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If you were to drive down a long, narrow, winding grassy road, hidden far from sight, deep in the beautiful, thick underbrush of the north Florida woods, you will find unmarked graves containing the remains of thirty-two bodies, most likely all boys, some possibly as young as nine. As of now, who they are and how they got there is a mystery. It is believed that some of those boys were beaten to death in the name of discipline. Some suspect that many more bodies might be scattered about somewhere in the murky, shallow swamplands and fields of the lush state of Florida.
The United States Department of Justice, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is investigating the allegations to determine the truth about a deep, dark secret that has been hidden for almost fifty years.
A Florida State juvenile facility set up for the safety and rehabilitation of children went totally awry, virtually from the time the doors opened in January 1900, basically becoming a concentration camp for wayward boys. It is only recently that the abuse—physical, mental, and sexual—suffered by the children at the Florida Industrial School for Boys is being taken seriously, now that so many of the survivors (many of them in their sixties) have stepped forward and banded together. The insane cruelty and alleged murders have been ignored or covered up by the authorities for more than fifty years . . . but no more.
One of the most horrendous places at the juvenile facility was a building known as the 'White House'—which was later dubbed the 'White House Torture Chamber.' This building, which still stands today, is a small white concrete building where boys were whipped and beaten mercilessly for trying to run away or for breaking one of the many other rules, rules so strict that the boys were afraid, in some cases, to look at someone in charge 'the wrong way.' Without fences, gates, or perimeter guards, the fear of being sent to this torture chamber was the only means the state had to control the young 'inmates.' The beatings many of the boys suffered were beyond brutal. Some were beaten so badly that when they returned from the White House, it was hard to tell who they were. Of course, treatment this brutal instilled fear into each and every boy incarcerated at the facility.
Mind you now, White House beatings weren't only for very serious offenses such as running away. Perhaps that was the original purpose. However, a time soon followed when beatings and whippings or threats of beatings and whippings were handed out for smoking, talking back, cursing, not making your bed correctly, not wearing a smile on your face, smiling too much, eating too slowly, not walking fast enough, stepping off the path, accidentally tripping in line, coughing, sharing food, dropping a pat of butter on the floor, or eating a blackberry off a bush while on a work detail. Sometimes, there was no reason. And sometimes . . . boys never made it out of the White House alive, or at least they were never seen or heard from again.
©2009. Roger Dean Kiser. All rights reserved. Reprinted from The White House Boys: An American Tragedy. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
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