This building is still a spectral jail, for jailers, inmates, and their visitors.
These spirits all have issues that keep them trapped here…
By 1901, Cripple Creek was still a booming mining town, which meant the odds of everyone behaving themselves were pretty low. Human passions often got in the way of self-control, good character and common sense, matters of the heart, and financial matters, among many others. The need for a jail in town became evident. In 1901, the new County Courthouse was built on the main street of town, Bennett Avenue, and the jail was built about a block and a half south from there, on the other side of Bennett Street. The jail was used for folks on trial at the nearby County Courthouse. Hard-core, convicted felons and murderers were shipped out to the notorious Wyoming Prisons, while lesser criminals did their time in this local county jail, which operated from 1901 to 1991. It closed as a jail because it lacked an exercise yard, and other modern requirements set by the state.
The Cripple Creek Jail was built to last, and is also quite beautiful externally, with lovely brickwork, especially along the roof-line. The building has one rectangular structure running parallel to West Bennett Avenue, with a second connecting rectangular structure parallel to First Street, giving the building a “T” structure.
The first building was the jail receiving area and office, nicely done in wood. This area today is used for a gift shop and display area. To the left of the entryway, is a wooden staircase that leads up to the second floor, to the bedroom of the female jailer. She was responsible for taking care of the needs of the female prisoners on the second floor jail block. She could easily get to her charges, as her bedroom was just a short walk from the cells on the second floor of the steel cell units.
To visit the jail units, one goes through a barred security door in the middle of the reception/office area. One then enters a depressing, stark world of seven upper and seven lower steel cell units. Fortunately the room has a lot of light and windows to keep the jail aerated.
The two levels of cells, stacked one upon the other, are connected by a steel stairwell. Because of the way it was designed, the jail has had only a few recorded escapes.
Each cell had a bed and a little heater, but not much else. In the beginning, there were four to six men in each cell. As the years passed, fewer and fewer people were put in per cell. In its last years as a jail, the rate fell to just one person per cell.
The prisoners’ uniforms were the typical white and black striped uniforms, complete with little caps. Visitors can try one on and get their picture taken. Copies of these pictures have been put on the wall of the old sheriff’s office – some are quite funny!
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
The jailers who took care of the prisoners took their jobs seriously. Their spirits don’t see the need to stop just because they are dead. This seems to be the case in several other jails — you will find their stories elsewhere on our website.
The one flaw in the steel cell design is the catwalk at the top of the stairway on the second level. The jail’s one and only death happened when a prisoner either jumped over the railing or was pushed.
The only thing that keeps people from falling is a single bar rail.
People facing the stress of a trial, or suffering the consequences of their behavior, perhaps just convicted and about to be sent to the notorious Wyoming Frontier Prison at Rawlins for hard time, may think it is easier to end it all. They don’t realize that it isn’t any better for them on the other side if the take their own lives. Yikes!
This jail wasn’t equipped and its jailers weren’t trained to handle the wiles of truly desperate people or the criminally insane. Perhaps precautions weren’t taken, as it was reported in some sources that a few criminally insane folks temporarily escaped, but were caught quickly before they could impact anyone in the community. However, after taking the opportunity to get away from the jailer, during their rush to escape, perhaps they accidentally pushed another prisoner over this railing, killing them.
For most of its history, more than one person was held in each cell. Perhaps, two prisoners couldn’t stand each other, and the jailer failed to act. One of these prisoners with a bad temper could’ve pushed her or his cell mate over the railing because he or she couldn’t control their temper issues.
The spirits of people who are executed, or who die by accident or suicide, or at the hands of others, continue to stay in the jail/prison for a variety of reasons; Sometimes they are afraid to go the next world because of what they did in this one.
As for the spirits of past jailers who are long dead and are still on duty in the structure, there is another possibility: guilt.
Perhaps the jailer on watch when the prisoner fell to their death can’t get over their guilt. They could still be on the job, trying to make up for the incident.
The spirits of other jails may be upset because some criminals found a way out and escaped briefly. Traumatic occurrences in a person’s life can create guilt that the person can’t let go of, so they try in vain to make up for their perceived mistake. Sometimes when a small child dies, they stick around and look for a parent, or wait patiently for a parent to return to them.
Jailer on duty?
People have heard the footsteps of an unseen presence going up and down the staircase leading to the second level of the main cell block.
The entity of a female jailer, named Rosie
Her presence is felt and sometimes seen up in her sleeping area on the second floor. She has communicated to the living that she is still taking care of her female prisoners.
Prisoners still serving their time
Dark, unexplainable shadow masses have been seen moving around the last two cells of the first floor of the cell block, in the men’s section.
Near the spot where the prisoner died from falling from the catwalk:
Witnesses have heard heavy breathing, near the spot where the prisoner fell to their death.
The main security door that separates the jail from the gift shop, have been known to fly open with a strong force behind them, caused by an entity still trying to escape, perhaps reliving a moment in life.
The entity of a past male night jailer
One evening, the docent was getting ready to close up the museum for the day, when she saw a man’s face looking through the window at her.
She opened the door to let him in, but he had vanished. She reported this incident to other former law enforcement officers who had once worked at the building when it was still open as a jail.
From her description of this man, they said that it was one of the night jailers.
The entity of a little girl
She has been seen walking through the front door. She stands beside the living in the gift shop area, and then slowly fades into the air.
A huge probably so is in order. Many visitors, staff and paranormal investigators have had personal experiences at the Cripple Creek Jail. It is a favorite place for ghost hunters, who pay 20 dollars to spend the night there. Hard evidence is yet to be shared with the public online, but it’s just a matter of time until this happens. One source did say that paranormal groups have captured a variety of EVPs.
126 West Bennett Avenue
Cripple Creek, Colorado
Cripple Creek can be found close to Pike’s Peak, at around 9,000 ft. The Teller County Jail:Outlaws and Lawmen Museum is located on Bennett Avenue on the corner of First Street, the furthest building from the center of town, and just across the street from residential housing. It is a block and a half away from The County Courthouse.
- Interview with Museum docent
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr