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Exploring the Dark and Haunted History of Abandoned US Prisons

Uncovering the Dark History of Abandoned Prisons

Prisons are places that evoke a sense of fear and unease in most individuals, as they are known to house dangerous and violent criminals. Abandoned prisons across the United States have been attracting tourists for various reasons, ranging from entertainment to education and even ghost-hunting adventures.

These prisons are a window into the dark and sordid history of the American justice system and provide a firsthand glimpse into the lives of prisoners who were confined within their walls. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

The Alcatraz Island prison is the most notorious of all the abandoned prisons in the US, serving as home to some of the most dangerous criminals during its time.

Located in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, the prison was infamous for its harsh living conditions and brutal treatment of prisoners. Visitors can now take a tour of the island, learning about the history of the penitentiary, seeing real-life artefacts, and even recreating their own prison mugshot.

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, OH

The Ohio State Reformatory gained popularity thanks to the movie “The Shawshank Redemption.” Visitors can take guided tours or nighttime ghost-hunting expeditions to explore the famous prison. It is well-known for its rampant paranormal activity, and many have reported strange occurrences during their visits.

The prison became infamous for its overcrowded and unlivable conditions, leading to numerous riots. Old Idaho Penitentiary, Boise, ID

The Old Idaho Penitentiary served as a prison for 101 years before finally being closed in 1973.

It was built in 1870, and visitors can take guided tours inside the cells and communal areas to experience its sordid history. The penitentiary is apparently a hub of paranormal activity and is believed by many to be cursed due to the number of deaths that occurred within its walls.

Notable prisoners include Lady Bluebeard, a female serial killer and a massive riot that took place in 1971. Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, MO

The Missouri State Penitentiary is one of the deadliest prisons in US history, known for its numerous executions and appalling living conditions.

Visitors can take tours of the prison, including the haunted-tour, which focuses on the eerie and tragic deaths of the inmates. The prison is also renowned for its notable prisoners, including Charles “Sonny” Liston, a boxer who was once the heavyweight champion of the world, and Emma Goldman, a birth-control advocate and political activist.

Wyoming Territorial Prison, Laramie, WY

Built-in 1872, the Wyoming Territorial Prison housed criminals and served as a blueprint for the modern prison system. Visitors can take guided tours of the prison and see authentic artefacts like firearms and prison uniforms.

The prison was well-known for its harsh conditions, consisting of hard labor and strict discipline. It even played a supporting role in the popular video game “Red Dead Redemption.”

Fort Delaware, Delaware City, DE

During the American Civil War, Fort Delaware was converted into a Union prison camp and detained tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers.

Visitors can take a tour of the prison, seeing the living quarters of the soldiers and hearing about their daily routines. Growth hunting tours are also available, with guests often reporting ghost sightings and unexplainable phenomena.

West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, WV

The West Virginia Penitentiary is known as one of the most haunted abandoned prisons in America, with visitors claiming to have seen and communicated with spirits. Visitors can take guided tours, with specialty tours being offered that focus on specific eras in the prison’s history.

The prison was notorious for being one of the deadliest in the country, and visitors can learn about the dangerous and sometimes brutal conditions that existed for the prisoners. Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, AZ

Yuma Territorial Prison was operational from 1876 to 1909.

It was one of the most prominent prisons of its time, known for incarcerating many infamous prisoners, including Butch Cassidy, who was eventually pardoned. Visitors can explore the infamous dark cells, get up-close with prison artefacts, and pose for a mugshot.

Pearl Hart, a notorious female train robber, is also a notable prisoner of the prison. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the world’s most famous and expensive prison, built in 1829, and closed in 1971.

Visitors can take guided tours to explore the prison cells, see recreated inmate life, and learn about the prison’s innovative but controversial system of isolation. Additionally, Steve Buscemi, who directed a documentary here, narrates the twilight tours that visitors can take.


Abandoned prisons offer visitors a unique opportunity to learn about the dark history of the American justice system and uncover the terrible conditions that prisoners endured during their incarceration. The prisons also offer ghost-hunting tours, adding an extra dimension to the experience, as visitors can hear about the unexplainable phenomena that continue to occur within their walls.

These prisons spark debate about the value of rehabilitation versus punishment, preserving the physical reminders of the past, and educating the public. Exploring Abandoned Prisons in the US – Design, Paranormal Activity and Haunted Tours

Abandoned prisons are remarkable tourist attractions that captivate visitors from around the world.

Not only do they offer a glimpse into the harsh living conditions of inmates, but they offer a unique design perspective of how these correctional facilities were constructed. Many tourists also visit these prisons to experience the paranormal activity reported by visitors and tourists alike.

In this article, we delve into the design and architecture of two abandoned prisons, as well as the paranormal activity reported within them. Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, OH

Built-in 1886, the Ohio State Reformatory stands as a Stark reminder of the severity of the US criminal justice system.

The architecture of the prison is awe-inspiring, with its castle-like turrets and studded gates, making it a sight to see for tourists visiting Ohio. The prison was designed by Cleveland architects, Levi T.

Scofield and Frank L. Packard, who had a particular interest in the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture.

The prison was built-in conjunction with the Queen Anne-style, which is prevalent in American late-Victorian architecture. The prison’s administration building is the most notable feature, along with a plethora of decorative stonework and carvings.

The Ohio State Reformatory gained popularity thanks to the hit movie, “The Shawshank Redemption,” which was filmed here. Visitors can tour the prison, learn about the history of the prison, watch clips from the movie, and even see props used in the filming.

