According to U.S.A. Today, Yuma Territorial Prison in Arizona has been named the “Best Haunted Destination” in America. And it’s not surprising since it’s known as one of the most paranormally active locations in the entire country.
The prison was constructed in 1876 and several prisoners even had to build their own cells, with the first seven inmates moving in on July 1, 1876. During its 33 years in operation, the prison was home to a total of 3,069 inmates which included 29 women. One of their most well-known prisoners was the infamous stagecoach robber Pearl Hart who was sentenced to 5 years in jail in 1899, but did not serve out her full sentence as she was pardoned in 1902. Her partner in crime, Joe Boot, received a much heftier sentence of 30 years, but escaped the prison in 1901 never to be seen again.
The prison became overcrowded, and in 1909, all of the inmates were moved to a new jail in Florence, Arizona. In 1961, the prison became the 3rd state park, and now the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is opened for visitors to tour the historical and supposedly haunted facility.
As for the paranormal activity, there’s a legend of a little girl who was wearing a red dress and tragically drowned in the Colorado River while she was trying to get her doll out of the water. She is said to haunt the prison and she will even poke or pinch visitors with her icy-cold fingers if she doesn’t like them or if they’re wearing red clothing. The ghost of the little girl’s mother has been seen wandering along the banks of the river looking for her daughter.
Many people have reported seeing apparitions of former inmates at the prison. Several of the inmates who died while incarcerated are buried at an old cemetery that’s located just down the hill from the prison. While numerous inmates died from tuberculosis, at least one prisoner committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell and a couple more were killed during a riot in 1887. Some visitors to the location have heard an angry disembodied voice telling them to “get out”.
A lot of the reports come from the “dark cell” where the inmates were put when they broke the rules. As punishment, the prisoners’ clothes would be taken from them, leaving them with just their underwear, as they were chained in a completely pitch black cell. To make matters worse, sometimes the guards would throw in scorpions to torture the inmates. The torture they endured in the “dark cell” severely affected some inmates, as two prisoners were transferred to an insane asylum after spending time down there. It is also the location where many visitors get very uneasy feelings.
Cell 14 is a hotspot for paranormal activity, as former inmate John Ryan (who was at the prison around the year 1900) committed suicide in his cell. Several people have felt unexplained cold spots that gave them the chills when they walked past his cell.
According to state historian Marshall Trimble, “The offices and museum have also seen their share of strange happenings.” He continued on by explaining, “Things are often moved about, lights turn on and off, and on one occasion, coins from the cash register in the gift shop literally flew into the air and landed back in the drawer!”