Prisons are commonly cited as being some of the most haunted places in the world. This makes sense when the history of these facilities is considered. Prisons, especially the earlier incarnations, were not pleasant places to be kept. They would often be overcrowded with dangerous individuals, cold, torturous, dark, violent and disease-ridden places where many drew their final breaths. Lives were ended through illness, murder, suicide and execution in many prisons, with each death contributing reasons as to why they may be haunted. Here are where you can find 5 of the most haunted prisons in the world.
One of the best-known prisons, famous not just for its ghost stories, is Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. It wasn’t until 1933 when Alcatraz was officially named as a federal prison, though it did have a long life before this, which included use as a military fort. Alcatraz soon became known as one of the hardest prisons in the United States, it was a place for the worst of the worst to be kept. It didn’t take long after opening for Alcatraz to gain a reputation as one of the fiercest prisons in the United States. Poor living conditions contributed to this reputation along with starvation and torturous punishments. Adding to this the violence, murders and suicides the prison experienced, it was quite an undesirable place to be.
Understanding life inside Alcatraz helps one to see why there were so many escape attempts made there. During its 29 operational years, Alcatraz saw 14 escape attempts made by 36 men. Of these, 23 were caught, 6 were shot dead by guards, 2 were confirmed to have drowned and 5 others were presumed to have drowned, yet are still missing. Of course, with such an intense history Alcatraz has managed to accumulate a number of ghost stories, with some of these even dating back to when the prison was functioning.
One of the spookiest places in Alcatraz is known as D Block. This was where solitary confinement cells were present. One very disturbing story about D Block took place in the 1940s when an unfortunate prisoner was thrown into cell 14D. His behavior this night was described as erratic and concerned. According to guards, he was complaining there was an evil entity in the cell with him who had glowing red eyes and was violently attacking him. The guards ignored these claims and the prisoner spent the next few hours screaming in terror, before eventually falling silent. The next morning, this man was found dead in his cell, with strange marks around his neck that are said to have not been self-inflicted. To this day, cell 14D remains infamous, with many people who enter claiming to feel vertigo and sighting those same red eyes floating in a black mist. In addition to this, some even claim Al Capone haunts the showers, another ghost said to be murdered in the laundry still haunts C Block and there are plenty of other spirits said to roam the prison grounds.
4. San Lucas Island Prison
To follow Alcatraz on this list is a prison that shares a lot of similarities, the San Lucas Prison. This scary jail lies on a remote island off the tropical coast of Costa Rica and is said to have been a death sentence to many who were sent there. This prison is one of the most formidable on this list for its poor living conditions and the torture methods that were used there. To paint a picture of the poor conditions at the San Lucas Prison, up to 60 men would be crammed into communal cells at one time. There were also other cells used for solitary confinement that existed unground and were often flooded with water and raw sewage. The San Lucas Prison was operational from 1873 through to 1991 and held the countries fiercest criminals, just like Alcatraz, it was strategically built offshore to keep these offenders as far away from civilization as possible.
The prison has been left in abandonment since the early 90s and continues to wear many different stains from its past. Perhaps one of the most disturbing marks left here is the crude artworks painted in human blood across some of the cell walls. Murder, suicide and disease claimed a massive death toll on the San Lucas Island. For this reason, it has become a notorious site for ghost stories.
The most prevalent ghost story that is associated with this island prison is that of a murdered nurse. The story goes that an unfortunate nurse was raped and murdered by the inmates on the island. Ever since, her spirit has remained here, trapped. Many visitors have claimed to sight her apparition and even heard the reassuring voice of a woman whisper in their ears. In addition to this nurse, the ghost of a priest is also commonly sighted walking the grounds of the prison. He is thought to have also been murdered by violent inmates. Furthermore, there have been many to report the disturbing sounds of men crying out in pain, screams and begging that echo though the empty cells, as well as sightings of shadowy figures moving through the cells late at night.
3. Old Geelong Gaol
The Old Geelong Gaol was once one of the fiercest prisons in Australia. This building was built between 1849 and 1864 and remained open until 1991. In addition to functioning as a jail, this iconic building was also used by the Australian Army post-WWII as a detention barracks and was even used as an industrial school for girls. The Old Geelong Gaol was a place where many drew their last breaths and while the prison’s gallows only claimed the lives of 4 inmates, murder and illnesses caused a further 500 documented deaths.
