. So much so, that after news broke out about her death, many of the wards there said that if they found out who killed her they would take revenge themselves for her death. Had she witnessed staff abusing the wards there, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have said something or done something about it. She kept a daily journal of her life and there has never been any mention that she ever accused the school of abusing its wards during the time she was employed at Preston.

As far as the abuse and mistreatment of the boys goes in the film, there were times in Preston's past that there was documented proof that staff mistreated the wards. There were some deaths that can be blamed on the staff, but the place was not a "murder house." There were no boys beaten to death, no boys burned to death with acid, nothing like that.

Going back to the late 1890's with Superintendent O'Brien, he was a real tyrant and there are affidavits that prove that he abused wards. Did he kill any of them? We will never really know that, so we cannot definitively accuse him of murder.  We do know that he beat a ward, A. Ascensio very badly, and he hurt another ward Nicholas Hamilton (ward # 170), who did in fact die 6 months after the news got out about O'Brien's mistreatment to him, but documentation always insisted he died of tuberculosis. O'Brien even threatened a young boy who lived in Ione, who came up to visit the school (since back then it was an open-campus, meaning there were no fences). There were a few other Superintendents over the years who had been accused of using harsh corporal punishment on the wards as a form of disciplinary action, but there were never any accusations that the boys at Preston were being beaten to death.

As far as the deaths during an escape, Joseph Morgan was shot in Sheldon in 1899, after having escaped, although the guard in charge told the other guards not to shoot, they did it anyway.  Herman Huber was shot wantonly in 1911, and this is one of the few instances that I truly believe the guard who shot him, did it in cold blood. Why he did it, no one knows. Maybe he just didn't like Huber. But there was a witness to the murder who once paroled went straight to the Governor's office to tell him of what happened. He also admitted that at that time period the staff was abusing the wards, whipping them on the back and he showed the Governor the lash marks he had on his back from his multiple punishments. Sam Goins was shot in 1919 at the Thornton Ranch after he failed to surrender and continued running. He tripped over the fence (as witnesses stated in the inquest records) and as J. Kelly went to shoot his leg to stop him,  because he was in mid-fall, the bullet penetrated his back. He lived long enough to admit to everyone that he knew it was his own fault for being fatally injured.  Another example of negligence on the part of the staff.  Then in 1924, there was the death of Ray Baker, who in attempt to escape he fought with guard Tom Dooley, choking him nearly to death. During the tussle, Dooley was able to reach for his pistol and shot Baker, fatally wounding him. That was a classic case of self-defense, and Dooley was exonerated for any wrong doing.

Any other deaths of the wards that took place at Preston were either accidental, suicide or caused by illness (natural). The only two staff members that I could ever find who were murdered were Anna Corbin (1950) and James Wieden (1965). For the record, although he was attacked on the farm property of the school,  James did not die at Preston. He passed away at the hospital.

I hope that with this short but concise blog out there for people who are earnestly seeking the facts, you will be able to decipher between Hollywood's fakelore and the real facts surrounding Preston Castle.

Happy History Hunting!

(Copyright 2019 - J'aime Rubio,

For more information on Preston Castle and it's complicated history, please check out this blog or either one of my books on the subject which can be found on AMAZON here!


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

New Film APParition Exploits and Sensationalizes Preston Castle History

I recently saw a post on Facebook promoting the new film APParition which is set to be released in theaters next month. Personally, I was hoping the movie would not get much attention due to the fact the premise of the movie is based on false history, yet their trailer claims it was based on real events. This sort of thing happens all too often and sadly unless a real historian gets in there and starts researching the facts, many false stories are taken at face value and the masses believe what they see on the big screen. Case in point, the movie “The Conjuring.” In that movie, that is supposed to be from  the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the movie is set around the Perron family’s time  living in the old farmhouse in Burrillville, Rhode Island where they were allegedly tormented by a sinister spirit which the Perron’s and the Warren’s blamed on a lady by the name of Bathsheba Sherman. 

I successfully debunked the entire “backstory” to Bathsheba that was perpetuated not only in the movie, but in the books that have been published about the home, too.  You see, many times urban legends, folklore and just made up stories are accepted as fact without anyone questioning it. Sadly that happened in this case, and now millions of people believe that Bathsheba Sherman was an evil witch who murdered her baby as a sacrifice to Satan and haunted the home. This is FALSE. I have proven it, but again, when movies come into play sometimes the stories take on a life larger than you can imagine and many times, even people such as  myself who try so very hard to set the facts straight are faced with a daunting task.

