Haunted History: Charleston’s Old City Jail

Haunted History

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- Many believe that the Old City Jail is the most haunted place in Charleston. Some say the tortured souls of it’s prisoners still remain in the building.

Jack Kelly is a guide for Bulldog Tours and one of the few who actually conducts tours of the Old City Jail. Former tour guides have claimed to see things so frightening that they simply couldn’t go back inside.

“This building definitely changes your perceptions of what you believe in and I wouldn’t believed it before I started working here,” he says.

Over the last year the most unsettling experiences were the few times that guests on his tours would have physical reactions. He claims to have seen “guests leave in tears with scratch marks on them.”

The prisoners who lived and died in the jail were hardly treated as humans. Physical punishment, specifically with religious overtones, was not only common but widely accepted.

“The jail was in operation between 1832-1909…137 years,” says Kelly. “During this span more than 1400 men, women and children died behind those walls and in this yard.”​

During the tour, Kelly explained the different methods of torture that were used on the prisoners. Solitary confinement, whipping and stretching limbs out of their sockets were a few examples.

While many of the prisoners faced cruel and unusual punishment; the jail is said to have house some of Charleston’s worst criminals. Lavinia and John Fisher are arguably the most famous.

Lavinia Fisher is said to still walk the halls of the jail. She’s regarded by many as the first female serial killer in America.

Their ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ style romance was filled with many alleged tales of murder and crime.

While many details of their lives are inconsistent; it is confirmed that they stayed in the Old City Jail before being hung in Charleston.

Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, Kelly says that unexplainable things have happened during his time as a guide.

“These are true stories, but my job is to scare you. That’s why people show up. They wanna have a good time, they want to be entertained, they want to be scared. But nothing I’m telling you is untrue,” he says.

These stories, while terrifying, are a part of the Haunted History of the Lowcountry. They help us remember how far we’ve come, maybe even reconsider what you believe.

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