Join Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions! Subscribe Today!

A Look At America’s Most Haunted Jails (Part One)

When we think of the most haunted jails in the United States, Alcatraz is one of the most popular and well-known locations. And while Alcatraz certainly has a reputation for being extremely haunted, there are numerous other jails across the country that have just as much paranormal activity. So let’s jump right in and take a look at some of America’s most haunted jails.

Missouri State Penitentiary

Nicknamed “the bloodiest 47 acres in America”, the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City is rumored to be quite haunted. During its 168 years in operation (from 1836 to 2004), many criminals walked through the doors, such as heavyweight boxing champion Sonny Liston, and James Earl Ray who escaped in 1967 only to murder Martin Luther King Jr. the following year. The prison is also known for its infamous 1954 riot that killed four inmates and injured 50 others along with four hurt officers.

With 40 executions taking place there, it’s not surprising that several deceased inmates are still said to reside at the location. Employees as well as visitors to the jail have reported numerous encounters with ghosts, such as seeing their apparitions as well as hearing disembodied voices and unexplained sounds.

West Virginia Penitentiary

Located in Moundsville, the West Virginia Penitentiary operated from 1876 to 1995 and saw a total of 94 prisoners executed which is more than likely the reason for the high level of paranormal activity, specifically a residual type of haunting where the tragic events of the past seemingly replay over and over again.

The chapel, death row, shower cages, the “hole”, the Sugar Shack (recreational area), and the North Wagon Gate (where prisoners were brought to be executed by hanging) are the most common areas for paranormal activity. The North Hall, where the most dangerous prisoners were held, is also said to be an active location. While visiting the jail, numerous visitors have reported hearing unexplained footsteps, voices, and other noises, as well as experiencing sudden cold spots and feeling panicked. Additionally, there is a circular entrance gate that inexplicably turns on its own as if inmates are still arriving at the jail long after their deaths.

Ohio Penitentiary

With a history of many deaths caused by fires, murders, executions, and even a cholera outbreak, the Ohio Penitentiary is the perfect recipe for a haunting – or least it was until it was demolished. When the jail was still in operation, inmates reported seeing apparitions – more than likely the victims of the devastating fire of 1930 that killed 322 prisoners. It was even reported that when people stood in the prison yard, they could hear the sounds of phantom flames as well as screams from the men trapped inside of the burning jail.

Even though the location is now home to a sports arena (Nationwide Arena where the NHL team Columbus Blue Jackets play), people still say that the property is haunted as there have been reports of hockey fans claiming to have smelled smoke and heard men crying out in anguish, especially in the parking deck area.

Inside of the Ohio State Reformatory.

Ohio State Reformatory

Made famous by the 1994 movie “The Shawshank Redemption”, the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield is reportedly haunted by a number of spirits in several different areas of the jail. The first floor east wing (especially the showers and toilet room) is said to be home to several shadow people but not as many apparitions as the third floor where numerous shadows, disembodied voices, phantom footsteps and the feeling of being watched have all been experienced in that location. A large amount of murders and suicides happened in the east and west cell blocks and it’s apparently so haunted that even grown men have been brought to tears. Additional suicides happened in solitary confinement (“The Hole”) so that’s another frightening area. The west attic is said to be pretty eerie as well as the chapel where the spirits are said to grab visitors. The basement is a particularly haunted area as two spirits – one nice and one not so nice – have been seen down there.

These are just four of the most haunted jails in America, so keep an eye out for part two of this article which will be written soon.