After landing the role of an Army captain in charge of the prison in the movie The Boys of Abu Ghraib, actor Scott Patterson (The Gilmore Girls) reached Albuquerque around midnight, arriving on a late night flight. A producer on the new film greeted him at the airport.
Instead of heading for his hotel, Patterson accepted the producer’s offer to take him for a late night visit to the site selected for filming the interior prison scenes — the abandoned, former maximum-security New Mexico State Penitentiary, located just outside of Santa Fe.
Also at his producer’s suggestion, Patterson decided to visit Death Row. He intended to sit in the chair inside the gas chamber itself for “the experience.”
At this point in his story, I’m thinking to myself, Is this guy absolutely insane?
As the two men made their way underground three levels toward the gas chamber, Patterson noted a spot on the floor where the concrete had been marred by what appeared to be hacking marks. Further along the way, he saw a blackened spot on the floor that he didn’t understand, uneasily noting it took the vague shape of a human form.
When they reached the viewing room for the gas chamber, the two men found a lit small candle standing upright in a chair. By Patterson’s account, the producer looked terrified and claimed to have no knowledge of how the candle got there. He expressed an interest in leaving at that point, but Patterson said, “My training is such that I don’t back away from such experiences.”
So he insisted on continuing on until he actually sat in the gas chamber chair. Patterson described what happened next as he looked as his producer, standing in the entrance to the gas chamber:
…and I looked at him. I noticed that he was fixated on the viewing area behind me. And I turned around. In the viewing area, we saw black shapes, sitting in chairs.
We ran so fast…
As the two men ran from Death Row, Patterson claimed that they encountered a winged demonic specter in a stairwell that literally flew at them. The two men cowered in fright, screaming like little children. Patterson exclaimed, “And we felt it whoosh over us, actually felt the wind over us.”
Somewhere along the line as they fled in terror, Patterson dropped his cell phone. The following morning, a sound technician, a local hire, found the phone on Death Row and returned it.
The technician said,
Wait a minute. You went down into the death chamber at night? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t you know the history of this prison?
The New Mexico State Penitentiary riot was one of the worst in American history. On February 2, 1980, prisoners overpowered the guards on duty and began a two day spree during which at least 33 inmates were killed. The hacking marks Patterson saw permanently etched in the concrete floor were made by an ax used to decapitate one prisoner. The black spot on the floor had been caused by a prisoner’s body after it was torched and literally incinerated during the melee.
The gory details of the violence during the riot are very well documented, especially in these chilling accounts by actual witnesses. The only unanswered question is…what happened with Patterson and the producer on the night in question? Did they experience some sort of real paranormal activity? Given they were on the set of a Hollywood production about to start filming, the idea of a carefully orchestrated prank cannot be simply dismissed. The capability for such certainly existed.
In fact, Patterson’s recollection of events of that evening practically smacked of a setup. Who thinks of visiting a deserted prison at 3:00 a.m. to sit in the death chamber? Patterson’s description of his own transition from foolish bravery to simpering cowardice in the blink of an eye was hardly flattering, but actors crave attention above all else, so it might be understandable.
Regardless whatever actually happened that night, based on Patterson’s body language, it seemed he believed a supernatural encounter, not a staged event, took place that night.
It doesn’t really matter to me. My own personal experiences forced me to conclude that a form of spiritual life continues even after death. I could find no logical or rational explanation for a great number of events spread over a significant period of time.
In contrast to my numerous personal paranormal experiences, I could somewhat easily explain away Patterson’s experience as one person’s rather vivid imagination, inspired and fueled by a mischievous producer, assisted by several Hollywood experts in the art of special effects.
However, Patterson’s story could also be real. This prison had “execution squads” roaming free for two days, torturing and murdering inmates they believed were snitches. Some truly evil deeds took place during the riots without the perpetrators ever receiving appropriate justice. Aryan Brotherhood member Michael Colby, one of the worst offenders in the riot, is apparently now a free man. Because of my own personal experiences, I’m inclined to think that Patterson was telling the truth and described something he believed really happened.
My more skeptical friends who scoff at any possibility that supernatural phenomena could be real might be able to arrange to visit the gas chamber themselves at the former New Mexico State Penitentiary in the dead of night, in order to authoritatively debunk Patterson’s ghost story.
Be my guest. Believe whatever you want to believe. I personally think it would be a lot safer to poke fun at his story from the comforts of your own home.
The desire to prove a negative, at the risk of enduring an experience similar to Patterson’s, makes me wonder if the person skeptical enough to follow his example should have their head examined.