Going back to the new film, APParition.  When I first heard of the movie being filmed there, I sought out the co-producer of the film to ask if the rumors were true that they were using a story that took place there as a part of their movie. He confirmed this, along with noting that they changed the person’s name (well last name anyway). I was saddened and disgusted by this, since they were taking bits and pieces of a true story and changing it to fit their own agenda.

I was also upset when I viewed the trailer because although Preston did have its stories of scandals, abuse of power and severe mistreatment to the wards, there is no record of them beating the boys to death. There is a huge difference between corporal punishment, flogging or abuse and actual murder! Yes, there were wards who died from illnesses, suicide, and some were accidental deaths. Examples of such cases of an accidental death was Tahema Vann, the boy who drowned in the swimming hole, or the two wards who were buried alive after a trench they were digging collapsed. And yes, there were a few wards who died after trying to escape. These two I considered as homicides: the shooting deaths of  Herman Huber and Joseph Morgan, which I place fault with the staff. While in other cases, such as Sam Goins', it appears his death was somewhat his own fault. Still, there is no smoking-gun evidence that there was a history of boys who were murdered there on a regular basis. 

There were a few more mysterious deaths that I have found over the years that I would like to have answers to, such as Nicholas Hamilton, and even Grant Walker, but unless we were there we cannot definitively say either way what really happened. Preston had its share of good and bad stories, but you cannot demonize the entire institution for a few events that took place over the entire 66 years* that the “Castle” (Administration Building) was in operation at the school. Not all the people who worked at Preston were bad, not all the wards that were there were good either.  I should know, I have written two books on the subject. Again, like I stated, there is no denying that there were periods of time that the Administration at Preston abused and mistreated their wards, there is plenty of documentation of that. But again, the place wasn't some murder house where boys came in and didn't leave. With the stories I have researched and written about, I have proven that yes, there have been some bad incidents that took place there at different times, but the school proved to be a place that helped many boys go on to live decent, upstanding lives. 

(*For the record, the school continued to run for many years even after the “Castle” was closed.)

Anna Corbin
The person whose story was “borrowed” for the film APParition, was none other than the head housekeeper who was murdered at Preston, Anna Corbin, but instead they changed her to Anna Collins and made her the “caretaker.” Just like they changed the name of the Superintendent to the “Warden.” 

I just want to warn everyone out there that anything you see in this movie relating to Anna’s story or even the stories about the boys at Preston is not factual and should not be taken seriously. Anna is not a ghost haunting the castle. She is not evil and does not want to seek revenge. She has never “possessed” anyone (like what Zak Bagan’s tried to claim during his visit to the castle), and she never lived at the castle either. When she died she was 52 years old. Her husband had passed away, her son had passed away and her daughter had grown up and was married. Again, anything you see in this film is a far cry from any sort of factual information. I am hurt to see that Anna Corbin’s story continues to be exploited over and over from one paranormal show to the next, and from one movie to the next. When will people let her rest in peace? When will people let those who passed at Preston rest in peace?

To read about the REAL FACTS surrounding this school, please read more posts on this blog. If you would like to know the truth about Anna Corbin's death please check out this blog:

You can also read both of my books on Preston's interesting past, available on AMAZON here:

(Copyright 2019 - J'aime Rubio

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Exploiting the Dead On Television - Where Does It Cross The Line?

I have been researching the history of the Preston School of Industry for about 10 years. I have published many stories of former wards and former staff, some success stories but the majority have been about events that are not of the happy sort. I felt it was my duty as a historical investigative journalist to share with the world those stories I have uncovered so that the facts surrounding various events at the school were told accurately.

Some might try to say that by publishing a blog or my two books on the subject of Preston, that I myself am, in a way, exploiting the dead. And I guess to an extent anytime anyone writes about a deceased individual there is always a certain degree of attention the story will get. However, with the work I do, I strive to honor the memory of those deceased ones with love and respect, so their stories will not be forgotten, and I do not make it a practice to delve into the paranormal realm, so I personally do not feel my work exploits anyone.

But the real question is: When does others' storytelling cross the line into something bad?

With my writing I choose to stick to the facts and tell the history as it was. I prefer to steer clear of the paranormal lore that often follows these stories. By getting to the facts of the stories I research, I am able to present the accurate details of each case and in turn the reader is informed properly of the facts. With the ghost stories, 99% of the time the information is inaccurate and overly sensationalized, not to mention a complete disrespect to the dead. It is one thing to share the historical facts of a person that is public record, but it is entirely something else to perpetuate false stories or even insinuate their ghost haunts a particular place when we have absolutely no concrete evidence of such things.

