ASHBURN, Ga. — At first glimpse, the two-story brick house on East College Avenue looks like another of Ashburn’s three dozen or so historic houses. But, it’s quickly apparent this house is different.
For years, many a passersby thought the edifice was a bed and breakfast. Some would even knock on the door, looking for a place to stay. They were no doubt surprised when they were turned away.
It’s true the building featuring Romanesque architecture has an inviting look to it. A former Turner County sheriff is credited with planting flowers on the house’s grounds that gave it that look.
It’s also true this building did have many many guests. In all likelihood, however, few wanted to be there; this wasn’t exactly a five-star retreat.
This building — known to many as “Castle Turner” — served as the county jail from about 1907 until 1993. Today, it’s the Crime and Punishment Museum, one of the Georgia’s more unique attractions.
Even stepping inside, the house’s ground floor feels like a nice middle class residence in a small, rural South Georgia city. But, the second floor is an entirely different story.
The museum opened in August 2003 in this bucolic community of about 4,100 located along Interstate 75. Many travelers are likely to know Ashburn because of the “World’s Largest Peanut” that sits along the interstate, just feet from the cars whizzing by in the southbound lanes.
To the casual observer, Castle Turner is a quiet building in a quiet town. The building is said to be haunted, and throngs of ghost-hunters routinely trek here hoping to see proof of paranormal activity. Perhaps, it’s all that remains of those who lost their souls while incarcerated.
Cold iron bars, bunk beds and graffiti on the wall are stark reminders of this building’s previous life. Inside the old jail, history comes alive. If the building’s walls could talk, they would no doubt tell dozens, if not hundreds, of stories of men and women whose misdoings landed them here.
These quarters were cramped. Living conditions were less than pleasant, to be polite. And, when inmates once trashed their cells in protest of the jail’s condition, the sheriff responded by blacking out the windows.
It was a harsher time. What’s astounding is that the last inmates vacated this jail less than three decades ago.
Two people were executed by hanging in Turner County, according to various reports. Robert Henderson was the first, when he was hanged in 1907, and Miles Cribb was the second when he was executed in 1914 for the shooting death of his mother-in-law.
Cribb holds a dubious distinction. He was the only inmate ever hanged inside the jail.
Today, visitors to the museum can see the trap door that dropped, sending the condemned Cribb to his death. They can also gaze upon the blood-stained collar he was wearing at the time he was executed and see a replica of an electric chair, affectionately nicknamed “Old Sparky.”