In Episode 299 Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger investigate a former Concord, New Hampshire, police station turned Mexican Restaurant to search for the ghost of “George.” Back in 1945, two fugitives named Edgar Cook and John Giles broke out of a Council Bluffs, Iowa, jail and headed for New England on the lam. Dubbed the Toothbrush Bandits because they fashioned a toothbrush into a cell key, their dramatic life of crime ended in Concord, New Hampshire, in one of these haunted former cells.
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[CITY STREET NOISES]
RAY: Jeff, I’ve always liked downtown Concord, New Hampshire. I mean it’s a city—it’s the state capital—but it still kinda feels like a town.
JEFF: I get that. It’s got a quaint New England charm to it for sure. Even here in Bicentennial Square in the heart of downtown. Okay, we’re going to make a right onto Warren Street, and our haunted destination is up there on the left.
RAY: That two-and-a-half story brick building there?
JEFF: That’s the one.
RAY: The one that says Police Station at the top?
JEFF: Yup. That’s it.
RAY: It’s obviously NOT a police station anymore. It looks like a restaurant now.
JEFF: It is. Let’s head inside.
[MEXICAN RESTAURANT MUSIC SLOWLY FADES UP AS WE ENTER]
RAY: This is a Mexican restaurant.
JEFF: Right you are, Ray. We’re heading south of the border… sort of… to one of Concord’s most famous haunts–Margaritas Mexican Restaurant–located inside this former police station and jail, to look for a ghost named George.
JEFF: Hola Amigos, I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to Episode 299 of the New England Legends Podcast.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re always on the hunt for ghosts, monsters, aliens, roadside oddities, true crime, eccentrics, and all the other things that make New England like no other place. Please be sure to subscribe to our podcast wherever you get your podcasts because it’s free and we don’t want you to miss a thing.
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[MEXICAN RESTAURANT MUSIC FADES BACK IN]
RAY: Okay, Jeff. We’re looking for a ghost named George… Uhhh, yea, two margaritas made with Patron and we’ll start with some of the fresh guacamole…. Thanks! Sorry… we’re looking for a ghost named George in a Mexican restaurant in downtown Concord?
JEFF: We are. But as you noticed when we walked in, this is a former police station. It was built in 1890.
RAY: Now that you mention it, it’s pretty obvious from the inside too. Plus, upstairs there are still jail cells along the walls, and inside each cell is a dining table. Should we move up there?
JEFF: We totally should.
RAY: Excuse me… could we switch our table to one upstairs in a jail cell? (PAUSE) Thanks!
[WALKING UP STAIRS]
JEFF: Okay NOW this feels like a jail… with corn chips, salsa, guacamole, and margaritas. Cheers!
JEFF: Ray you’ve got something in your teeth… cilantro maybe?
RAY: Did I get it?
JEFF: Yeah you got it. You should always tell someone, right?
JEFF: Anyway, do we know how to conduct a ghost investigation or what?
RAY: Yeah, I could get used to THIS kind of food and spirits.
JEFF: Ahhhh I see what you did there.
RAY: So I guess now we wait for the ghost of George to drift by?
JEFF: We can try that, sure. So witnesses report glasses move on their own, they’ll see a shadowy figure drifting by out of the corner of their eye, and of course whenever someone drops a dish or glass they blame it on the ghost of George.
RAY: Here’s a little more background on this building. As you said before it was built in 1890. Those garage bays on the western part of the building were added in 1915 when the Concord Police got police vehicles. And it operated as a police station all the way until 1975. So 85 years of arrests and police activity inside this old building.
JEFF: That’s a lot of history to cover as we search for one ghost named George. So let’s hone in on 1945.
RAY: It’s February 24th 1945, and we’re in jail.
[CELL DOORS SLAMMING]
RAY: Not the jail cell we just left in Concord, New Hampshire. We’re in the Council Bluffs, Iowa, jail. On the sixth floor.
JEFF: We’re a long way from home, Ray.
RAY: We are. As are these two inmates, 31-year-old Edgar Cook, originally from Boston, and 37-year-old John Giles from Oklahoma. These two are bank robbers and car thieves, though Giles is also wanted for the murder of a North Dakota deputy. These two now find themselves in the Council Bluffs Jail—you know they call this place Escape Proof!
JEFF: I can see why. Even if these guys somehow managed to get out of their cells, they have six floors, guards on watch, and five more steel doors to get through before they could get outside. And even then, what would they do next?
RAY: These guys are experts at getting into safes by “punching” their way through.
JEFF: Punching? Come onnnnn. You’d break your hand!
RAY: Clearly you’re not down with the criminal lingo. Punching is when you saw or hammer off the combination dial on a safe, then you jam a steel bar into the core and whack it with a hammer until the core is knocked out and the tumblers fall out, opening the safe.
JEFF: That’s all well and good, but there are no hammers, saws, or steel rods up here.
RAY: No, but they do have a plan for escaping. One of the men was able to sneak a saw into his cell under his clothes…
RAY: but guards heard the sawing and confiscated the tool.
JEFF: The guards missed a saw?!
RAY: This isn’t a state prison. It’s a county jail. Prisoners aren’t supposed to stay here too long. Just until their trials, and then off to a state prison. But yeah… they missed it.
JEFF: Still, I imagine it would take a while to saw through these bolts and bars, and it’s tough to cover the noise of that.
RAY: In their next escape attempt, Cook and Giles pull the stuffing out of their mattresses and planned to use one of the iron bars from the bedframe as a weapon. The plan is to ignite a small fire in the corner of their cells, and when the guards rush in to save them… WHACK! They hit the guards and escape.
JEFF: But that attempt doesn’t go so well when guards catch them pulling the stuffing out from their bedding. The guards put a stop to it. That’s when Cook speaks up.