Let's take the story of Anna Corbin for example. I have spent many years researching both her life and her death. I have published my findings in my various blogs and both of my books. Again, it is one thing to tell the facts, but it is something else to perpetuate her ghost is lingering at the castle and allow film crews to come in one by one and continuously misrepresent Anna's story. Not only has it been a disrespect to Anna herself, but to her family as well.

Back to "Crossing the Line"--  

Various television programs have been given permission to film at Preston over the years. And with each episode of each program came their own "version" of the paranormal activity that takes place at Preston. Starting from newest to oldest let's take a look at some of these television programs and movies that have been filmed at the Castle and the very sad exploitation of Anna Corbin's death. (I have links for you to click on each show to verify my findings).

1.    Lowe Files  (Season 1: Episode 1)  Aired: 2017

This program insinuated that Anna Corbin’s ghost still haunts the castle. The person representing the Castle not only tells inaccurate history of the school but also tells the wrong info on Anna’s death. When they do an EVP session with the spirit box they immediately try to claim it says “Corbin” and “Beat” as if she is talking to them through the box. Although I think Rob Lowe was sincere in his intentions, which is by far a lot better than the other shows, it still was a disrespect to the memory of Anna with the whole ghost “device” communicating scenes.-

2.    Unexplained Files  (Season 2: Episode 12) Aired: 2014

Halfway through the episode the television show airs an EVP recording of a woman saying “Please, Help Me” and the group tries to insinuate it is Anna Corbin. They go on to show a filmed reenactment of Anna Corbin working and being murdered there. They have a white male in a trench coat and hat strangling her with a wire (her murderer's name was Eugene Monroe. He was also black, and he was a ward at the school, not a film noir detective!) They also state the wrong room of where she was found, as always. The worst part of all is the fact they want to pin the voice to Anna Corbin’s story and insinuate that she is communicating from beyond the grave. The only good thing I found in that episode is that one of the team members tries to debunk the theory, thankfully. ---Another thing to mention, the person representing Preston that they interviewed on their program is not a historian although she was represented as one.

3.    Ghost Asylum  (Season 3: Episode 7) Aired: 2016

I could hardly stand to watch it and cringed through the entire episode. Besides the Ghost Adventures episode which will be included below, this is probably one of the worst videos to date. Mind you, this was filmed and aired in 2016, not long ago. So in this episode, they have their “historian” who says that a lot of boys died from illnesses and that Anna Corbin was killed by two boys, and that her ghost haunts the castle. She goes on to say she has seen her ghost and communicates with her. 

The show goes on to insinuate that the teacher who also was attacked at Preston, James Wieden, that his ghost is there. For the record, James Wieden was killed in 1965, a whole 5 years after the old Preston school had closed. He did not die at the castle, in fact he died at the hospital.  He was attacked on the campus of the NEW Preston School next door.  

Then they try to say the ghost of Sam Goins is there. Again, for the record, Goins was not shot at Preston. He was shot 35 miles away from Preston on the Thornton Ranch near Walnut Grove. He died by the time they brought him back there, and because they didn’t get to a doctor in time. He was poor and he had no family to pick up his body, so he was buried at the boys cemetery out back. The people on the show claim they see a ghost of a boy, and think it’s Sam.  (Sam was just 2 months shy of his 20th birthday when he died, definitely not a child). 

They do an EVP session and bring devices into the little closet in the kitchen and based on their EMF machines going on and off, they determine that is where Anna was killed. That is NOT where she was killed, she died in the room with the plunge bath. Of course they were told the wrong information, as usual. They think that because their devices go on and off and flashlights go on and off upstairs that Anna's spirit is doing that. They continuously call out to Anna.  

Again, the person interviewed in this program is also not a historian but clearly represented as one. Many times people at Preston will adamantly deny that they say Anna’s ghost haunts there but as you can see from this video, this individual was happy to go on television and tell the world that Anna’s ghost is there, and she was the person chosen to represent Preston on national television. 

4.    Ghost Adventures (Season 2: Episode 1)  Aired: 2009

The issues I have with this particular episode was that the docent was promoting false information about Anna, her death and the history of the school itself, not to mention the haunted aspect of it. Anna did not live at Preston, so she did not have an apartment there.  She was not dragged down any stairs, she was not found in the kitchen pantry room either.  But the worst part of the whole thing is that the Ghost Adventures crew  went around trying to make contact with Anna and the other spirits alleged to be haunting there, and Zac pretends to be possessed by Anna. He even wanders up in the dark to the second level and goes in the room that the docent said was Anna’s apartment and he sits there acting strange on camera to make it seem as if he is being controlled by something else. It was so obviously faked, and again a complete disrespect to Anna and her family who believe she is resting in peace.

