In the middle of downtown Charleston, SC and only a few blocks from those famous multi-million dollar mansions everyone loves to gawk at when they visit the Holy City, stands a monumental old relic known as the Old Charleston Jail.
It was actively used as a jail from 1802 until 1939. After that, it was empty for many decades. Well...not exactly empty, but we'll get to that.
It's been reported that in the 137 years the Old Charleston Jail was open, some 14,000 people died here.
Perhaps that seems a little outrageous? Let's take a look.
Until the earthquake of 1886, the jail had 4 floors and a huge tower. Both the 4th floor and the tower collapsed during the earthquake and were subsequently removed. Later, a huge three-story octagonal structure with individual cells was added. You caught that, right? Individual cells. Prior to the octagonal addition, most inmates were housed communally in great big cell rooms because individual cells were so limited.
The jail housed some of the last of the pirates that scourged the area in the 1800s.
It also held many Civil War prisoners of war.
In addition, after a planned slave revolt was discovered in 1822, it became mandatory that all African Americans on ships that docked in the harbor were to be surrendered upon arrival and held at the jail until the ship's departure. What? Now they're putting visitors in jail too?
Can you say "overcrowded?"
Indeed, the jail was used as a dumping ground for the 137 years it was operational. Overcrowding and deplorable conditions were likely. 14,000 deaths in 137 years? It's plausible.
Perhaps the most publicized Charleston Jail prisoner to be hanged was Lavinia Fisher. Fisher is widely known as the first female serial killer in the U.S. Although some accounts say the charges against her were overblown and unfounded, she was convicted of murder.
Fisher and her husband were members of a large gang of highwaymen just outside of Charleston. Both were imprisoned in this Charleston Jail. Lavinia was hanged on February 18, 1820.
Historians can't seem to agree on her actual guilt of the crime of murder. Some say yes, some say no. Could this be the reason the ghost of Lavinia Fisher is said to roam the jail to this day? Was she wrongly convicted? In 2011 the Ghost Adventurers team from the popular series on the Travel Channel spent the night in the Old Jail with the mission of meeting Lavinia Fisher to ask questions like this one. VIDEO
Is the ghost of Lavinia Fisher alone at this old abandoned jail? Some say absolutely not. The tour company that currently operates at this creepy abandoned jail, Bulldog Tours, routinely gets photos submitted from patrons; photos that capture something... possibly otherworldly.
Do you believe in hauntings? Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you have photos? We’d love to know these answers and see your photos in our comments.