Allegan County Sheriff’s House and Old Jail Museum

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Home-cooked meals were provided for the many criminal offenders who stayed here.

A customary “Hot Box” awaited trouble makers.

This museum is still a spectral jail home for both past inmates and staff.




Tom and I went to visit the place and found a lovely, 2 story Victorian brick house with a rectangular, seventeen cell, jail facility built onto the back of the house, much like the house-jail found in Crown Point, Indiana.

This Allegan Sheriff’s residence and jail building is a better design though, because the blueprints included planning for this jail to be a part of the actual house, and wasn’t an addition. Its design was so well done that this house jail worked well for 56 years or so, meeting the needs of the community. In 1962, a new jail was built right across the street, which held more inmates.

The living quarters for the sheriff were quite upscale, nice and roomy, with the family dining room located by the basement kitchen area, where meals were provided for the inmates.

Allegan-sheriff-paranormalIn the two story front house area, there are two parlors, a formal dining room, bedrooms, kitchen and a Pioneer keeping room.

The Allegan County Historical Society has provided boatloads of early 1900s artifacts, books, private possessions, furniture etc. from Allegan County to help make this museum a step back in time when this Victorian/Gothic house was first used as the sheriff’s residence and jail.

The Allegan County Historical Society has collected well over 10,000 items of interest that have been donated by Allegan County locals; some of which are part of rotating displays, which keeps exhibits fresh and interesting.

The cells were located in the basement and the first, second, third and fourth floors. Today, in the inmate parts of the building, some of the cells reflect what life was like in this jail facility from its opening in 1906 through 1962. The early 1906 cells are just like they were one hundred plus years ago.

Other cells hold other exhibits, such as a 1900 barbershop, attorney’s office, dentist’s office, school room, toys and dolls from the past, and many neat items from the Civil War, Spanish American War, and First and Second World Wars.

There is also an old court room set up in one of the first floor rooms, where there is a record book listing the verdicts and the sentences for each person convicted.

Sentences were usually short term; not years. Inmates sent here were not hard-core killers; just doers of petty crime, criminal mischief, drunkeness and minor assaults. There was a steady turnover of inmates, depending on the sentences received.



In 1906, it became apparent that the city of Allegan was in need of its own jail for local petty crime offenders: public drunkenness disorderly conduct, shop lifting, statutory indebtedness, stealing, and for cohabiting couples who are not married. There were floors for men, people who couldn’t pay their bills, women and troubled youth caught doing petty crime.

A property was chosen right across the street from the newly built 1905 courthouse. Inmates only had to be walked over to their trial and sentencing.

The interior of this structure was so well planned that every area needed for the inmates was included to be a complete facility. As needs changed overtime, changes were made for the inmates.

Inmates were treated with respect, though there was a hot room next to the furnace called “The Hole” for unruly, uncooperative guests to have a sauna experience. The more aggravating inmates had their cells in the basement, as it is wise to separate troublemakers from the rest of the jail’s population.

The inside of the structure was changed through the years to better fit the needs of short-term incarceration. Probably, a library was added, a TV room, and a shower area; among other things. The Allegan County Historical Society have returned some cells to their original 1906 state.

This jail was used until 1962, when a new jail, Sheriff’s Office and Corrections Center was build just across the street, because more room was needed; after tearing down the 1905 Court House that once stood there. This move wasn’t popular with historical preservationists.

“The Allegan County Jail was built in 1962 with an initial capacity of sixty inmates. The building went through numerous renovations and enlargements to reach its full capacity of 173 inmates.”

“This facility on Walnut Street moved to the new Allegan County Sheriff’s Office & Corrections Center, the old Haworth building, in October 2014.”

The Allegan County Historical Society bought the Sheriff’s House and Old Jail building and created an interesting museum about the jail and sheriff’s house as well as life in Allegan County in general.



The spectral residents are on their best behavior and enjoy having visitors. They are present for a variety of reasons but find peace through residing in this structure for their after-life.


People involved in a dedicated mission of action in this life, sometimes continue to do so as spirits, not willing to give up their service quite yet.

Jennie Wade House, PA (The spirit of Jenny Wade is still making bread for the Union troops).

Fort Delaware, DE (A spirit of a cook is still preparing meals in the fort’s kitchen).

Whaley House, CA (The spirit of Mrs. Whaley is still baking bread for her family).

Old Allegan Sheriff’s House and Jail Museum, MI (The spirit of a sheriff’s wife, probably Elsie Runkel is still preparing meals for the spirits who are still here).


Sometimes spirits stay in this world if other spirits who they cared for are still there for a variety reasons.

Stranahan House, FL (The spirit of Mrs. Stranahan is taking care of the other spirits of her family who stay in this house).

The Whaley House, CA (The spirit of Mrs. Whaley is here taking care of her bereft daughter’s spirit, Violet, her spirit toddler and the spirit of her husband Mr. Whaley. Mr. and Mrs. Whaley are enjoying their after-life together, choosing to stay in their forever home).

Waverley Plantation House, VA (The spirit of the eternal hostess Elizabeth Byrd offers kind hospitality to residents and visitors alike, and tries to comfort visiting or residing spectral family members who still suffer from their misdeeds and ugly deaths).

Allegan County Sheriff’s House and Old Jail Museum, MI (The spirit of Elsie Runkel really found a calling in cooking for the inmates, bringing them something good to eat to cheer them up three times a day. She would get people to donate special treats like young pigeons for her to cook for the inmates).


Spirits can come back to visit their old possessions now in museums or other structures in this world.

The Redwood Library and Anthenaeum, RH (A collection of rare reference books have a spectral volunteer or two who keep an eye on these treasured books to be sure that they will not be stolen again).

