The Old Charleston Jail

Categories
Haunted Places

Date of Establishment

The Old Jail was originally built in 1802 in Charleston, SC and stands to this day in the Downtown area. It reined until 1939 as a prison, poor house, hospital, and workhouse for slaves at its full capacity to serve the town.

Name & Location

The jail has many names through-out history the two that stuck for the hundreds of years it has stood are the Old Charleston Jail and Old Jail for short. Located in the French Quarter part of Downtown Charleston the jail stands tall as a reminder to locals to the history Charleston has endured and recovered from.

Physical Description

The Old City of Charleston, South Carolina is located in the Downtown area. It’s dark and gothic in appearance, standing four stories tall with an octagonal tower. Its moss-covered stone walls tower over the grounds, it has large windows covered with rode iron bars. It has undergone a few remodeling’s in its days, the largest being after the great earthquake of 1886

Origin

The true “first” report to come of ghostly figures haunting the halls is unknown, but since 1886 they have become more recorded. Since the jail’s start, it has been associated with hauntings for spirits and strange occurrences.

Mythology and Lore

It has housed some of the most crazed criminals over the many years including 19th-century pirates, Civil War Prisoners of Wars, and notable inmates through-out Charleston history. It’s believed to be haunted by all types of inmates who died during their incarceration, including many holding the death penalty. Some of the occurrences reported through-out time have ranged from objects simply moving on their own, strange or disembodied voices, ghostly whispers passing through the air, slamming doors, footprints in the dust, the dumbwaiter moving between floors and more. A ghost to appear is a guard on patrol with his rifle in hand, he seems to charge toward guests or workers in the jail hall before vanishing. Many reports their photographs from tours of the jail are haunted by ghostly faces or figures. Lavinia Fisher is one of the more infamous criminals to spend time behind the Old Jail’s walls, credited to be the first female serial killer. She and her husband John were owners of a Charleston inn named the Six Mile Wayfarer House. This hotel had large reports of guests disappearing, being poisoned, stabbed, and the more time went on the ghastly tales got worse. Leading the police to arrest the gang of murderous lovers, the pair waited out their final days at the Old Jail before begin hung in the courtyard and buried in the on-site cemetery. Locals and tourist report seeing Lavinia’s spirit roaming the grounds to this very day, appearing in photographs taken on the second floor of the building.

There is not a shortage of tales and reported encounters coming from the Old Jail, though the spirits credited for them are hard to identify. The Old Charleston Jail held vast numbers of inmates and has countless dead reports to go with it. Many locals enjoy the thrill of roaming its floors and seeking out encounters, as the jail maintains its tours and viewing; just beware you may be touched or grabbed.

Modern Pop-Culture References

Books & Literature

Abode of Misery: An Illustrated Compilation of Facts, Secrets, and Myths of the Old Charleston District Jail (2010)

Hidden History of Old Charleston (2010)

TV Shows

Ghost Adventures: Old Charleston Jail (season 5 episode 10

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