Throughout history, many criminals were made to wait in a particular section of a prison called death row, to live out their days before execution for specific, heinous crimes. Prisons, to begin with, are built to house the most dangerous members of society, so they're already scary places when solely occupied by the living. Add to the mix the spirits of condemned prisoners who were on death row, and suddenly, prisons have their own ghost stories.
The scientific community may not recognize the existence of ghosts, but terrified convicts and prison guards have their share of creepy stories. Thousands of "ghost hunters" and everyday tourists visit abandoned prisons to see if spirits linger after death, and they'll have enough terrifying evidence to convince any skeptic that the dead walk among us. If supernatural prison stories don't scare you, see if you can make it through this bone-chilling list of death row ghosts that paint prisons in an even more gruesome light.
The world had never seen a monster quite like Theodore "Ted" Bundy. Handsome, charismatic, and well-educated, Bundy did not fit the picture of a sadistic rapist, necrophile, and serial killer, but that was exactly what he was. With his disarming looks and confident demeanor, Bundy was able to stalk many of his victims in public places in broad daylight.
After overpowering his victims, Bundy would move them to a secluded location where he would act out his demented sexual fantasies before (and sometimes after) killing and decapitating them. When he was eventually caught and sentenced to death in Florida, he admitted to killing 36 women, but experts suspect Bundy may have committed as many as a hundred murders.
At 7:00 am on January 24, 1989, Bundy finally faced justice in "Old Sparky," the electric chair in the Florida State Prison. However, Bundy's spirit continues to plague the living at the prison where he was executed.
In 2001, a prison guard reported that Bundy's ghost was seen by several guards "sitting casually on the electric chair" shortly after his execution years earlier, with a "knowing smile" on his face. Whenever a guard approached his ghost, Bundy would disappear. Other guards at the Florida State Prison reported seeing Bundy's ghost lingering at his holding cell on death row, where he audibly taunted them, saying, "Well, I beat all of you, didn't I?"
A later report from the prison claimed that sightings of Bundy's ghost became so frequent and disturbing that none of the guards or other staff members would enter the execution chamber alone.
Constructed in the 1870s in Paxton, Illinois, the old Ford County Jail is now a tourist attraction. It's also the site of numerous paranormal investigations revolving around the ghost of serial killer Frederick Hollman, who is said to have been seen, heard, and even photographed.
Hollman was a German émigré who came to the US in 1883. In June of 1896, Hollman's violent temper erupted in a murdering spree that spanned two states. He was eventually caught and convicted of the murder of Wiebke Geddes, but he was suspected in the murder of five other women. He may have killed as many as 17, making him one of the country's first serial killers.
In interviews before his execution, Hollman refused to confess to any of the crimes, claiming that he would be found innocent in death. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hollman threatened:
"Just wait until I am dead and I will come back every night and visit those men who put me here, those witnesses and jurors. I will haunt them to their graves. I will rap on their windows at night, and they will see my face at their windows."
Hollman appears to have made good on his threats, as reports of his ghost haunting the jail began shortly after his execution by hanging in May 1897. Dark figures or "shadow people" have been seen in and around his cell, and visitors have reported hearing disembodied voices. Hollman's face is even said to have been captured on film, peering from the window of his jail cell.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, Idaho, housed more than 13,000 inmates during its 101 years in operation. Many prisoners helped build the massive complex during their incarceration by quarrying the stone from a nearby ridge. The complex included a death row housing section, as well as a built-in gallows.
The most infamous convict executed at this prison is the last man to be executed in the state of Idaho. Raymond Allen Snowden, known as "Idaho's Jack the Ripper," confessed to asking Cora Dean to pick between "rape" or "death" before stabbing her 29 times and slashing her throat, severing her spinal cord at the base of her skull. Sentenced to death, Snowden apparently showed no remorse, bragging of the murder and admitting to another murder. He was hanged improperly and ended up slowly asphyxiating as he dangled from the end of the noose for 15 minutes before expiring.
Snowden's ghost is said to haunt his cell and the site of the gallows, causing visitors to feel uneasy and cold. Laughter and loud banging sounds have been heard emanating from death row and Snowden's spirit reportedly reveals itself as a dark "shadow figure" that reaches out from beyond the grave to touch and push people.
Another man sentenced to die at the prison decided to take his own life rather than leave it up to the state. Douglas Van Vlack said, "My mother told me it was all right for me to choose the way I wanted to die," before slipping past prison guards, climbing up into the rafters of the cell block, and then diving headfirst onto the concrete floor below to kill himself. Tour guides of the now-closed prison report seeing his spirit lingering where he died. He sometimes appears as a full-body apparition or as a greenish orb of light and drains the power of batteries.
The first female serial killer in the US, Lavinia Fisher, worked with her husband to rob and murder wayward travelers who stopped by the Six Mile House in South Carolina. The couple escaped suspicion for a long time because they were well thought of in nearby Charleston, and particularly efficient in their method of murder. First, Lavinia would poison their guests with tea and then drop their unconscious bodies into the cellar using a trapdoor in their guest room; there, John would finish them off with an axe, dismember them, and dispose of their remains.
With no clues pointing to their guilt, Lavinia and John continued murdering guests for a year before they were finally brought to justice in 1820 after one of their victims, John Peoples, escaped and made his way to Charleston to alert the authorities. Some reports state that when Six Mile House was investigated, 20 to 30 bodies in various stages of decomposition were found in the cellar.
At that time in South Carolina, married women were exempt from the death penalty, but the judge said he would hang John first to make Lavinia a widow, so that she, too, could be executed. On the gallows, in front of a public audience, Lavinia was defiant to the bitter end, saying, "If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me - I'll carry it," before jumping off the platform and hanging herself.
Lavinia and John were buried in a potter's field near the Old Jail. Shortly after her execution, townsfolk reported seeing Lavinia's floating face peering out of the window of her cell. Following the 1886 earthquake, her ghost began appearing around the jail neighborhood as a full-body apparition. A famous team of investigators claim to have captured her ghost answering the question of who she was going to carry a message to with two words: "The devil."