The prison also gained notoriety for its excessive paranormal activity. Visitors frequently report seeing shadow-like figures, hearing disembodied whispers, and feeling the presences of apparitions.

These paranormal experiences resulted in overnight ghost-hunting tours, giving tourists an opportunity to experience the supernatural happenings for themselves. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

Eastern State Penitentiary is an imposing Gothic-style prison located in Philadelphia.

The prison was designed by architect John Haviland in the 1820s and was one of the most innovative and humane prisons in the world at that time. The prison was designed with a radial plan, a design based on a wagon wheel where the central hub was the security headquarters, and the spokes were the prison cells.

The spoke-like design ensured that the guard station had unobstructed views of every cell block, making it easier to prevent escapes. The prison had a total of 11 cell blocks that were entirely isolated, with no access to natural light or sound.

In the 1970s, Eastern State Penitentiary was abandoned, and its cells remained empty, turning it into the worlds most famous abandoned state. The prisons conditions deteriorated, and the granite walls aged, lending the prison a spooky atmosphere that tourists love to explore.

The Eastern State Penitentiary has since gained notoriety for its harrowing ghost sightings. Paranormal activity reported at the prison includes strange shadows and voices that can be heard throughout the facility, which is said to be inherently haunted due to the prison’s inhumane treatment of its inmates.

Visitors can also listen to chilling stories of inmates who have struggled with mental health and other ailments while incarcerated. The whispers and shadowy figures sightings are the most popular paranormal activity reported at the prison, and twilight tours are available to visitors for those brave enough to explore this abandoned location after-hours.


Abandoned prisons, such as the Ohio State Reformatory and Eastern State Penitentiary, offer a glimpse into the brutal history of US correctional facilities, the history behind their construction, and a fascinating series of unnerving paranormal reports. Visitors can learn about the architecture, design, and the inhumane treatment of prisoners by taking guided tours.

Disembodied whispers, shadows, and apparitions that are frequently reported by tourists make these prisons even more intriguing, with many visitors now joining in on after-hours ghost-hunting tours.

Exploring Abandoned Prisons in the US – Planning and Logistics

For tourists who are interested in visiting abandoned prisons across the United States, there are many things to consider regarding planning and logistics. Visitors need to consider factors such as ticket reservations, guidelines, and other essential information such as event schedules, hours of operation, admission costs and availability.

Here is a glimpse at what to expect when it comes to the planning and logistical aspect of visiting any of the ten selected abandoned prisons. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco, CA

Alcatraz Island is one of the most popular abandoned prisons to visit in the United States.

Visitors must take a ferry to the island and need to make reservations. Visitors can book tickets for a day tour that includes an audio tour or a night tour for guests that want to experience a spooky vibe of the prison at night.

Apart from regular tours, behind-the-scenes tours are available that will take you to areas of the prison that are usually off-limits. Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, OH

The Ohio State Reformatory has a range of guided tours available, from standard tours to niche tours focusing on the history, architecture, and ghost hunts.

It also has a schedule of special events and shows throughout the year that visitors can experience. Visitors interested in these events should check the prison website in advance to buy tickets.

Old Idaho Penitentiary, Boise, ID

Regular guided tours are available, and the prison also offers special tours focused on specific eras or personas with various admission fees. Visitors are encouraged to check the local website in advance to book tours and check admission costs.

Squirrel Cage Jail, Council Bluffs, IA

The Squirrel Cage Jail is now part of a museum in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and visitors need to pay an admission fee to enter the museum. Tickets are available at the museum counter or can be pre-booked on the museum website.

The Historical Society of Pottawattamie County collaborates with the museum, so visitors can also check their website for any special events related to the jail or the museum. Missouri State Penitentiary, Jefferson City, MO

The Missouri State Penitentiary offers guided tours that cater to a wide range of visitors, including history buffs, photographers, and ghost hunters.

Visitors can pre-book tickets and check admission costs online. The prison offers guided paranormal tours where you can explore the prison after dark, offering an eerie ambiance full of strange shadows and ghostly sounds.

Wyoming Territorial Prison, Laramie, WY

Guided tours at the Wyoming Territorial Prison are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visitors need to pay an admission fee before entering the museum.

The admission fees information is available on the official website for the prison.

Fort Delaware, Delaware City, DE

Guided tours at Fort Delaware include day tours and ghost-hunting tours, both requiring advance ticket reservations.

Visitors can check out the Fort Delaware website to book tickets for the tours and check out admission fees.

West Virginia Penitentiary, Moundsville, WV

West Virginia Penitentiary offers regular and special tours throughout the year.

General tours are available on weekdays, and various specialty tours are available on specific Saturdays. Visitors can check the website to book a tour and check admission costs.

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, AZ

The Yuma Territorial Prison is open daily for self-guided tours, and an admission fee is required to enter. Interactive exhibits and events such as antique car shows and execution sites are open to the public throughout the year.

Visitors can check out Yuma Territory’s official website to view schedules and admission costs. Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA

Guided and self-guided tours are available with an audio component that provides detailed insight into the prison and its history.

Visitors can pre-book tickets online, and twilight tours are available for anyone who desires to see ghostly shadows, whispering voices, and other supernatural occurrences that might occur inside the prison after dark.


Visiting abandoned prisons in the United States is both an educational and thrilling experience for visitors. Planning and logistics are a crucial part of visiting any of the ten prisons mentioned.

Pre-booking tickets and checking admission costs can be essential, as many of the prisons offer specialty tours or special events for visitors. Visitors should also check the local authority website, as each prison has unique regulations and

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