Monday, November 28, 2016

A Class in Containment

By having what some call a "sixth sense," getting anywhere near somewhere as haunted as the old Charleston City Jail is an adventure waiting to happen. The closer I walked to this old structure, the more the feelings of someone or something being around me took over my body. Not to mention how strong the feelings were once I stepped inside.
The outside of the Old
Charleston City Jail.

My hairs stood on edge as I listened to Paulette Foley, the Bulldog Tour Guide, tell us stories behind this old jail. It was a cold night, but these chills weren't only because of the low temperatures. She told us of the unknown number of prisoners that came through this building, too many to count, and of the notorious criminals who were sentenced to live their last days there.

Criminals ranging from Civil War prisoners, to petty thieves, to murders were sent to this gruesome hell-hole to live out their sentences or until they died. The mortality rate in this prison was not very high. In 137 years, 14,000 inmates died from malnutrition or dehydration, along with the 600 who were executed. "It was infested not only with overcrowded prisoners, but with everything else that could get through the barred windows as well," said Paulette. "From the research I've done," she added, "I know that they had no energy to kill each other, they were just trying to survive day by day."

Zach in the Crane of Pain.
Half way through a prisoner's sentence, they were taken out into the most populated area in Charleston and punished in front of thousands of people. They were either branded or parts of their faces were cut off to mark them as criminals forever. This however wasn't the worst form of punishment. What the prisoners feared the most was called the "Crane of Pain," where they were hung by their limbs from ropes and stretched until they couldn't be stretched anymore. They were then beaten using cat nine tails. Their wounds were cleaned with salt, then they thrown back into their nasty, disease infested cells to attempt to survive infection that would soon set in.

One of the cells Lavinia
Fisher could have stayed in.
Paulette took us into the cell of the very first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher. Lavinia is said to be very active when people are around and boy did I feel her presence. Lavinia, along with her husband and some other members of their crew, would lure wealthy merchants into their inn outside the city, and poison them to steal their riches. There's no sure number of how many poor men they lured in and murdered. Lavinia, her husband John, and their accomplices were sentenced to death and hanged for their dastardly deeds.

The very last hanging in the state of South Carolina took place at the Old Charleston City Jail in 1911. The prison didn't close down until 1939. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that there are countless sad, lingering souls who are stuck here in this world, specifically in this jail, trying to find their escape from this purgatory they are stuck in. Until they do, they will haunt the living and use their consistent presence in the jail as entertainment.

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