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The Brig

Farragut State Park, Idaho

Ah, camp. Long and fun-filled days in the glory of nature, basking in the sun and singing around an open campfire while the scent of fresh leaves filters through the branches with a whisper. The lake is crystal clear with a floating pier that’s just made for diving, and Boy Scouts tramp through the wilderness, pausing to learn about indigenous plants and animals. No camp would be complete, however, without a legend. Not far away from their tents, whisper the young campers, sits an old building where the dead still walk. Terrible things happened there, and it might just be a test of mettle to see who can approach the place at night. And while most such stories told around campfires are simply that, made up to cause chills and scares, here the stories are true. The shadows are alive, and the past doesn’t rest.

Idaho may seem like a quiet state, but its history is dotted with strange happenings. And when those happenings involve violence, strong feelings, or opposing ideals, the location doesn’t really matter. It could be in a factory, a house, or even a beautiful national park; but the effects are presences that just won’t let the past lie. And those that tread the same ground sometimes find themselves face to face with someone who, whether he knows he’s dead or not, wants his pain known and felt. At Farragut State Park the old building with the bad history is real, and the souls that wander the halls will not be ignored.

History:
Named for Union Admiral David G. Farragut, who, during the raid of Mobile Bay, cried out “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” what is now a park began as, strange as it may sound, a naval training base. Despite it being located in a land-locked state, the base opened in 1942 and became home to more than 300,000 naval recruits.

Wartime also gave the base another interesting purpose: It was used to house German prisoners of war.

Unlike many POW camps, the prisoners worked side-by-side with the naval officers and often moved about freely among the six camps. Local businesses, thriving from the installation of the second largest training facility and the money from soldiers on leave, often outfitted the POW’s with socks and boots and commonly regarded them much the same as they did any other solder from the base.

However, as could be expected, not everything was full of the spirit of brotherly love. The brig was reputed to be the home of the worst of the POW’s, violent and unwilling to socialize with their captors. Before the base closed, only four years after it opened, the brig bore witness to a brutal murder as well as at least one suicide, though more have been speculated.

The Farragut base was decommissioned in 1946 and became a technical school. The school, however, folded after only a few years due to lack of funding. It was turned into a state park during the 1960’s and 70’s, playing host to several Boy and Girl Scout National Jamborees. It was even home to “Idaho’s Woodstock,” a controversial religious picnic that apparently got a little out of hand.

Ghosts:
The old brig is the center of paranormal activity reported by guests, tourists, and employees alike over more than thirty years. People report feelings of dread or being threatened within the walls, anger, and even sadness. However, creepy feelings are only the beginning.

Apart from the normal cold spots and the occasional feeling of being watched, there are cases in which objects, sometimes quite large, disappear. They are often found later in strange places or even just across the room, much to the surprise of startled workers and tourists alike. Their surprise is often redoubled as smaller objects are thrown across cells or are lobbed at people passing by from inside.

Perhaps the most unsettling — and famous — phenomenon is the startling apparition of a man. Always seen as an older bald man, he has been described on some occasions as seeming solid and on others as nearly transparent. He always wears what appears to be a uniform, and while some seem content that it is a military uniform, others swear that it is prisoner’s garb he wears.

Present Day:
Now, many of the visitors are those who once called the military base home, making their way back for nostalgic reasons. Others include Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, hikers, bikers, skiers, swimmers, and anyone else who enjoys the beautiful scenery of Coeur d’Alene Mountains and the 1,150-foot deep Pend Oreille Lake.

Of the original 776 buildings, all that remains of the base are cracking concrete slabs and one building: the brig. Still intact with cells and bars, the brig was at one time used as a storage shed for the park workers.

No longer just for storage, the brig is open for tours, a window into the past in which displays of intricate knots and sailors’ memories mingle with iron bars and cramped quarters. And still, many who cross the threshold tell of phantom eyes on them, cold chills that race up their spines, and a bald man in a prison uniform who prowls the hallways for reasons unknown.

Best Times:
As the ghosts seem to hold to no real schedule, the only deciding factors in when to visit are one’s own interests. Winter holds the promise of groomed cross-country ski trails while summer visitors can enjoy hiking, boating, or swimming off the lake’s floating pier (which, incidentally, bears a striking resemblance to the one made famous at Camp Crystal Lake). However, due to the popularity of the park, reservations must be made up to eleven months in advance. Tours of the old brig are held daily, and sightings of the lone resident of the cells are quite frequent.

See you in two weeks!

- Scott A. Johnson

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Jon Condit