Watch the episode here:

5.    Ghost Hunters (Season 6: Episode 6)  Aired: 2010

I didn’t get to watch this episode though there is a summary typed about it online. It doesn’t look like much was said about Anna in this one, but unless I watch the video I can’t be certain.  Here is the link to the brief summary of that episode.


7.   MOVIE - “Haunting at Preston Castle” fka “At Preston Castle” (2014)

The opening credits try to insinuate the movie was based on real events which is completely false. The main scary character in this movie is a fictional ghost boy but they do briefly mention Anna Corbin as the "housekeeper" who was murdered there. Still I wish they would leave her story out of these horror films.

8.   MOVIE – “APParition” –  (to be released)

This horror movie is by TV and former radio personality Mark S. Allen. He wrote the script with director Waymon Boone.  I have confirmed with the director that part of one of the stories in the film is “loosely based” on Anna Corbin’s story but the name was changed to “Anna Collins.” I think it is safe to say that her story will be told inaccurately, as usual, and the murderer will not be what we expect either. Again, I wish these horror movies would leave Anna alone.

Here is the link to the IMDB page


I wanted to get this blog out there to talk about the blatant exploitation of the dead by various paranormal programs. I chose to focus on the many programs filmed at Preston given the fact that I have been researching and writing about Preston for many years and because Anna Corbin's life has been one near and dear to my heart for a very long time. 

I have never agreed with the fact that all of these film crews have been allowed to come and film at the castle for their paranormal programs, and I have often wondered why there isn't more of a push to promote the real history of the Castle? Why so much focusing on the paranormal aspect of it all? Is it because there is more money involved? Perhaps.

When you watch these programs be it about Preston or anywhere else for that matter, please take everything these TV shows say with a grain of salt, because it is a fact that they do not do thorough research beforehand, just take a look at these examples above. And because of their lack of concern for representing the history accurately, they in turn butcher the real history in the process. Anyone who is truly interested in researching or investigating various locations, please do your homework ahead of time, and do not, I repeat DO NOT believe everything you see on television.

(Copyright 2018 - J'aime Rubio

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Death of Sam Goins

"One story you may have heard while looking into the Preston School of Industry's history, is the story of Sam Goins. Goins was an African-American inmate who was fatally shot by John Kelly or J.E. Kelley (also seen spelled as Kelly). Samuel Goins was born on June 24, 1899 in Iredell County, North Carolina. He had been transferred to Preston from Alameda, where he was originally serving time for burglary charges. At the time of his death he was only 19, about to turn 20. 
According to the Amador Ledger dated April, 19, 1919 entitled “Guard Kills P.S.I. Escape,” states:
“Samuel Goins, colored, an inmate of the Preston School was fatally shot by guard J.E. Kelley last Saturday. Goins escaped from the school the day before and the guards found him at the Thornton Ranch. He threatened to kill anyone who attempted to take him. Kelly , failing to halt him by command, fired to hit him in the leg, but just as he pressed the trigger, Goins stooped to go under a wire fence and the bullet struck him in the back.
He lived several hours, and before dying, exonerated the guard, declaring he alone was to blame for the affair. Kelly was acquitted by the coroner’s inquest held Tuesday. The funeral was held in Ione, Wednesday. Goins was a native of North Carolina, aged 20 years. He went to the school from Alameda County for burglary.”       
         Samuel Goins was just two months shy of being released when he attempted his third escape. It was reported in the newspapers that ward J. Lopez, who was with Goins when he died, testified on J.E. Kelly’s behalf at the inquest. However, the inquest records state that his name was actually Joe Acosta. Acosta claimed that Goins, “tripped going over the fence and he got shot after he tripped over.” Eight months later, a ward by the name of James Lopez  died from bronchial pneumonia. He is also buried in the cemetery at Preston. It does not appear that Joe Acosta and James Lopez are the same person. 

