This building is still a spectral jail; for jailers, inmates and their visitors.
These spirits all have issues that keep them stuck 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, in matters of the heart, of financial matters, imbibing in worldly pleasures and temper issues. 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 of the courthouse, 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. This well-designed building was used as a working jail from 1901 to 1991. It closed as a jail because there was no exercise yard, and other modern requirements set by the state.
This sturdy, two-story brick structure was built to last, and is also quite beautiful outside as well, with lovely brickwork, especially along the roof-line. The building has one rectangular structure that is parallel to West Bennett Avenue, (N-S) while the second connecting rectangular structure is parallel to First St.;E-W) giving the total building a “T” structure.
The first building was the receiving area and office of the jail, nicely done in wood. This area today is used for a gift shop and display area. To the left of the entryway, there is a wooden staircase that leads up to the second floor, where the bedroom of the female jailer. She spent the night, as 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 the barred security door in the middle of the nice wooden reception/office area. One enters a depressing, stark world of an upper and lower steel 14 cell units, that sits in the middle of the two story high second building; though the room has a lot of light and windows to keep the jail aerated.
The two levels of steel jail cells, stacked upon each other have a steel stairwell that was located in the front right side of the steel units, leading up to the second level of cells, with plenty of space away from the windows, brick walls and the heavy security door. Because of the way it was designed, there were only a few recorded jail breaks.
Each cell had a bed, a little heater, but not much else. In the beginning, there were 4 to 6 men in each cell. As the years past, fewer and fewer people were put in a cell. In the last years as a jail, just one person was in each cell.
The prisoners’ uniforms are the typical white and black striped uniforms, complete with a little cap. Visitors can try one on and get their picture taken. A copy is put on the wall of the old sheriff’s office – Some of them are quite funny!
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
The law enforcement jailers who took care of the prisoners took their jobs seriously, and don’t see the need to stop just because they are dead. This seems to be the case in several other Jailhouse stories found on our website:
The one flaw in the steel cell units design is the catwalk that is located at the top of the steel stairway on the second level, that folks walk around to get to the second floor cells. The one and only death happened in this jail was when a prisoner either jumped over the railing or was pushed.
The only thing that keeps people from falling, is a single bar rail. This would be fine if this wasn’t a jail, that was a holding pen for people being tried at the courthouse, people serving for lesser crimes and was used as a night stop over for the criminally insane on their way to the State Hospital in Canon City.
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, not realizing that it isn’t any better for them on the other side. Yikes!
This jail wasn’t equipped and the 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.
People who are executed, or die by accident or by suicide, or at the hands of others while incarcerated, 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.
There is another possible reason why past jailers long dead are still on duty in the structure – Guilt.
Perhaps the female or male jailer who were on this watch when this prisoner fell to his or her death can’t get over the guilt felt by their own mistakes made that led to this death happening, and still is/are on the job, trying to make up for this incident.
Or, perhaps they both are upset because some of these criminally insane folks found a way out and escaped briefly. Traumatic occurrences during 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 footsteps of an unseen presence going up and down the wooden staircase that leads 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, that was the men’s section of the jail.
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 his or her death.
The main security door that separates the jail from the gift shop, have been known to fly open with a strong force behind it, caused by an entity still trying to escape, perhaps reliving a moment in his 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 solid 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 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 who used to work in the jail.
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 many personal experiences. It is a favorite place for ghost hunters, who pay just 20 dollars to spend the night in the structure. Hard evidence is yet to be shared with the public on line, but its just a matter of time until strong evidence is shared on the internet. One source did say that various 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, in the mountain elevation 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 town center, and just across the street from residential housing. It is a block and a half away from The County Courthouse.
- Interview with Museum docent