As our December 2019 trip was a rainy trip we signed up for another tour, this time of the Charleston Haunted Old City Jail. We joined Bulldog Tours and were given a fantastic tour. It was the perfect night for it, as the rain had turned to a mist and there was an eerie redness in the sky. I will admit though, that this was creepy and scary. The building itself absolutely looks haunted. From the moment I arrived here to the moment I left, I was in hyper alert stage. Ready to run for my life if need be. Regardless of being scared, I was also excited to see what we might see!
History of The Old City Jail
The Old City haunted Jail in Charleston was in use from 1802-1939 and imprisoned some of Charleston’s most notorious prisoners. The jail also imprisoned pirates in the early days and soldiers during the Civil War. Each of the three floors of the jail held a different level of prisoner. Upper class criminals populated the first floor. Minor or nonviolent criminals were imprisoned on the second floor. Finally the third floor was for the hard core criminals. Prisoners did not last long on the third floor as sanitary conditions were very poor and it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There were no windows over the bars therefore bugs and critters could get in. This includes mosquitos, so malaria was rampant. Hygiene just didn’t happen in such cramped filthy areas.
Location of Haunted Jail
Beginning the Tour
We started our tour by following the guide behind the jail. We stood in the area where once stood the gallows as we listened to the guide while gazing at the spooky jail in the background. The guide warned everyone that strange things can happen here. He gave the disclaimer that if anyone was uncomfortable at any time, for any reason, they could leave.
Climbing up the stairs into the jail was so not my thing. I clung to Steve like my life depended on it. Not sure why I agreed to go on a tour like this but I tried to keep an open mind. We entered the first room which had ropes hanging from the ceiling. These ropes could hold a person’s arms suspended in the air.
Lavinia and John Fisher
The next room at one time had many sectioned off cells which held many prisoners in each one. The infamous Lavinia and John Fisher had a cell here. Convicted of highway robbery and suspected of murder at their inn near Charleston and subsequently hung for their crimes. They did spend a year in the Charleston haunted jail before their hanging. Lavinia is a very angry spirit. She scratches people while they are in this room. Thankfully, she left everyone alone on our tour this night.
The legend of Lavinia and John Fisher is quite fascinating and there is usually some truth to Legends. She is tagged as the first U. S. woman serial killer yet there is no proof she ever killed anyone. The following site does a good job of distinguishing between the myths and the truths of Lavinia and John Fisher.
We then went to the third floor which held the harden criminals. There is a lot of graffiti on these walls. This room really gave me the creeps. We didn’t see anything extraordinary, it just felt eerie. This room had a double door. One of bars and one of thick metal. I really did not like this room at all. Poor Steve, I was practically standing on his feet trying to feel close and safe.
There is an old wheel chair in the hall on one of the floors. There is a young boy who died in this jail and he now haunts this area. He pushes the chair around as if he is playing with it.
On the first floor we were able to visit the infirmary which was also used as a morgue and store room. In this room, there is a spirit that haunts the area and makes himself known by swinging the wires that hang from the ceiling. They stayed still this night.
Regardless of the fact that I don’t like scary, creepy places I did enjoy this tour. The guide did a fantastic job of not only showing us around, but telling the stories of the people who were here along with the history of the jail. He kept it very interesting and informative. I would recommend this tour, especially to those who like the paranormal and like to be spooked! Although I know next time I am in Charleston I am going to visit more cheerful places!!!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at The Vendue, which was in walking distance to everywhere we went while in historic Charleston. You will find The Vendue in a historic area on a street called Vendue Range. Originally built as a French warehouse in the 1780’s, this art hotel has a lot of character. We enjoyed our stay here. Included with our room was morning breakfast, 4:00 PM wine and cheese and 9:00 PM warm chocolate chip cookies and milk! The staff was wonderful with lots of good information. Click on this link to book a room at The Vendue