Growing up I had an obsession with the macabre. I loved horror movies, true stories about hauntings, books about serial killers, I loved telling scary stories and going to all the places in my hometown (and surrounding areas) that were supposedly haunted. My interest in it started when I was 11 or 12 years old. My family and I moved into an old house, started updating it, and one early summer day I woke up to a little boy standing next to my bed wearing a suit and a top hat. I could see right through him. I shook my head and he disappeared. I assumed it was a dream and didn’t give him much thought until months later my parents friend saw the same little boy in my brothers bedroom.
My obsession only grew. I lived in Illinois, right over the river from St Louis, Missouri. There were many places in the area that were haunted. There were the Seven Gates of Hell in Collinsville, Illinois. They are old train trestles and tunnels with an unverified history. Some of which is that the KKK used to hang African-Americans there. Teenagers drove their car into the 7th gate and died and now haunt the area. The tall tale on the 7th gate is that at midnight a portal to hell opens up. I’ve been to the Seven Gates. Driving out there at midnight, nobody around, and getting out of the car was enough to nearly cause an anxiety attack but there was nothing strange there. Well, except for the group of teenagers we saw walking down the road near one of the gates.
There is a witches house near my parents old house. They tore it down before I was old enough to drive. There is an old train track where children were killed by the train and now haunt the tracks. If you park your car where the old track was, they will move your car. I don’t recommend driving to that area anymore, there are homeowners there that don’t take kindly to trespassers. They are also armed. The Lemp Mansion is just over the river into St Louis which has its own mystery surrounding the mansion and the family that it deserves its own blog post.
So, having a ‘Haunted October’ planned for 2015 wasn’t anything out of the norm for me.
Back in summer of 2015 my wife, my friend Jenny and her new husband Jon had the bright idea to spend our October exploring some of the ‘haunted’ spots in our area. We quickly decided to book a midnight tour at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri. I was expecting some creepiness and some cool pictures.
We experienced so much more than that.
We road-tripped to Jefferson City from St Charles county. It’s a quick jaunt to Jeff City. We checked into our hotel, grabbed dinner, and went back to our rooms to take naps. Our tour was started at midnight and would last for 3 hours. We roused ourselves up and made it to the prison around 11:30. The great thing about this tour is that it is a labeled a ‘ghost tour’. We had a few guides, they explain the history, but then they kind of let you roam around on your own. You can do EVP sessions. An EVP is electronic voice phenomena which is how a ghost can possibly communicate with us from beyond. You won’t hear it just sitting in a room but the recorder picks it up. My wife Angela and Jon had cameras (and most of the pictures here will be Angela’s). They have ghost hunting equipment that you can rent (with a valid ID) for the night.
The tour guides split us into two groups (there were about 30 people in each group), gave us a bit of history, and then we ‘hunted’. We began our night in the building that housed death row. You walk down the steps and can either go left or right. Our guide showed us the left side first. He talked about a shadow man that is seen in the building that is over 6 feet tall. He said the area we were in at the moment wasn’t really a ‘hot spot’ and not investigated much. We decided to check out that side first. In that wing there are 2 corridors. One corridor is directly next to the cells, then it’s split up with fencing and then there is another corridor (next to some windows). Jenny and I were walking down the hall next to the windows. Angie and Jon stayed at the end to take pictures.
I had my recorder going and we were talking that it was just a really creepy area. There was nothing happening to make us think that (there were no ominous voices or screaming or clanging). We just said we didn’t like it in that area. We walked all the way down to the end. We turned the corner and I think we both breathed a sigh of relief, I mean it when I said the air just felt heavy and ‘off’. We stood there and heard Jon and Angela yelling for us. I will be perfectly honest and say that I was annoyed that I had to turn back around and go back down that hall. I hated it in that area and I did not want to go back. Since everything echoed down there we couldn’t understand what Jon was saying. He was telling us to stand at the end with our flashlights and wave them around. We did that for a few seconds then met them halfway through. Jon and Angela were (plainly put) freaking out. While Jenny and I were in the corridor by the windows, Jon and Angela were taking pictures of the other corridor (directly by the cells). And Jon caught something up his camera.
A shadow about the size of a very tall man, just standing in the doorway. There was nobody down there with us, Jon caught it as were walking down the hall and I know we were alone. The reason he told us to mess with our flashlights is that he wondered if the shadow was us while we were talking. It wasn’t us. *
We all looked at each other and I think we were all thinking the same thing “This alone makes this trip worth it!”
We continued to tour the cells. We went down another flight of steps into another area, not sure what it was actually called but we hated it down there. My wife who is pretty level-headed was so creeped out I think we spent about 3 minutes down there and quickly went back upstairs.
We went outside for some air and told our guides about our experience. They asked us if we wanted to have an EVP session in one of the rooms. We said of course and went back in. We sat around and talked for about 25 minutes. The EVP sessions didn’t yield much to be honest but there was a lot of outside noise, it was a tour of about 30 people walking throughout the whole prison.
After Death Row we headed into A-Hall. We didn’t have an paranormal experiences in there. I walked up to the third floor and I felt very dizzy and weird but it was also very warm and humid in there so I can’t say that was paranormal, I think I was getting overheated at that point. It is all very open so you could literally hear every single person in the building so that took the edge off.
After you tour the main prison they have you load up into your own cars and drive to the gas chamber. It is a couple of blocks from the prison. As a forewarning-it is tiny in there. Our entire group couldn’t fit so I stayed outside and talked with a guide about some of their experiences.
All in all this was probably one of the best road trips I’ve had. It was an intense experience. If you are up to be spooked (or if you really want a very cool place to take photos) I really think you should consider heading to Jefferson City and taking a tour at the prison.
They have a wide variety of tours. The prison isn’t just for ghost hunting. They offer history tours, photography tours, private tours, private ghost-hunting tours. The prices range from $14-$100. Contact them for more information at 573-632-2820 or Missouri Pen Tours
There aren’t many options to choose from in Jefferson City. We like a nicer hotel so we stayed at the Doubletree by Hilton which was just a few minutes away from the prison. We were very happy with the hotel aside from the parking situation (limited parking outside and the lines for parking in the garage will only work if you have a tiny sports car).
DoubleTree by Hilton
*As of “press time” I do not have the photo of the shadow man that Jon captured. Once I receive it, I will edit this post.