Many tales of the supernatural have circulated about this penitentiary and it has gained quite a reputation as being one of the most haunted places in Australia. One of the most prevalent stories of a haunting relates to former guards. Many have claimed to sight what appears to be a guard, still monitoring the now empty hallways of the Old Geelong Gaol. Apparitions of this guard are commonly spotted around the central staircase within the jail as well as upon the walkways.
Others believe there could be something darker haunting various areas of the space, with some even claiming the activity to occur in particular areas to be demonic. Certain cells, the walkways, shower block, morgue and kitchen are all considered to be haunted by different entities. Visual anomalies have also been reported all throughout the jail. It is believed that many of those lurking inside the dark cells could be former prisoners. Interestingly, many have also claimed to encounter a young girl within the jail. It is speculated that her energy could be leftover from the prison’s days as an industrial school for girls. Countless other paranormal experiences have been documented at the old prison, with many strange noises, smells and even violent attacks occurring.
2. Eastern State Penitentiary
This list now returns to the United States, specifically to Philadelphia and the notorious Eastern State Penitentiary. This prison’s doors opened in 1829 and it remained functional through until 1971. Eastern State was modeled to use the Pennsylvania System or Separate System, this was a type of controversial solitary confinement. This solitary confinement was taken very seriously with sound kept to a bare minimum and the hooding of prisoners heads being used every time they were required to exit their cells. Although this was all well-intended, it did more to harm the psychological state of inmates rather than to help them.
You’ll find religious ideologies in the design of Eastern State, with their purpose to instill penitence in its prisoners. One of the most famous symbols representing this was the single slitted skylight present in the roof of each cell that was known as the Eye of God. Punishment was also prevalent at Eastern State. Many who misbehaved would be forced to spend time in the underground Klondike, or even worse, face torture methods known as the Mad Chair or Iron Gag.
With such a dark and disturbing history, it comes as no surprise to learn that many consider this to be one of the most haunted places in the United States. Countless reports of screams, cries, whispers and footsteps being heard within the empty prison exist. There have also been many people to encounter and sight dark shadowy figures within the old penitentiary. Some claim these could be former guards still watching over the now-empty prison. One of the most famous ghost stories to circulate about Eastern State relates to the infamous Al Capone, who spent a short amount of time in a lavish cell at Eastern State. Supposedly, during his time in this cell, Capone complained that he was haunted by the ghost of James Clark, one of the victims of the St. Valentine’s Massacre.
1. Old Richmond Gaol
The top position on this list is reserved for the Old Richmond Gaol located in Tasmania, Australia. While this is not the most widely known prison, it is the oldest and one of the scariest on this list. This goal was built between 1825 and 1840. It was an early convict era built facility and remains the oldest intact goal in Australia, even pre-dating the notorious Port Arthur. The jail remains largely as it was during its operational years and includes sleeping rooms for the convict chain gangs, a flogging/whipping yard, a cookhouse, holding rooms and solitary confinement cells that were truly horrible places to spend time.
While executions were never performed at this jail, its inmates suffered tremendously in other ways. From the time it opened, the prison was already terribly overcrowded with some areas filled so densely there wasn’t even sufficient room to sleep. The prison was also a place of work, where chain gangs would be sent out each day to slave away, building stone structures such as the nearby Richmond Bridge. Furthermore, punishments such as spending time in solitary confinement cells or being subjected to flagellations or lashings were common.
Many people have claimed to experience the paranormal within the Richmond Goal and it is considered to be extremely haunted. One of the most active areas is said to be the men’s solitary confinement cells, where people have claimed to hear strange noises, feel cold shivers as they approach and even meet face to face with something sinister and dark. The Gaoler’s House is another area thought to be haunted by the families that previously occupied it. Here, a lady in a pink dress has been sighted and ghost children have been said to run up and down the stairs. It is speculated these children could be that of a Randal Young, who was the Gaoler here during the 1830s. Plenty more activity has been reported all throughout the Richmond Goal and it is one of the most interesting places you can visit while in Tasmania, one that I would highly recommend to all.
Thanks for reading!