Nicknamed the “Bloodiest 47 Acres in America”, Missouri State Penitentiary was an operating jail for over 175 years, and during that time, it held some of the country’s most dangerous criminals. Up until 2004 it was the oldest operating prison west of the Mississippi, notorious for being one of the most violent in the state. Oh yeah, did I mention we’re getting locked up there next weekend? If you’re brave enough, you can join us…
In an attempt to help turn Jefferson City into the state capital, construction on the prison began in the 1930s, and unfortunately for the future prisoners, by March 1836 the Missouri State Prison was ready for business.
The first inmate admitted to the jail was Wilson Eidson, serving a stint for grand larceny, but by its peak, the jail housed upwards of 5,200 inmates. For obvious reasons, when you house that many violent men and women in one place, bad things are bound to happen. It wasn’t long before the massive building was home to numerous riots, many of which ended in fires, murders, suicides, and inevitably, a few escapes.
The worst riot took place on September 22, 1954, and ended with four dead inmates and fifty more badly injured. Additionally, it resulted in one suicide, four injured guards, and over 5 million dollars worth of damage. It took countless guards and troopers armed with machine guns just to bring the riot to an end. Luckily, no men escaped… that time, anyway.
One of the prison’s most famous successful escapes, however, occurred on April 23, 1967 when inmate James Earl Ray escaped the prison hidden on a bakery truck. Earl would later go on to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, nearly one year later, on April 4, 1968.
Ray was only one of a handful of infamous inmates who did time at Missouri State Prison. Others included activist Katie Richards, pyro John “Firebug” Johnson, boxer Charles “Sonny” Liston, and infamous gangster “Pretty Boy” Floyd.
40 inmates were executed at Missouri State Penitentiary between 1937 to 1989, many for some of the most horrific crimes imaginable. From murder, to kidnapping, to rape – many of the details far too horrible to imagine. As I said, there were some awful people doing time at MSP.
Having been home to so much death and violence for so many years, it’s no surprise that Missouri State Penitentiary has developed a reputation as one of the most haunted prisons in the country. To date, more people have experienced strange phenomenon while visiting the prison than most other paranormal hotspots across the country, so many that it would take all night to recount them all, so I’ll stick to some of the most hair-raising accounts.
After locking up one evening, a tour guide passed through the control center to secure the outer doors, but after returning back to the same area she had just walked through, she found every single locker door wide-open, when they had all been shut not a minute before. Some people attribute behavior like this to a ghost that’s been nicknamed “Fast Jack”.
According to many eyewitnesses, Fast Jack is usually spotted wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clip board, and many believe he worked in the radiology department of the jail at one point during his life. Often times he’s spotted in the hallways that connect HU1, HU2 and HU5, popping in and out of walls, or disappearing into thin air.
A number of people have reported hearing the sound of disembodied voices interacting with them in the dark corridors of the prison, or seeing shadowy shapes that seem to watching and waiting from the darkened corners. Missouri State Prison is not a place for the faint-at-heart, and the history alone is evidence of that.
As I said, we’re once again lucky enough to be joining the always exciting Nick Groff Tour at the MSP event to spend the night in the clink, investigating all the supernatural legends for ourselves. If you want to tag along on Saturday, May 2 (and trust me you do) grab yourself some tickets HERE and prepare for a night of scares. We’ll have a full rundown of the post-event paranormal activity after the event. If it’s anything like the previous event at Ohio State Reformatory, things should be pretty wild.
Missouri State Penitentiary is a living, breathing piece of history, and its 175 years’ worth of experiences make the legends surrounding it richer than most other allegedly haunted locales. I don’t know about you, but that’s my favorite recipe for a good ghost story.