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Atterbury Job Corps Ghost Stories

You won't get much farther than this sign in your personal investigation of Atterbury's Job Corps Center.
You won't get much farther than this sign in your personal investigation of Atterbury's Job Corps Center.
R. Hinton

When Melinda Zell began her association with the Atterbury Job Corps in February of 2005 she had no idea that her course of study would also include that of the spiritual realm.

Administered by the US Department of Labor, the Atterbury Job Corps Center is one of the original training facilities initiated under the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty back in the 1960s. Atterbury’s present center is comprised of a remnant of new facilities and older structures once encompassing the Wakeman General Hospital complex and situated on a vast section of acreage once utilized by Camp Atterbury located in the southern stretch of Johnson County, Indiana.

It is a place, which in the past, trained and equipped young soldiers in the art of war and then sent them into a questionable future. It is presently used for similar purposes, only the acreage has shrunk. Atterbury now concentrates on National Guard training; on a lower grand scale of operation than in the past, yet the intent remains the same. Camp Atterbury also stands as one of five Army Mobilization sites in the country.

The Wakeman General Hospital in its day witnessed the ravages of war in the guise of those individuals passing in and out of its doors. Many left on their own accord. Many never did. And throughout the years there is a history of individuals who have worked or lived in these buildings; buildings which are also a witness to those who have chosen to stay behind after death.

Welcome to the Atterbury Job Corps Center! We hope you enjoy your stay.

Atterbury’s Job Corps Center provides residential educational and vocational training programs for economically disadvantaged youth. In many situations, youth with a checkered criminal past also are directed into this program. The facility at Atterbury houses 550 students—ages 16 to 24—in five on campus dormitories. That becomes an important staple of the program—students are required to live on the property.

For however many months they are there, it becomes their world and the campus their playground. Some have stated that life at the center is like “living in a jail.” Others have had no complaints. And there are ramifications of the ‘real world’ which have filtered into the academic environment—drugs, alcohol, fights, sex, and even the stabbing of a female student in 2008. Even a heavily secured and controlled environment that promotes personal advancement is not immune to the life style just outside its walls.

Personal freedom (or a small semblance of it) co-exists with education, and the days and weekends can stretch on for what seems forever! But…there seems to be more. It may very well appear that ‘things’ are going on just below the surface—and not part of the academic program!

Yes, many buildings in the Atterbury Job Corps Center are indeed newer, but there are those that have been renovated (repurposed) from existing buildings of the original hospital complex, or newer structures built over where buildings once existed. Many feel that all of these locations have the potential for being harbingers of those who have remained behind.

The 1970s and 80s were relatively quiet as far as reports of paranormal activity. This may very well be a sign of the times: people just didn’t talk about those kinds of things. The staff wanted to keep their jobs. However, the 1990s began to gather steam and the people began to talk. And many from those who worked at the Job Corps Center….

Barbara states—“I used to work there. It was an old World War II camp before the Job Corps was there. I saw a man walking down the dorm hall one night. He was dressed in a World War II era uniform and vanished through a door. In the same dorm a clock flew off the wall scaring some of the students. I went to investigate what the noise was about and the girls told me. I doubted the story. I then saw a set of keys fly off a dresser and across the room.”

Kelly adds—“I was a staff member there in 1999 – 2000. I saw first hand strange things like people becoming violently ill in certain areas of the old buildings and sounds of old songs being whistled, but no one was around. There was also an instance of a dorm room window being completely covered by flies. In some of the buildings I always felt eyes on me. I’ve always been leery of stories like this, but working here made me a believer big time. There are just too many strange things on that campus!”

Staff and students alike have reported activity in the dormitories, including whispers, voices, footsteps, and knocks on the doors. Lights flicker on whim and televisions turn on and off. There are reports of shadow movement and the constant feeling of being watched. Even the nearby woods have received notice of figures in the tree line and glowing yellow eyes. It would appear that the students have little desire to explore this stretch of woods.

Melinda Zell had her own encounters as a student during her few short months in 2005:

“I remember being in the bathroom and heard someone come in. It was 1:00 AM. The stall door next to mine opened and closed. I looked under [the stall] and saw no feet. I said ’Hello’…no answer. I was like…’Guys, this isn’t funny!’ I hurried up, finished, and searched the entire bathroom; nothing! My heart started pounding, and then I heard a little girl’s laughter in the hall and a ball being bounced. I ran to my room. I thought I was crazy until someone else said they had heard it also.”

“Rosa Parks Dorm was haunted by a little girl that bounced a ball. Some saw her, some did not. She was always heard at night. There was also a blonde woman in a long white gown. The dorm often smelled of cookies, and you would hear shoe heels on the tile floor with no explanation.”

“I became terrified of Belamy Hall. Walking past it one night I glanced up into the windows and something was glaring back out, and not the Halloween decoration skeleton hanging from the inside of one of the windows. At that same moment I had a memory that was not my own: it was what the medical hospital looked in what I would imagine its prime. There was a wounded soldier in my vision (the face in the window), along with an old time nurse. I heard screaming in the distance and suddenly felt panic. My vision passed…I didn’t see the man anymore. He had once again been replaced by the Halloween decoration.”

Some of the students who attended the school with Melinda have remained friends to this day. And many weren’t immune to the creep factor on the campus:

Christopher M Stanley—“Anybody remember when D wing in Rosa Parks caught fire and on one knew how because it was closed? Or the freaky fog that would roll over the dorms within minutes?”

Dawn Highley—“I remember in D wing at Rosa Parks when I saw a girl come out of one of the doors and she wore an old fashioned dress. That was freaky! Also, going to the dorms from work by Bellamy and Pat Hall, the fog was so thick and I thought I saw someone standing in the fog. Then I looked again and it wasn’t there….”

Alisha Holman—“When I was in Rosa Parks I would hear heels going up and down the halls and smell cookies baking all the time. And a few times when I would be walking in front of the building on the outside—when no one was around—I would see figures in the windows on the top floor.”

Jonette Moore—“I remember the old hospital building. A bunch of us wanted to check it out, but before we went inside I saw a little girl pounding on the window.”

David Fowler—“Yep…Job Corps .I had a lot of fun there and remember being in front of Bellamy Hall one night and saw a little girl in the window. I also saw army men and nurses walking by the windows at night. Me and some friends walked through the underground tunnels.”

Melinda reports a network of underground tunnels that connected many of the buildings. Back in the hospital days they were used to transport bodies to the morgue. Most are caved in, but she notes that those who explored them experienced paranormal activity.

David Fowler on the tunnels—“Hard to get through because half of it was caved in. But, if you go through when it’s completely dark, you hear things like people screaming. It was not bad…yet a little freaky.”

Melinda also adds—“People talked of being led into the woods by someone they thought was real. And…one girl went into Bellamy Hall to disprove the ghost theory. What she experienced was so bad she refuses to speak of it. She never went near the building again!”

Melinda Zell dropped out of school, yet came to the eventual conclusion that she wanted to continue her education. The Atterbury Job Corps Center was an opportunity that became a perfect fit at the right time of her life. She attained her GED, and with honors! Yet, in addition to her daily regimen of academic studies and training, she also got a secondary form of education that wasn’t on the agenda—things are not always as they seem, and there are those grey-areas that defy rational explanation!

“I made friends that became like family because of the things experienced. It [the Job Corps Center] was where skeptics became believers.”

The Atterbury Job Corps Center is located at 3008 Old Hospital Road, Edinburgh, Indiana, 46124.

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