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Florida Industrial School for Boys Postcard

Postcard of the Florida Industrial School for Boys

A Missing Corpse = Foul Play

Reports of abuse and killings plagued the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys for decades. Former detainees filed a class-action lawsuit. The State of Florida investigated determining that there was insufficient evidence to substantiate. The University of South Florida (USF) Anthropology Department received a grant to exhume the 31 known and over 55 unmarked graves. Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a professor at USF, also obtained an order allowing the excavation of another coffin in Philadelphia. Her team dug up the coffin only to find wooden planks instead of a body.

The Florida State Reform School opened in January, 1900 in rural Marianna, Florida. The state-run facility housed boys, aged 8-21. At its maximum, the school housed 500 boys. The school closed for “budgetary reasons” in 2011. These young men committed minor crimes from truancy to theft and were sent to the school in an effort to restore them to community life. Along the way, something went horribly wrong.

Undergoing four name changes in its 111-year history, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys sits on 1,400 acres. Numerous buildings and cottages dot the landscape. Former residents described the grounds as beautiful—much like a college campus. Facilities included a pool, cafeteria, farm, dairy, and hospital. Two cemeteries, one for Caucasians and another for African Americans, exist. However, only 33 graves are marked with crosses. Through radar, another 55 additional unmarked graves were located. An additional 22 boys who died at the school are unaccounted for. Numbers vary; however, some 84-100 boys died while detained at Dozier. Unfortunately for some, the school became a place of torture.

Radar

Radar

In 1925, 17-year-old Thomas Curry was sent to the reform school. He remained for 29 days. A ledger entry at the school denoted Thomas was “killed on the RR Bridge Chattahoochee, Florida.” The Old Cathedral Cemetery, in Philadelphia, listed his death as “killed by train.” Curry’s death certificate, discovered in 2008, stated death was caused by a crushed skull from an “unknown cause.” No one from the school reported Thomas’ death to the State of Florida. A wooden coffin was sealed and transported to Philadelphia for burial. The coffin was interred above Thomas’ grandparents. There is no tombstone.

When the coffin was opened, wooden planks were discovered. No body. No skeleton. No personal effects. Where is Thomas Curry?

empty coffin

Coffin filled with wooden planks.

Although a state investigation (2008-2009) failed to find sufficient evidence supporting reputed abuse, this discovery—or lack thereof—should reopen the investigation. Bodies were illegally buried. Bodies were improperly handled. Boys disappeared. Former detainee Roger Kiser called Dozier a “concentration camp for little boys.” The idyllic images of the school posted online in the Florida archives clash with the testimony of 300 men. A missing body highly suggests foul play.

Tune in Friday, October 17th at 9 pm to “Breaking the News” on Paranormal I-Con on www.liveparanormal.com. The Haunted Librarian joins host Wes Forsythe as they discuss the latest paranormal news.