Monday, July 1, 2013

The Cursed and Haunted Desha County Courthouse

Desha County Courthouse, located in a remote part of southeastern Arkansas, has experienced an odd phenomenon with its clock. 

It is said the bells do not ring at the right time because of a ghost known as  “Willard.” Willard has haunted the courthouse for over 100 years. 

While alive, Willard was accused and convicted of a crime that he professed he did not do. Since his execution, the courthouse clock and bells have been cursed.

In December of 2008, just three minutes before noon, the bell atop the old Desha Courthouse rang only once. The bells were supposed to ring 12 times--the one time it did ring was three minutes early. 

Judge Mark McElroy told a reporter and photographer that witnessed the malfunction that Willard, the courthouse’s ghost was evidently angry again. But this was nothing new for the clock has never worked properly since Willard’s death at the turn of the century.

Willard story began between 1899 and 1903, when a man lost money gambling in an Arkansas City hotel took revenge by setting fire to this hotel and several others in the area. They all burned to the ground. 

Willard was captured and convicted of these arsons. He was then sentenced to hang at the courthouse. Willard proclaimed until his death that he was innocent.

Dee Fowler whose grandmother served on the jury that convicted Willard of the crime states that her grandmother heard Willard tell those who watched his execution:

“I will curse the new E. Howard clock that sits atop this courthouse.“ Willard went on to state: “I am not guilty and to prove my innocence, this clock will never keep the correct time again.”

Some witnesses stated that the clock stopped when Willard died. 

Judge McElroy on the bench since 1993, told a reporter that interviewed him that the clock has never appropriately worked since that time.

One night, several years before this interview, the bells rang through the night, keeping the residents awake for hours, before the judge could arrive and shut them off.

In the 1970s, the town decided to run the clock off electricity rather than weights, hoping this would solve the problem. It didn’t. 

In more recent years, the town brought in a clock expert from Florida who changed out the old parts with new ones. But it appears the clock remains cursed.

Judge McElroy and many of his staff who work at the historic courthouse feel strongly that a ghost roams its halls. 

Many have heard doors slamming and footsteps in areas where no one can be found. 

Desha County clerk, Beth McMahan states that even the clocks on the staff’s phones malfunction. The dates on their phones often reflect one day behind, and when people try to fix this--they find their efforts futile.

Frustrated, McElroy has even considered options to try and undo the curse. 

The town has considered bringing in someone who can get rid of the ghost, and McElroy has proposed holding a “mock trial” where they would undo Willard’s conviction of guilt in the arsons. 

But these ideas have been tabled, and it appears Willard’s ghost still does not rest in peace. 

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