Where are the Most Haunted Prisons in America?

Where are the Most Haunted Prisons in America?

The prisons of days gone by were known for overpopulation, riots, inmates killing other inmates and guards, torture, dank creepy cells and hidey holes where inmates were placed in solitary confinement. When you mix all that together, you come up with a formula for a good ole haunting.

Perhaps you’re wondering if your state is home to one of the most haunted in the country. My own state’s resident haunt ranks number five!

Coming in at number one is without a doubt, Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary (Philadelphia, PA)

Eastern State was the first in the country to house inmates separately. At the time, the warden was required by law to visit every inmate every day. It wasn’t quite as nice and cozy as it sounds as the inmates were tortured as a control method.

Can you imagine being soaked with water then chained out in the middle of winter to be left there until ice formed on your skin? It doesn’t sound like much fun to me! That was just one of many ways they tortured the inmates, and many perished under the harsh conditions.

The paranormal reports started sometime in the 1940’s. For instance in cell block #4 there were sudden appearances of ghostly faces, where as in cell block #6 they would see shadow figures all around the walls, but the worst was cell block #12 where evil laughter and voices can be heard.

The prison shut down officially in 1971. Tours are given and it is a very popular place around Halloween.

Alcatraz, known as “The Rock” (San Francisco, California)

“The Rock” is probably the most famous of all the prisons on this list. It also may hold the title as one of the creepiest prisons in the world. Situated in the middle of the San Francisco Bay on a rocky island, the prison lacked the most escape routes (not that it didn’t stop those who dared try).

Built in 1859, it actually started out as a military prison but in time it held some of the most notorious lawbreakers such as Al Capone, Doc Barker, Machine Gun (George) Kelly and many others.

By the 1920’s it had closed its doors but then re-opened in 1933 as an escape proof federal prison. It was a place of brutal punishment. There were so many suicides, murders and those who went insane there that it seemed a daily occurrence.

It was eventually closed down in 1963 but its notoriety of being one of the most haunted prisons opened it up for tours and paranormal investigations. Staff members of the National Park Service operate the property now.

Many ghostly sightings have been reported and recorded. Strange disembodied loud sudden screams, yells, crying and eerie music have been heard. Many of these reports are even from the staff members of the Park Service.

Sounds of running in upstairs cell blocks have been reported. It seems that cell number 14D is known for giving anyone who ventures inside a very unsettling feeling. This feeling has even been known to follow the people home.


Maxwell Street Police Station (Chicago, Illinois)

The jail first opened up in 1889 and became known as “Bloody Maxwell” and “Wickedest Police District in the World”. Thanks to the corruptness & brutality of the police department the conditions for the inmates were deplorable. Upon initial booking the inmates were put into rat and spirit-infested cells that had no heat.

The basement apparently became the torture chamber which inmates never came out of alive. Visitors claim to hear moaning, crying, sounds of rattling bars and handcuff chains in the basement.


Pottawatomie County Jail (Council Bluffs, Iowa)

Known as the “Squirrel Cage Jail”, it was built in 1885 and is one of the most unusual jails in America as it has a three tier cell block that holds ten cells on each tier. The original design allowed for continuous rotation throughout the night by a water wheel in the basement of the building. With this system all of the inmates could be watched from a central location in the building.

There was a major flaw in this as the cell block portion weighed in at a hefty 45 tons and was too heavy to work the way it was supposed to so it got stuck frequently. A night guard was hired for those times. The cylinder in the basement was used until the 1960’s when a prisoner died in his cell when the cell block jammed, trapping his body in his cell for several days.

Although only three prisoners died inside the jail (the one trapped in his cell, another died of a heart attack, yet the third died when he fell to his death as he was trying to write his name on the ceiling of his cell) it is believed that the first superintendent, J.M. Carter, is one of the spirits haunting the place. Another is believed to be an officer who accidently shot himself protecting the jail from an angry mob in 1932.

Reports of groans, odd noises, and phantom footsteps are only a fraction of the activity being captured.


Mansfield Reformatory (Mansfield, Ohio)

It’s not only known as being haunted but it has also been the backdrop for several movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, Air Force One, Escape Plan Three, Fallen Angels, Tango & Cash,  and the list goes on and on. There have been television shows and music videos filmed there as well.

First opening its doors in 1896 the original plan was to hold criminals too old for juvenile facilities and not hardened enough to be held at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio.

Back in the 1930’s a riot broke out in the east cell block. It took a while but the guards got the rioters under control and condemned 120 of them to share 12 cells for a week. They were not given any food or water during this time. It drove many to madness and for others it meant death.

Due to the close quarters, tuberculosis and influenza spread like wildfire. A cemetery was erected on the prison grounds. It holds more than 215 bodies.

Disease wasn’t the only killer in these halls, however. Many inmates succumbed to mental illness, hanging themselves and one actually set himself on fire.

Visitors report being pushed by unseen hands, there are explainable chills & cold spots while you are on the prison grounds, cell doors being slammed by unseen hands have been heard as well as the appearance shadow people. EVP’s have been captured of ghostly voices in many areas.

Ah but it isn’t just the ghostly inmates haunting the location but also former guards and prison officials. Then there is the tale of one resident ghost that is reported to be Helen Glattke, who was the wife of Warden Arthur Glattke. Poor Helen passed in 1950 while in an apartment in the administrative wing of the prison. Her death was caused by a loaded handgun that fell from a closet shelf and discharged. Her spirit has stayed in that apartment since. People report smelling her perfume all around the apartment.


OHIO PENITENTIARY (Formerly in Columbus, Ohio)

Opening its doors in 1834, it was condemned in the early 1900’s but not closed until 1979. The old prison has since been demolished. During the years of operation the prison saw deaths caused by fire, cholera outbreaks, murder and executions in the state’s electric chair.

None of that however matched the horror of the fire that engulfed the prison in April of 1930. As the blaze swept through the west block of the prison, it killed over 320 inmates in a single night.

Even while the prison was open, inmates would complain of seeing ghosts, and report eerie events. When the buildings were torn down, there were even tales of seeing ghostly apparitions among the ruins of what was once the prison.

The ground was cleared and a new sports arena was erected in its place. Guess what? Yes, that sports arena is also haunted. Ghostly specters have been seen, odd noises heard when no one is around, and noises that do not belong to what is now standing there.


WEST VIRGINIA PENITENTIARY (Moundsville, West Virginia)

photo: canyouactually.com

Built on the edge of Moundsville in 1866, the prison was finally closed down in 1995. Many inmates lost their lives whether it was through state sanctioned executions or from prison violence.

Since its closure, the prison has gained the reputation as being one of the most haunted sites in the country. In the North Hall, where most of the most dangerous of the inmates were housed and the execution chamber where the electric chair (nicknamed “Old Sparky”), and the “Hole” (a horrid solitary confinement area, where many went insane and committed suicide) seems to be where the most of the hauntings occur.

It was the perfect storm. Ghost hunters from novice to professional have performed investigations in the former penitentiary over the many years.

Claims of phantom footsteps, voices and unexplained noises, of inexplicable cold spots and overwhelming feelings of panic have been reported by those who dared to investigate the location.

Now there are so many more that can be added to this list however on many lists, these are the ones that are reported to be most haunted.

I am a published author that specializes in stories of paranormal, supernatural and children's books. My books are available as Kindle or paperback versions on Amazon. I have had many personal paranormal experiences besides having the best (late) Grandmother who could spin the best ghost stories ever.

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