Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Lowe Files - What Did They Get Wrong?

First and foremost let me say that out of all the television shows that have been done about Preston, Rob Lowe seemed the most genuine about looking for answers. It is unfortunate though that (a) his team didn't do their research ahead of time properly and (b) the docent at Preston didn't give him the right history of the school (at least the parts that were shown on film).

This blog isn't to bash Lowe or anyone else, but it is to bring up the obvious misinformation that the show promoted. This has been an ongoing issue ever since Zak Bagans from Ghost Adventures started his B.S. (blatant sensationalism) about the school's history. 

Let's start out with some of the facts that were grossly misrepresented:

1. Anna Corbin's Story

For one, Anna Corbin was NOT found in that cubby hole near the kitchen, and I really wish the shows and the docents there would stop telling people the wrong information!

Both myself and historian John Lafferty have spoken about this before, and all records and witness statements show that she was found in the larger room across the hall. The room that has the plunge bath/disinfecting pool in it was the room in which she was found. In 1950, that room was used as a storage area and that is where her body was found, in a corner covered by carpet. Her office was literally adjacent to the room she was found in. 

Another thing I would like to ask is why does every show primarily focus on Anna? The administration building was open from 1894-1960, that is a long time. A lot of history took place there, good and bad. Why focus on one story over and over, when there are literally dozens upon dozens more they could have talked about? Her murderer was known, although he was acquitted. Technically, from a "legal" standpoint it is considered "unsolved," even if the evidence and common sense tells us he was guilty of the crime. Despite the fact that justice was never served for her death, the facts speak for themselves in her case as well as the other two murders he was responsible for. I just wish people would take the time to research the facts. And furthermore, why not let Anna rest in peace for once?

2. No Deaths of Spanish Influenza

During my research on Preston, I found one newspaper account reporting the first case of Spanish Flu at the school. This took place in January of 1919. It was a staff member, not a ward. Prior to that, there had been no instance of the epidemic because they had been under strict quarantine at the school to keep everyone healthy.  Historian John Lafferty was kind enough to send me more information from that particular time period (1918-1920) which was a cited source from Kenyon J. Scudder, who was the Psychological Examiner and Vocational Director at Preston during that time. His account states not one single person died from the Spanish Flu at Preston. Although many became ill, "half of the officers, and a third of the wards"; However, absolutely no one died from Spanish Flu at Preston.  In fact, this illness brought all the staff and wards together, because many of the wards who didn't get sick, helped take care of the school and were given even more responsibilities to keep things running smoothly until the epidemic passed. 

Another note, during 1918, 1919 and 1920, the time period that Spanish Flu was at its worst, the population of the town of Ione didn't even seem to change much. I went through all the records from the local cemeteries in Ione, and records show that only 12 burials took place in 1918, 15 in 1919 and 12 in 1920. Even then, we are uncertain if the flu played any factor in those deaths. The population in 1920 was 900 for both North and South Ione combined, so as you can see, the Spanish Flu didn't affect Ione quite as much as some may assume.

3. "Preston Republic" Facts

The "self governance" idea was to allow the boys who had a better attitude and intelligence level to be given more freedoms. There was a strict guideline the school followed, even with their "Republic". Not all boys were allowed to be in the groups of self-government. Many had to be monitored by officers of the school and if you were getting into trouble you would be in the "Disciplinary" group and if you didn't obey in that group you would end up in solitary confinement. They had a strict regimented system and various levels you had to move up to. If you did not, you would be demoted. 

Did some boys like to take over the groups? Yes, that is why they would segregate boys based on their personalities. If you had a follower mentality, or a leader mentality it would determine which groups you might be assigned to. The honor cottages were for the best behaved boys that were ready for parole, and working towards finishing their trade school training so they could find employment outside of Preston upon each one's release. 

The way that the docent made that part seem was like how the saying goes : "the inmates were running the asylum," and that just wasn't the case.  Preston may have had its times where they were strict, and then their times when they were more relaxed on things, but the school never allowed the wards to "take over." Yes, there was bullying, and incidents happened because of it, but the school was not taken over by self-governing wards.

For the record, there were three deaths of wards that I could find who died from gunshot wounds while "escaping", and two of the three were NOT on the Preston School grounds. Herman Huber was the ONLY boy shot and killed while trying to run away (escape) on the property, and that was in 1911. There is other stories of wards escaping, or attempting to escape, one of which a boy attacked a guard and was shot and killed, too, but he did not run away. He was trying to kill a guard and the guard shot him in self-defense. There were multiple escapes where the wards were not harmed.

Herman Huber was shot during his escape, and ward, Ernest Reed, who was paroled shortly after came before the Governor and told him that the guard, Jefferson French shot Huber wantonly. Nothing was done about it in the end, and the guard was exonerated. There were rumors that because of the "credit system" implemented there, that older wards who were just about to parole would "fake escape" and have the younger wards snitch on them in order to get enough credits to be released early. 

In order to leave Preston before the age of 21 you had to earn about 6,000-7,000 credits. From the moment you were there you had to earn a certain amount of credits a day to stay on track; However, those who snitched on escapees would automatically earn enough credits for an early release as a sort of reward for helping the school.  If you told on an escapee you would earn all  your credits in one shot, which would guarantee an early release. Also, the Preston School of Industry's Biennial Reports mention this "system" still going on well into 1918. 

To learn more about this please read "Behind The Walls." 

4. No Indian Burial Ground

According to research, Preston was built on top of of the remains of an ancient Miwok Village, but there has been no evidence that the castle was built on any type of "burial ground." Another thing to remember, the stories of ghosts and spirits haunting locations happen all over the world, so the idea that places are haunted because of an "indian burial ground" is about as far fetched as a Stephen King plot. (No offense Mr. King, I like your work!)

But really, come on...what about all the haunted "castles" in Europe? What about all the haunted places around the entire globe? Where are the "native burial grounds" there? There have been so many people living all over the world, that if we were to know where every single person had died or was buried we would be scared to build anywhere. Let's be realistic here. 

In ending, the information pushed as fact on the recent premiere of the Lowe Files was just about as fabricated as a Hollywood movie plot. The true accounts of events that took place at the Preston School of Industry are much more interesting than any made up story that Hollywood could conjure up, yet unfortunately it seems that no one in the film industry is interested in facts, just sensationalism. Such a shame.

(Copyright 2017 - J'aime Rubio,

Information from Historian John Lafferty: 
(Kenyon J. Scudder, Between the Dark and the Daylight; Berkeley: Univ. of Calif., 1972, )

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