Carbon County Jail Reignites Ghost Story

Posted on November 14, 2013 by


photo 2Carbon County Jail is a two-story historic jail in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. This jail was built in 1871 and was used until 1995. This jail is now open for tours and ghost tours to guests of this historic town.  It has approximately seventy-two rooms and contains twenty-seven cells, plus a dungeon in the basement.

The warden lived on the top floor. His quarters included a bedroom, family room, and a bathroom. The bathroom was connected right to the women’s jail cells; ergo, there was a guard sitting on the windowsill of the family bathroom at all times to keep an eye on the imprisoned women.

The door connecting was wooden with a screen door on the inside. When the family would be in the bathroom, the guard would open the door and keep a watchful eye on all of the women.  This was to make sure they remained where they were and did not disturb the warden’s family. The second floor contains 27 cells with nothing more than two beds, a toilet, a sink, and a cabinet. Most of the time, two people were living in one cell depending on how crowded it got. At most, they had twelve people in one cell.

During lunch time, they would bend down to a tiny window and tell the person their name and cell number, and then they would receive a meal and one spoon. If the spoon was not returned to the window after lunch, the jail would go on lockdown until it was found or returned to the kitchen.

The dungeon in the basement was for people in solitary confinement. The dungeon included no windows, very little light, and thick stone walls with metal doors.

People visiting the jail are only allowed down in the dungeon for no more than three minutes, and they strictly enforce that rule. Visitors have only the time their tour guide is talking to take pictures.

This jail was eventually home to the Molly Maguires, who were Irish labor workers. This name should be familiar to eleventh grade AP American History students who studied the influx of Irish immigrants during the mid-1800s.  During this time period, people worked in coal mines for their families.  If a man would die on the job, his remains were placed into a box and sent to the wife’s doorstep to show the women their husband was dead. She would have three days to find a replacement, and if she did not find a replacement, she was taken out of her house and thrown on the street.

In the coal mines,  a bunch of men started dying, and a spy was sent in to work with the men for a certain amount of days to see who was committing these murders. When the time was up, the spy had nothing, so he blamed it on twenty men who kept to themselves and did not speak to anyone else but themselves. Seven of the twenty men were sent to Carbon County Jail, where they had trial and were immediately considered guilty.

They were hung four at a time. When it was time for the last man to be hung, he tried pleading his innocence one more time to the warden. The warden laughed and told him to get out of his cell.

This man, named Alexander Campbell, stuck his hand in the dirt and placed it on the wall of his cell. He said that his hand print shall remain there to prove his innocence. The warden took him out and hung him.

Later he had someone clean the wall, and the next prisoner moved into that cell. A few days later, the new prisoner complained about the hand print still being there, so they cleaned it again and again. Finally, they removed part of the wall and replaced it, yet the hand print came back.

People of Jim Thorpe thought the warden kept putting the hand print up to keep the legend going. Scientists came to test the hand print to confirm whether it was the warden’s or not, but they could not find any trace of DNA.
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The only thing that was picked up in the test were several layers of paint trying to cover it. What visitors see in cell seventeen is technically nonexistent to the scientific world. In 1995, Tom McBride and his wife bought the jail and decided to open it for tours to keep the stories alive and fresh.  Visitors can see for themselves a piece of American history and keep the spirit of the Molly Maguires alive.

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