One Wild Life ~ The Haunted Jail

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Charleston Old City Jail

So I’m a ghost/haunted/paranormal junkie, having grown up on Stephen King books, & am on a mission to visit as many haunted places as I can. While vacationing in Charleston, SC (go there, it’s fabulous), I found out much to my delight that it’s considered one of the most haunted cities in America.

First Stop: The Old City Jail

The structure was built in the early 1800s, just when people were starting to be incarcerated for their crimes (instead of publicly shamed). Picture this: no cells, just big rooms with stone walls & narrow, barred windows; no running water so no toilets, just sawdust on the floor & later on, buckets; no beds, just that same sawdust on the floor; no electricity so no lights; early on, no fireplaces so no heat the winter; getting any kind of illness/infection was pretty much a death sentence. It was built to house around 300 prisoners; at one point, there were over 1000.

A Woman Incarcerated

So, this story is about Lavinia Fisher, a married 20-something, often called the first woman serial killer. Turns out, according to our guide, she didn’t kill anybody. Part of a gang, robbing travelers on the roads out of Charleston, Lavinia was the bait, the damsel in distress, that got travelers to stop then the gang members beat them to an inch of their lives, stole all their goods, & left them on the side of the road. Back then, though, highway robbery was a capital offense.

Lavinia haunts this window.

Thing is, there was no special treatment for women. No individual cells. No segregation. Nowhere for her to hide. Lavinia got tossed into a large room on the top floor with other criminals, including her husband who’d been in the same gang. All the rest of the prisoners at that time were men. So you can imagine the horrors that would happen to an attractive woman stuck in a locked (pitch-black at night) room with a bunch of trapped, lonely men. Although, it’s rumored that Lavinia was attacked more by the guards than by any of the prisoners while her husband stood by, helpless to save her. She was hanged for her crime in 1820.

She haunts the window of the room on the top floor where she was housed, looking out over the main entrance to the jail. According to our guide, local residents have called the police so many times (to report a trapped woman standing at this very window) that they no longer come out to investigate. When will her spirit rest? Probably not until the jail finally crumbles.

Have you started your Life List yet?

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