Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Haunted Cells of Yuma Territorial Prison

In use from 1876 until 1909 Yuma Territorial Prison housed over 3,000 prisoners--29 of which were women. The prison was closed down because of overcrowding. 

This facility then was used for Yuma Union High School until 1914. After this, the building lay abandoned until the 1920s, when hobos that road the rails started using its various cells for shelter. 

By the Great Depression, entire homeless families were living within its walls. Located in southwestern Arizona near the California border this old prison still remains atop a rocky hill overlooking the small town of Yuma, