Old City Jail in Charleston, SC, is one of the most haunted sites in a very haunted city. Serving as the Charleston County Jail from 1802 until 1939, it housed a variety of inmates, from murderers to shoplifters. At various times, it has served as a poorhouse and hospital. During the Civil War, the jail was also used for POWs and runaway slaves. Executions were routinely carried out on these grounds, including the 1820 hanging of America’s first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher. Lavinia, working with her husband during the early years of the 19th century, poisoned many guests in their South Carolina hotel, robbed them, and disposed of their bodies. Moments before her execution, she is said to have asked if anyone in the crowd had a message for the devil, as she would be seeing him soon and would pass it along.
Bulldog Tours takes visitors through the Old City Jail nightly at 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, and 10:00 pm. Call 843-722-8687 to reserve your spot and to confirm that the tour is still on. Tickets may also be booked online. But be prepared before entering this place. Many visitors have reported odd feelings of being watched inside the jail. Some have been touched, pushed, slapped, or scratched. One tourist was even able to show his guide the imprint of a hand on his back after he felt an invisible presence pushing him from behind. The spirits of the Old City Jail are said to include Lavinia Fisher and her husband, John, as well as children, including a little girl. Other ghosts are said to be the spirits of some of the many people who were executed here or killed violently by other inmates or guards. Tourists frequently report problems with cameras, video recorders, cell phones, and flashlights working only intermittently or shutting down completely within the confines of the Old City Jail.
Scary Paranormal Experiences Reported
The tours are led by knowledgeable guides, most of whom have had their own paranormal experiences inside Old City Jail. In fact, according to Theresa Stratford, office manager for Bulldog Tours, some guides have refused to lead the Old City Jail tours after their encounters. Their experiences include hearing audible voices, sounds of phantom laughter, hearing/seeing doors open and close on their own, being pushed, and – in one memorable instance – seeing a ghostly disembodied hand appear directly in front of a guide's face. Some have opted to transfer to the other tours rather than spend any additional time in the jail itself. In addition to the Old City Jail, Bulldog also offers these tours: Culinary Tours of Charleston, Charleston Strolls, Ghosts & Graveyards, Dark Side of Charleston, and Ghost & Dungeon – but none of these actually venture inside the dark halls of Old City Jail.
The Old City Jail has always had the reputation of being haunted almost from the time it was built. At one point, the building was vacant for about 30 years but it was NOT quiet. Passersby, including a veteran beat cop, swear that they’ve heard the sounds of doors slamming and eerie screams echoing throughout the empty structure.
Hundreds of Spirit Voices Heard
Karen Marr, one of the tour guides at the Old City Jail and an experienced paranormal investigator, says that some of the ghostly presences are active intelligences, some are residual in nature, and others appear only on particular anniversaries, such as their execution date. Karen and other investigators have captured a large number of EVPs from the jail. Some of the names that are heard frequently include Suzanne, Jeremiah, Malcolm, Mary, Randolph, Jonathan, Perkins Jones, and Thomas.
Karen provided links to some of the most interesting EVPs from Old City Jail:
This link is for an EVP of a little girl asking " Is someone there?”
This is the sound of a glass lamp shade suddenly exploding in the Warden’s Quarters during an investigation:
Karen caught this EVP while she was setting up some equipment and left her recorder running:
Karen reports that this EVP is from the Warden’s Quarters and that she was alone at the time:
Old City Jail also offers complete paranormal investigations for those who want to delve deeper into the otherworldly mysteries of this particular location. Details are on the website.
Although Bulldog Tours advises that their Old City Jail tour is open to adults and older children alike, they warn that “This is quite possibly the scariest place you will ever go. The experience is NOT recommended for very young children or men that cry easily.” So, be sure to check out the Old City Jail and the other haunts of Charleston next time you’re down that way….if you dare.