Haunted Prisons

There's something about a prison that's a little scary...to most of us, anyway. But add the elements of murder, brutal assault, suicide, and riots, and you have an atmosphere ripe for paranormal activity. Society wanted these hardened criminals to remain behind bars for life, but some are bound there for eternity.

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Burlington Prison (Mount Holly, New Jersey)

Architect Robert Mills designed the Burlington Prison to accommodate just 40 convicts when it was built in 1811. Like most other prisons, however, it eventually became overcrowded: By 1965, when it closed, nearly 100 inmates were living there.

The prison is now a museum, and when remodeling began in 1999, ghosts started making their presence known. Not surprisingly, workers weren't too thrilled to be sharing the building with the spirits of the dead, so paranormal investigators were called in to quell their fears. Unfortunately, that strategy backfired when the ghost hunters declared the place to be haunted. Some of the unexplained activity included missing tools showing up in different locations, unusual noises, and two visible ghosts - one in the shower area and another that is thought to be a prisoner who hung himself in a maximum-security cell. Before it closed, Burlington Prison was the oldest operating prison in the United States. Many of the former inmates are still there to welcome visitors - at least in spirit.


Idaho State Penitentiary (Boise, Idaho)

The earlly inmates at the Idaho State Penitentiary (which opened around 1870) were model prisoners, but by the 1930s, the convicts admitted they were much more violent and cunning. The prison closed in the 1970s due to riots brought on by the prison's pitiful living conditions. Where there is violence, there's also a good chance that spirits will linger behind. It's no surprise that a tremendous feeling of sadness is experienced in the execution chamber, but visitors' reactions to it are unusually strong: Some have become agitated and overcome with the feeling of dread, while others have dissolved into tears and reported feeling physically ill. And then there are the noises - crying, moaning, and the sounds of guards walking the halls emanate from this facility's walls. The prison, which is now an official historic site, is used as a museum and is open for public tours.


Old City Jail (Charleston, South Carolina)

Before Charleston's city jail was built in 1802, the land on which it stands was designated for public use. Runaway slaves were held at a workhouse there, and the homeless came by for free meals and medical care. The area became less gentrified after the jail was built and harded criminals and the criminally insane moved in. Over the years, the facility held pirates of the high seas and a great number of slaves who were involved in a revolt in 1822. With its long history and unusual combination of residents, it's no surprise that the Old City Jail has more than a few ghost hanging around.

One of the spectres frequently observed at the jail is an African American male, who probably worked on the premises as a slave. His clothing is ragged and he appears to be carrying a heavy load on his shoulders; he seems oblivious to his living counterparts. But a more violent presence also resides at the jail. Visitors have experienced the sensation that they were being pushed, tugged, or tapped by an unseen force, and many have actually felt physically ill. Today the Old City Jail building houses the American College of the Building Arts and is an official "Save America's Treasures" project.


Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (Lucasville, Ohio)

One of the worst prison riots in history took place in April 1993 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility. For ten days some 450 prisoner staged an uprising in Cellblock L of this maximum-security prison. In the end, five prisoners were sentenced to death for their roles in the fracas that left nine prisoners and one guard dead. Since then, guards patrolling Cellblock L have reported seeing apparitions in the area. They've also heard doors slam and seen shadows when no one else was around. One guard followed a prisoner who was walking the halls after lockdown, only to watch the man vanish before his eyes.