If during the turn of the century you were handcuffed and sent to a local small town jail in Florida, you may have been granted a horrific passport to one of the most gruesome slammers in the country.
Old dreadful jails and prisons have paved the way to rank against the most haunted places in the world. Here are four of the most spectral and frightening lock-ups in the stormy Sunshine State!
The Haunted Old Hamilton County Jail Credit: Suwannee Democrat
Built in 1893, the Old Hamilton County Jail’s history made actual chilling headlines during its time as an active prison. This brick and steel structure was the last prison east of the Mississippi for the last three legal hangings (as verified by actual photographs in its museum). A prison stained with the atrocities of racial segregation, many historians have claimed that two African Americans and one Caucasian man were hanged from the tower. These hanging became a public spectacle, bringing throngs of local folks to watch the primitive executions. There were other plentiful deaths that occurred inside the jail. One woman allegedly committed suicide and another man was killed within its walls.
When the jail closed in 1984, it was the oldest operating jail in the state. Registered on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1983, today it serves as the Hamilton County Historical Society. This property is so well known for its haunts, that the NRHP’s nomination form mentions that the building has a haunted reputation within the local folklore.
The jail, per many witnesses and paranormal investigators, is haunted by the ghosts of its former residents. Staff all agree that the old jail is haunted because of the hangings that took place there, as well as the reported violence that occurred within the jail cells. Eerie disembodied voices and unusual noises and footsteps can be heard consistently. Shadow apparitions have also been reported.
This property was featured on the “World’s Largest Ghost Hunt” in 2018.
Credit: Skyway Paranormal
Dark Hunters Paranormal Group will be also be offering the Old Hamilton County Jail as one of their featured Ghost Hunting Events on October 5, 2019, just in time for the Halloween Season!
The Haunted Old Clay County Jail Credit: Flickr
Built in 1894, the Old Clay County Jail is considered one of the oldest jails in Florida. As an active prison, this property had its share of the most deplorable criminals in the area. The maximum security area in the upstairs area facing south, held notorious rapists and murderers. Drunk sailors sobered up in one of three large cells during weekends ashore during World War II. Other cells held two or four prisoners found guilty of prostitution, gambling or theft. Unfortunately added to this mix of evil, were those that were classified as mentally insane by the judicial system.
Between 1894 and 1916, six executions by hanging were performed here. There is also one recorded suicide. The jail stopped holding prisoners in 1972, but many of its souls have not left.
Many claim that the hauntings here are a result of the tragic deaths that has occurred within these dreadful walls, believed to have unfinished revengeful business. Some of the unusual activity that takes place here includes disembodied voices and footsteps. Cell doors creak and clang on their own and unseen hands like to touch visitors.
This property was featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters.
The Haunted Old Jail in St Augustine Florida Credit: Backpacker Verse
According to accounts, the original jail was not only an eye-sore, it was within view from one of Henry Flagler's luxurious St. Augustine hotels. Flagler, being the business man that he was, knew that guests would not want to see a jail while vacationing in the beautiful city of St Augustine. With this motivation, he was compelled to relocate the jail by constructing a new building that would resemble the many other impressive structures in the area. And so, the Old Jail was designed and built by Henry Flagler.
In 1891, this magnificent Romanesque style architecture was a good blend within the other stately properties in St. Augustine. For the next 60 years, male and female prisoners were held her. This facility also housed the sheriff and his family. The hanging gallows which remain on the property, are a reminder of the horrific (and most common cause) of deaths that darkens the jail's history.
While alive, the prisoners lived in conditions here were hard and cruel. Wild vicious dogs roamed the jail’s corridors as a means of keeping inmates in their cells. In addition, the inmates were not allow to bathe, due to restricted water supply limited only for consumption. The temperatures inside the structure accentuated the common unforgivable heat the climate presents during Florida's summers. In addition, their sleeping mats were made of the Spanish Moss that commonly hang from the large Oak Tree found throughout Florida. This combination made their living conditions very difficult with high infestation of insects and rodents. As a result, sickness by dysentery (and other infectious culprits) was common in the Old Jail, followed by a slow and consuming death.
Many note an unexplainable consistent sweet smell which resembles that of molasses. Although extraordinary efforts have been attempted to remove this smell, it is not possible. Many hear the growls and bark of the jail house dogs, while others hear the hums of spirituals like “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” echoing the halls. Disembodied footsteps with synchronized sounds of chains may also be heard, believed to be the phantoms of those that remain captive in these walls. Witnesses have also reported hearing shouts, wails and moans. Perhaps these are the residual hauntings of those that suffered the slow death of dysentery?
Today the Old jail is opened to the public as a museum ... and (of course) ... as an intriguing property for ghost hunters.
Old Haunted Gilchrist County Jail in Trenton FL Credit: All Events
Old Gilchrist County Jail has first opened in 1928, closing a short 40 years later in 1968. The small two story building has three cells on the first level and five upstairs. The house part of the jail was only added the last 2 years it was there.
The history of the jail house is an anthology of the most unnerving tales. Two sheriffs were killed here in the line of duty. One of them, Sidney Slaughter, was shot and killed in 1934 by three unknown men committing a robbery. They have never been identified. Then there was Mark Read, who in 1956 was shot and killed on a domestic disturbance call. The murderer was caught this time. Harley Conner was later executed for this murder.
More dark history followed, one being very recent. In 2008, a fella called Willie James was shot in an altercation away from the actual property. His dying body was dragged to this abandoned jail and left for dead.
Today, the jail house remains as it was left when it was closed. Nothing has changed, fixed or improved.
Although this property is quite small, it is packed with ghostly activity.
One of the most common experience is that of folks feeling of tightness in their chest. It is sometimes attributed to possible experiences that previous inmate had as they were dying from heart or lung conditions. Many unexplainable creaks can be heard and other noises coming from the opposite floor that people are actually on. Digital voice recordings have also been captured.
There have been photo shoots and movies are being filmed there and many paranormal groups to visit the jail. It has been visited by many paranormal investigators, sometimes repeatedly. It is most definitely haunted.
A tour of The Old Gilchrist County Jail
(Courtesy: Brooksville PIT)
Places that are listed in our articles or in Haunted Journeys catalog require permission to visit or investigate. Many of these places are patrolled by the owners and/or authorities, and stand the risk of you being prosecuted for trespassing. Rules for Public locations must be respected as posted on their properties/grounds. For recommendations on how to conduct yourselves with abandoned properties, please visit Haunted Places Around Me.
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