Newly Opened Chester County, PA Justice Center Haunted

The Chester County Justice Center has only been open two weeks now and I can report that one thing is clear: The place appears haunted.

Let me rephrase that: The place has a disembodied voice, eerie optical effects and long, cavernous hallways that remind you of the corridors leading to Room 237 at the Overlook Hotel in the movie version of Stephen King's "The Shining." So while it might not be technically haunted, it does have some extra features the commissioners didn't figure on when they ponied up $100 million plus for the place — much like getting the 10th anniversary DVD edition of "The Big Lebowski" wrapped up in a bowling bag.

Not to worry, though. There are many buildings in Chester County with worse poltergeistian problems than those we're discovering at the Justice Center. At least the howls of prisoners haven't started plaguing the building, as they do on the full moon at Pennhurst State Hospital. But we can live in hope.

Now, some may say there are perfectly reasonable explanations for the parapsychological phenomena we've noticed in the building. But as for me, I tend to brush such reasonable explanations aside. I would much rather think of the place as existing on a supernatural plane. It's so much easier to explain to my bosses why I haven't gotten anything done today if I can refer to "the haunting." They normally don't have a quick reply for that.

So first, the disembodied voice.

It was initially heard in Courtroom 12, the home of Judge Anthony Sarcione and, coincidentally, the first courtroom to open for business in the new building. I was not there, but I am told that as a defense attorney and court translator were going over a guilty plea with a defendant, who didn't speak English, a voice could clearly be heard coming from the bench — even though Sarcione was in his chambers and his chair was empty

"Madam, could you please button your shirt," the voice intoned.

Not exactly, "Redrum, redrum," or a foreboding howl from Jacob Marley, but starling nonetheless.

You may want to believe that the voice as actually that of Judge William Mahon, who occupies the courtroom directly a floor above from Sarcione's and who regularly uses a wireless microphone to make his voice heard in the far reaches of his domain. And you may want believe that said wireless is -- oops! — programmed to the same frequency as the speakers in Sarcione's courtroom. And you may even want to believe that at the time the voice was heard, Mahon was, in point of fact, telling a slightly disheveled defendant that a view of her decolletage was not helping him decide her case.

I would never begrudge you a pathetic clutch at the rational. We who have a broader mindset, however, are comfortable accepting the presence of the paranormal in our everyday lives.

What you will not be able to deny, however, is the spooky view of the historic courthouse clock tower as seen from the Justice Center's sixth floor.

Stand in the middle of the hallway outside Judge John Hall's courtroom and look east. The clock tower appears to fill the edges of the window. Now start to walk toward the window. As you do, the clock tower actually grows smaller as you approach — receding from view as you draw nearer. Try it the next time you find yourself waiting to throw yourself at the mercy of the court and see.

You may cry "reverse perspective," but I prefer "demonic possession" to explain the illusion.

And don't get me started on Courtroom 13.

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