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, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)
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!
PURCHASE YOUR COPIES OF "BEHIND THE WALLS" OR "IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK" HERE!