Buffalo Bill’s State Historical Park, NE (The Spirit of Buffalo Bill likes to peruse all of his artifacts, his costumes, momentos of his life, pictures of his family, his furniture; including his favorite chair; all of which are on display on his property).

Clayton House Museum, AR (The spirit of Powell Clayton likes to visit his brother William’s house to see the pictures of the four Clayton brothers hanging in William’s office, as well as to stay close to the book that he worked on while alive).

Allegan County Sheriff’s House and Old Jail Museum, MI (This museum has quite a lot of personal possessions of people who lived in Allegan County. Some spirits like to visit their former possessions).


Spirits of inmates/ prisoners can choose to stay in their place of confinement if they had a traumatic death there by natural causes or at the hands of another, are afraid to go to the other side, or are restless because they killed themselves.

Alcatraz Prison National Park, CA (Some spirits of prisoners voluntarily stay confined because they are afraid of going to the other side because of the kind of life they chose to live).

Ohio State Reformatory, OH (Some spirits of former inmates are stuck in the terror of their violent deaths here. Some died at the hands of other inmates, and some died in the solitary confinement cells).

Squirrel Cage Jail Museum, IA (An inmate hung himself or herself in the jail cell).

Allegan County Sheriff’s House and Old Jail Museum, MI (There is no report of deaths by murder in this jail as most of the inmates were non-violent offenders. It is possible that someone had a heart attack, or killed themselves or even died in the Hot Box. No one knows for sure because records were not kept).


Sometimes spirits who have had unhappy circumstances in their lives choose to stay in a place where they felt at home and were treated with kindness and love. These spirits are happy and friendly entities.

Jennie Wade House, PA (The spirits of orphans who were horribly mistreated and harmed in the town’s Orphanage for children of dead soldiers, reside in Jenny Wade’s house, where they felt love and acceptance).

Edgewood Plantation Bed and Breakfast, VA (Spirits of soldiers who died in the Civil War elsewhere like to stay here because of the kindness and food offered by the people who owned Edgewood Plantation; right before these soldiers died).

Westover Plantation, VA (Spirits of the Byrd family who died unhappily or are still working through painful circumstances, choose to stay here to receive comfort and kindness from the spectral hostess, Elizabeth Byrd).

Allegan County Sheriff’s House and Old Jail Museum, MI (Spirits of inmates who still stay here may remember the kindness and positive vibes they received from the wives of the sheriffs who helped to take care of them, and cook delicious meals out of dedication. They may not have experienced this much in the lives they led).



For whatever reason, this still is home for spirits who served their sentences here and the spectral female spirit on a mission to feed them. Some spirits are drawn to the items on display in this museum. There is a friendly aura, though for some people at times, it can be creepy.

Working Female Spirit

A female entity, thought to be one of the sheriffs’ wives is still on duty.

Prime candidate is the spirit of Elsie Runkel, the wife of sheriff Walter Runkel, who cooked for the inmates during Walter’s time as sheriff;(1954-1962).

Footsteps are heard coming from the upstairs area; in the sheriff’s family bedrooms, especially the master bedroom.

A mannequin placed in the display found in the master bedroom, mysteriously switches its clothes by itself, with no help from the living.

A small apparition is seen busily working in the kitchen and moving around the dining room area.

Signs of Spectral Inmates

Some former guests of the county are still are serving time.

The living who have toured the museum, or have been part of investigations, have been touched by the cold yet friendly hands of unseen presences in the cell areas who just want attention.

They seem to enjoy ghost hunters who come to visit them, cooperating and answering questions; even giving their first names.

They don’t like the noise of the ghost box and freely express themselves.

A floating streak of light was seen in the solitary confinement cell; known as “The Hole.”

Visiting Spirits

There may be spirits here that are visiting their possessions that are on display.

The parlor is a hot spot for spirit activity. Items that meant a lot to people who owned them are on display.

The office is also active with orbs and a Victrola may be able to turn itself on when no one is looking.

Spirits may like to visit their old Civil War items on display in the room dedicated to the Allegan County efforts in the Civil War.


Plenty of hard evidence and personal experiences have been verified. In certain rooms, every paranormal group that has come to investigate has caught hard evidence and has had personal experiences. Three such groups are Michigan Paranormal Encounters, Lakeshore Paranormal and Urban Paranormal Experience.

Lakeshore Paranormal – The Old Allegan County Jail (Paranormal Investigation)

May 8, 2019 investigation caught some hard evidence.

Their investigator who sat in a cell, caught an EVP; “God Bless You!” He was also gently touched in the back of his neck, and experienced goosebumps.

Urban Paranormal Experience has held a paranormal class investigation here on August 1, 2020 through Eventbrite.

This haunted building is on the agenda of the annual Allegan Paranormal Conference every year, because of the reliable cooperation of the spirit people who reside here.



A big “Yes Indeed” is in order.

There are boatloads of hard evidence caught here as well as nice personal experiences reported by staff, visitors and paranormal investigators. Because the spirits here are friendly and cooperative, it draws ghost hunting groups who enjoy investigating here.

Out of the reasons listed above as to why spirits of inmates with good midwestern manners are still here. I believe it is because they felt loved and cared for in a way they had never experienced before, or perhaps they died of natural causes. All of the spirits are friendly, calm and happy. There are no angry, upset ones that could’ve been murdered, died in the Hot Box or killed themselves.

The spirit of the sheriff’s wife is very happy preparing meals for the inmates and doesn’t mind the living tromping through to look at the displays. She still enjoys the upstairs sheriff’s quarters as well, feeling right at home. She helps the staff by changing the clothes the female mannequin that is in the master bedroom.



113 Walnut Street
Allegan, Michigan 49010
(269) 673-8292




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