Who Was J. E. Kelley?
According to census records and Amador County records there were only two men named John Kelly in Ione at the time, and one was named J.E. Kelley or Kelly and the other was J.K. Kelly (who was his son). I spoke with the grandson of a J.E. Kelly who claimed he had no knowledge of his grandfather being involved in any shooting of an inmate at Preston or that he ever worked there. I also spoke to the Amador County Librarian, Laura, who found the same information as I did about the two men named John Kelly in Amador County.
 According to records, one J.E. Kelly was born in 1865 in Plymouth, CA. He was the Constable of Ione for a lengthy period of time according to the old newspaper archives.  Another Kelly, J.K. Kelly was only 18 years old at the time of this incident and there is no record of him working for Preston. When this escape attempt occurred, John E. Kelly would have been about 54 years old. It is quite possible that he had been the Constable and also maintained a presence at Preston for certain incidents such as an escape. This would not be unusual.  If you recall, in Chapter 4, when Superintendent O’Brien threatened a young boy from Ione, his guard Officer Phillips was also an Amador County Sheriff's Deputy.
 So you see, in Amador County at that time, the local authorities and Preston’s officers were basically intertwined. Regardless of which Kelly it was, there were only two possibilities in Amador County at the time, so it had to be one or the other. According to Guard John Kelly’s statement, he claims he meant to shoot Goins in the leg and that Goins had waved a hammer towards the other guard Mr. Hunter approaching him prior to his running and ducking under the wire fence. John Kelly went on to say:
 “I knew what he told me before, that the next time he ran away whoever tried to catch him would either kill him or he would kill the person that was after him. I seen him watching Mr. Hunter and holding the hammer and I knew he would strike him if he would get a chance. He was nearing a low fence, I should judge it was three feet probably. It was what they call ‘hog wire’ on the bottom, two barb wires on top. As he neared the fence, I thought he was going to leap over it because I seen him jump before. He was a good jumper. I raised my gun and was just in the act, when he either tripped or fell as he was about to make the jump, and as I pulled the trigger, that I calculated on him jumping over, he fell through the fence. 
We went down to where he was. Mr. Hunter was the first one to him. He went to where he was lying and he said, “Goins, are you hurt?” He said “Yes, sir.” I went up to the house to get some water. Mr. Thornton came with me. I asked Mr. Thornton where was the nearest doctor?  He first said Burson, but afterward he said Ione was as near. I wanted to get medical aid for the boy. He said “no.” We then laid Mr. Goins in the machine, proceeded to Ione, drove to the doctor’s office. The doctor was not in. We then went to the school and left him there at the school and the authorities up there sent for Mr. Gall at Jackson.”
  After Goins’ death, the school made sure his funeral was taken care of and even mentioned it in the local papers. Most of the time when other wards died at Preston, their deaths were basically unmentioned.
Many people speculate that Goins was shot with little to no regard for his life, but I believe that was not the case here. Think about it. He had escaped from Preston and was on the run. He was a fugitive who had escaped in the past and who had already made threats that he would not be taken alive again. He had also threatened that anyone who stood in his way would be taken out as well. Kelly was aware of Goins’ past threats. Upon seeing Goins with a hammer that he had retrieved from a shack on the Thornton ranch, Kelly felt that he had to protect his partner, Mr. Hunter.
        Testimony showed that Hunter’s opinion was that Goins wasn’t really that much of a threat to him at all. Hunter claimed that he was too far from Goins for him to have struck him with the hammer and that Goins was running in front of Hunter. From Kelly’s perception, Hunter and Goins seemed close in proximity. In the inquest records testimony, Kelly remained adamant that he didn’t mean to kill Goins. He claimed that he meant only to wound him in order to stop him.  

         Several witnesses claimed that they did see Goins trip and fall just as he reached the fence, meaning one of two things. He was either shot and fell on the fence, or Kelly was telling the truth about Goins fall. Perhaps, he did shoot at him while Goins was in the act of attempting to jump the fence but instead tripped and fell, causing the bullet to penetrate his lower back as opposed to the intended target of hitting him in the leg.

         Testimony of  Dr. A. M. Gall, who examined Goins’ body stated that the bullet  “entered the back, mid-way between the lower rib on the left right side and the upper border of the pelvic bone. Passed through, slightly upward and the exit was about two and one-half inches from the sternum and below the last rib.”

        Sam Goins later died from his wounds, after claiming that it was no fault of anyone involved, other than his own. He was later buried at the cemetery out behind the “Castle.” His story is one that will always cast doubts in many minds. Did Kelly purposely shoot Goins? Or was it just an accident? Did Kelly honestly feel that his partner was in direct danger? Or did he just want to catch Goins by whatever means necessary? We may never truly know."-- Chapter 8. from the book "Behind The Walls" by J'aime Rubio.  (Copyright 2012 - ISBN: 13: 978-1481075046)