Florida authorities announced last week that they have found 27 news graves on the site of the infamous Florida reform school which was shut in 2011 over allegations of extreme abuse and deaths of students. Reports state that 82 bodies are believed to have been discovered from the notorious Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys so far and many believe that more are yet to be found around the school's premises.
Bryant Middleton, Richard Huntly and Roger Kiser — among the survivors of the school's torturous practices, recently recounted their ordeal to the Daily Mail. Middleton was picking blackberries, Huntly took a sip from the water fountain without permission and Kiser utter a mild expletive after tumbling on a diving board — these were the offenses committed by the three back in their time in the reform school which resulted in them being lashed dozens of time with a three-foot-long leather strap with a piece of metal embedded in it.
The trio was lucky to have survived, while there were dozens of others who did not.
The infamous reform school in Florida, which opened in 1900, was the prime institution in the state where boys above the age of eight were sent by the courts after they landed in minor trouble with the law. Many of the boys who were orphans and had nowhere else to go were also sent to this institution.
According to state and school records, nearly 100 children died while they were at the institution. Reports state that many of these students died in a tragic dormitory fire in 1914, and a deadly flu epidemic in 1918. However, the circumstances surrounding other deaths in the school remained a mystery for a long period and till date it is not clear which student is buried where on the premises.
The fresh 27 graves were reportedly found on the site in the Panhandle town of Marianna during a recent ground pollution cleanup. University of South Florida Anthropology Professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle while talking to CNN said that a firm was conducting "ground penetrating radar" (GPR) tests on the grounds near the school reported discovering 27 anomalies in a wooded area about 500 yards north of the area where her team found the remains of 51 boys in 2013.
Governor Charlie Crist, in 2008, had ordered a probe after a group of men known as "the White House Boys" came forward with their stories of being cruelly tortured inside a small, while building on the school property. The men told horror tales of their time in the institution when they were young and how they were beaten unconscious and whipped until ther underwear was embedded in their buttocks, according to reports.
The probe ended a year later founding enough evidence of abuse at the school, however, it also concluded that there was no abusive treatment related to any deaths at the school. Despite the findings, the former students continued to speak of beatings, killings and disappearance of students at the premises.
Bryant Middleton told the Daily Mail that he has a list of 138 boys who have still not been accounted for and added that some of the boys at the school did die of severe beatings.
Huntly told the outlet that the beatings were "like a charge to your brain, like it set your brain on fire. It's a fire inside of you that has no escape. When I was being beaten it was like I had to holler inside of me. You are panting, you're praying, you're crying and you're screaming inside of you, trying to time the lick so I could tighten up my body at the right time to try to lessen the pain but it is too excruciating to do that."
While Kiser believes that some of the bodies of the students could have been cremated. "The races were strictly segregated," Kiser remembered. "The only time I ever spoke to a black boy there, there was a plume of foul-smelling smoke coming from the chimney. I asked him what it was."
"Well, they sure ain't cooking pizza," the African-American replied. Kiser is convinced that the school authorities were cremating a body at the time.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in the wake of the recent discovery, has promised the issue of new possible graves at the school site will be "handled with the utmost sensitivity and care."