COOK: We’ll be leaving here one of these days. We’ll be leaving and we’ll leave in that blue car down there.
JEFF: Cook is pointing to the police car down in the parking lot.
RAY: And with that, the officer walks away.
JEFF: But Cook and Giles are NOT deterred…. Because they’re an escape risk, they’re only allowed to have toothbrushes, tobacco, and cigarette papers. They’re fed on paper plates and with a wooden spoon. Still, these guys spend all day scheming about their escape… Hey… what is that Cook found in the corner?
RAY: It looks like a broken metal tweezer. Not much you can do with that.
JEFF: What’s he doing with the tweezer?
RAY: It looks like Cook is whittling his wooden spoon with it.
JEFF: His face just lit up. He obviously got some kind of idea. What’s he doing now?
RAY: He’s wetting the cigarette rolling papers and stuffing them into the door lock with a splinter from the wooden spoon. Why would he do that?
JEFF: Check it out! He’s creating a mold of the key lock tumblers.
RAY: And now he’s carving up his toothbrush with that end of a tweezer to match the mold of the rolling papers.
RAY: With the prison dark and quiet, Cook and Giles wait a few hours… and then… Okay, Cook is fumbling with the lock with his toothbrush key…
RAY: Oh man! He got his cell door open.
RAY: He got Giles’s door open too!
JEFF: Cook and Giles are making their way down the hall.
[METAL DOOR OPENS]
JEFF: They’re getting through the other doors too.
[WALKING DOWN STAIRS]
JEFF: I haven’t seen one guard.
RAY: Cook and Giles and outside and tip-toeing toward that police car parked by the building.
[CAR DOORS OPEN AND THEN SHUT]
JEFF: By now the police inside the Council Bluffs jail have figured out it’s a jailbreak.
JEFF: Officers run outside…
[CAR DRIVES OFF]
JEFF: And fire shots at the fleeing car! But the two make their getaway.
RAY: And just like that, the two bandits have stolen the very police car they said they’d steal. They drive out of town and boost a different car before heading northeast to Cook’s hometown of Boston.
JEFF: The two desperadoes are trying to get far away from Iowa. But along the way they’re robbing stores and people. They’re gathering money and guns as they travel from town to town. They’re armed and dangerous. The whole nation is looking for them. Newspapers across the country are running stories about their jail break.
RAY: Once in New England, Cook and Giles figure Boston authorities may be on the lookout for them considering Cook’s Boston roots, so they head further north to the city of Concord, New Hampshire. The plan is to lie low for a bit and plan their next move.
JEFF: It’s Friday, March 2nd. Giles and Cook decide to split up for a few hours. Giles is going to take in a movie—a new motion picture murder mystery called “The Suspect”
RAY: How appropriate.
JEFF: Right?! And Cook is going to take a walk downtown.
RAY: Meanwhile, a Concord police officer spots a car with Kansas plates. He doesn’t see too many of those around here, so he jots down the license plate number. Sure enough, when he checks back at the station, it’s on a list of stolen vehicles. Considering where it came from, now police suspect Giles and Cook may be in town. Police and FBI move quickly.
JEFF: Inside the car with Kansas plates, police find a shotgun, a rifle, drills, sledge hammers, and pinch bars. And now authorities are almost certain Giles and Cook are in town. Everyone is on high alert. Concord officers are patrolling the streets and walking the beat.
RAY: At the movie theater, The Suspect is just letting out. Which is almost poetic, because the suspect John Giles is just heading out to the street when authorities spot him.
RAY: Though Giles has a loaded pistol in his pocket, he can see multiple guns pointed at him. It’s over. He surrenders.
JEFF: Cook doesn’t fair much better. He’s nabbed just a few blocks away. Both men are brought to the Concord Police Station.
[CELL DOOR SLAMS]
JEFF: And thrown inside two cells. Guards are told to stand watch. These two have a habit of slipping out of jail. Concord police are ready to make sure it won’t happen on their watch.
RAY: And it doesn’t. After sitting in the Concord Jail for a few days, the FBI arrange to bring the two back to Iowa to stand trial. The papers dub them the Toothbrush Bandits, and their life of crime and their freedom ends right here in this Concord jail. And that brings us back to today.
[MEXICAN MUSIC FADES UP AND LOW IN THE BACKGROUND?]
JEFF: And today this police station and jail turned Mexican restaurant is haunted by George.
RAY: George is a pretty common name. Hundreds of Georges must have come and gone through this building over the years.
JEFF: True, but the most famous… the most notorious George lost his freedom permanently inside this building. John Giles, it turns out was just an alias for a bank robber, car thief, and murderer named George Stubblefield.
RAY: No way! That’s amazing!
JEFF: And today every strange knock, cold spot, odd shadow, and weird noise gets attributed to a man who passed through these cells on his way back to justice and a life in prison.
RAY: It’s what we do. We try to pin a label on everything unexplained, even if it’s only to try and make ourselves feel better.
JEFF: And feeling good is what After the Legend is all about.
RAY: After the Legend is brought to you by our Patreon Patrons. Our patrons get early and AD-FREE access to all of our new episodes plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. It’s just $3 bucks per month, and it goes a long way in helping our mission to find every legend in New England. If you can help the cause please head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
You should click on our Web site because you can see our calendar of events where you can find my band the Pub Kings, plus see dates for Jeff’s on-going story tour. Plus all of our past episodes are on our Web site, and video clips from the New England Legends television series on Amazon Prime. And you can reach out to us anytime through there with your own story leads. We love hearing from you and love when you share our podcast with your friends.
Thank you to Marv Anderson for lending his voice acting talents this week. Thank you to our sponsor Nuwati herbals, thanks to our patreon patrons. And our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.