“OLD CHARLESTON JAIL”
Tonight is the premiere of Ghost Hunters 2nd half of Season 8. Their first investigation without co-founder Grant Wilson will take place in the Old Charleston Jail located in Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1680, the city of Charleston set aside four square acres of land for public use. Over the years it was a hospital, poor house, and workhouse for runaway slaves before being turned in to a jail in 1802. The original building consisted of four stories with a two-story octagonal tower. Robert Mills, America's first native-born architect, designed a fireproof wing with individual cells in 1822 which was replaced in 1855 by a rear octagonal wing by Charleston architects Barbot & Seyle. The 1886 earthquake damaged the tower and top story of the main building so severely they had to be removed. The gallows remained in the courtyard until being destroyed by Hurricane Hugo. The jail never received indoor plumbing, electricity, running water, or glass in the windows (the guards quarters being the only exception).
The jail remained operational until 1939. During these 137 years, it house Confederate and Federal prisoners of war including the 54th Massachusetts Regime (known as the first black unit to fight in the Civil War) upon their capture and Charleston's most infamous criminals such as John and Lavinia Fisher (also known as America's first female serial killer) were convicted and executed for robbery and murder 30 or 300 people (reports vary). They were imprisoned in the jail from 1819 to 1820, maintaining their innocence until the day they were publicly hanged.
While they awaited hanging, the last of the 19th-century high-sea pirates were jailed there in 1822. Denmark Vesey plotted a slave revolt in 1822 to take over Charleston. Before the plan could be carried out he was imprisoned and later hanged in the Old Charleston Jail along with over 170 free blacks and slaves and four white men for their involvement and support. Because of the Vesey plot, increased restrictions were placed on slaves and free blacks including a law requiring all black seaman to be kept at the jail while they were in port. The jail also saw bootleggers, gangsters and debtors.
The jail remained vacant for 61 years after it closed. The American College of the Building Arts acquired it in 2000 and began the preservation efforts. Today, the Old City Jail is an official "Save America's Treasures" project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the White House Millennium Council. It also hosts the Bulldog Tours' Haunted Jail Tour.
The jail is reportedly haunted by the spirits of deceased prisoners that died in the jail. One of the spirits is believed to be Lavinia Fisher who is often seen in the white wedding dress she wore to court. Cell doors move on their own. Doors slam shut. Shadow people are often seen. Many visitors have been touched, grabbed and scratched.