What happens when you take one of the oldest prisons in the United Kingdom, soak it in a bloody history of torture and execution for a couple hundred years, then open it up for curious paranormal investigators? You get the Shrewsbury Prison, one of the most haunted buildings in the country.. and they need your help.
The Shrewsbury Prison, sometimes referred to as “The Dana”, was a functioning jail from 1793 to 2013, which means that there’s well-over two centuries of fear, isolation, and criminal element soaking into the ancient stone walls. After fielding thousands of strange reports involving paranormal activity, the property owners have recently decided to allow ghost hunters to investigate the prison in the hopes of understanding why the former prisoners have refused to leave their cells, even in death.
Though the current Shrewsbury Prison isn’t the original, it was constructed on the exact same spot as the former in 1877. Unfortunately, the updated building didn’t help with the overcrowding and neglect the original had become famous for. Executions were not uncommon at the prison, in fact, they had an entire room dedicated to hanging prisoners, all of whom had murdered or raped women. One of the jail’s more grisly historical details involves the early hanging process, which required someone to stand at the prisoner’s feet, yanking them down hard so the rope would choke them to death more quickly. The last execution took place in 1961.
When you consider the amount of suffering that has taken place inside of the Shrewsbury Prison, its no surprise that the old jail has gained a reputation as one of the scariest buildings in Britain. Over the years, both prison guards and prisoners alike have reported unexplainable encounters with the spirits of the Shrewsbury. The ancient Georgian tunnels left over from the jail’s first incarnation are still located under the building, and have for years been a hotspot of terrifying activity that ranges everywhere from disembodied voices calling to you from the darkness to full-blown apparitions with a bad habit of getting physical.
For a time in the prison’s history there occurred a rash of suicides, peaking with as many as three men dead by their own hands in the span of two weeks. Though the deaths were never associated with the paranormal activity, many of the prisoners would often whisper about the overwhelmingly oppressive feeling experienced by those who spent any extended length of time in the jail.
In 1896, the Shrewsbury Prison’s feeling of hopelessness was captured in a poem by A. E. Housman titled A Shropshire Lad, which follows the midnight thoughts of a man preparing to be hanged in the jail.
ON moonlit heath and lonesome bank
The sheep beside me graze;
And yon the gallows used to clank
Fast by the four cross ways.
A careless shepherd once would keep
The flocks by moonlight there,
And high amongst the glimmering sheep
The dead man stood on air.
They hang us now in Shrewsbury jail:
The whistles blow forlorn,
And trains all night groan on the rail
To men that die at morn.
There sleeps in Shrewsbury jail to-night,
Or wakes, as may betide,
A better lad, if things went right,
Than most that sleep outside.
And naked to the hangman’s noose
The morning clocks will ring
A neck God made for other use
Than strangling in a string.
And sharp the link of life will snap,
And dead on air will stand
Heels that held up as straight a chap
As treads upon the land.
So here I ’ll watch the night and wait
To see the morning shine,
When he will hear the stroke of eight
And not the stroke of nine;
And wish my friend as sound a sleep
As lads’ I did not know,
That shepherded the moonlit sheep
A hundred years ago.
Since its closure in 2008, the jail has become a haven for paranormal investigators hoping to capture some of the activity that has been reported for over 200 years. Some of the most active areas of the jail include the Vulnerable Prisoners Wing, the Hanging Room, and of course, the ancient tunnels that snake under the building. Investigators are experiencing everything from intelligent responses during EVP sessions to shadow people who can be seen darting back and forth along the cellblocks in full view of terrified onlookers.
Shrewsbury Prison is slated to appear on the upcoming season of Paranormal Lockdown, during which seasoned ghost hunters Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman investigate the terrifying location, one that’s never been featured on an American television program before, for themselves. In fact, Shrewsbury Prison has seen so few paranormal investigations that the owners of the building are actively asking ghost hunters to help answer some of the questions about who it is that is haunting their building, and why. With every group that investigate, the closer the prison comes to solving its haunting mysteries.
Not brave enough to spend the night seeking out the spirits of Shrewsbury Prison? Don’t worry, you can always take a guided tour of the building during daylight hours. Tours are often hosted by former guards of the imposing prison, which means you’ll get the history of The Dana straight from the source. I have it on good authority that they tell some pretty great ghost stories too.