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Preston Castle

It’s the beginning of October and already everywhere you look all that is Halloween is starting to show up. The pumpkins, the cute little ghosts, the black cats, it all has become very commercialized and acceptable, not at all what it began as all those years ago.

And now, as seems to happen about every ten years or so, the paranormal element of it is coming back full force. I was reminded of this just the other day when I looked at the Yahoo home page, and there was a grainy, green tinted photograph that had something to do with a ghost. I didn’t stick around to see exactly what it was all about, but saw enough to think, “Here we go again.”

In recent years, the popularity of the paranormal has gone through the roof with shows that revolve around hunting them and coming up with hard scientific evidence to prove their existence becoming popular cable shows.  I’ve seen a couple of these shows a few times, but watching a group of people running around after dark looking for things that go bump in the night has no appeal for me. It seems to me that most people would rather watch people getting scared out of their wits, than actually go into the situation themselves. I don’t blame them, especially when there could be a remote possibility of actually running into something that goes ‘bump’ in the night.

Whether or not you actually believe in that sort of thing, it’s hard to deny the fear that can spring up in us full-grown when it comes to wandering around at night in the dark.

About 45-minutes from where I live, a beautiful old juvenile rehabilitation center stands tall against the background of the rolling California foothills. Built in the 1880’s to usher in a new age of helping boys who have taken the wrong path to become upright members of society, Preston Castle – also known by its actual name, the Preston School of Industry – is an amazing specimen of roman revival architecture that you can’t help but want to see up close if given half the chance.

I was given that chance when I was assigned a story about the past, present and future of the building. In the course of my research I was treated to personal tour of the building from the Preston Castle Foundation president. As he led me through the huge building, I couldn’t help but think that although it was in need of a lot of work, it still retained its beauty and grandeur. It reminded me of a slightly disheveled cousin of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, which was built by George Vanderbilt, one of the industrialist giants around the same time.

Preston Castle closed its doors for good  about 50 years ago. In recent years it has become quite a hot spot for the paranormal, with individuals from shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures coming through and spending the night in lockdown to see if there is any residual presence of a brutal unsolved murder in the kitchen, or any sense of the many who stayed, and presumable died, in the castle’s infirmary wing.

Although many people seem to focus on that dark side of Preston Castle’s past, maybe because they like to be scared and then go home, as I left the amazing castle, I couldn’t help but think of all those boys who came through its doors, and the reality that it was built because there was an upswing in juvenile delinquency during that time period. Which means to my mind, there must have been something going on in society that caused most of these boys, and presumable girls, to have to live on the street and sustain themselves through crime.

The Civil War had left families broken in both the North and the South, orphan trains were bringing kids out West to work on farms where some of them were treated so brutally that they ran way rather than endure the harsh treatment. I’m sure there are others societal elements that contributed to the rise in crime amongst young people of that time, but, it was this particular darkness that struck me when I drove away from the castle.

These kids were essentially orphaned by society in one way or another, which is a darkness that still exists whether we choose to see it or not.

My beloved Nann used to say, “It’s not the dead you have to fear, it’s the living.”

And, it seems to me that as long as we choose to entertain ourselves by scaring ourselves with the darkness of the dead, we can essentially distract ourselves, blind ourselves from the reality of the darkness we live with everyday.

The darkness that only the LORD Himself can overcome because He is the only one who can save us from ourselves.

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the human race to see if there is one who is wise, one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.”

Psalm 14:2-3

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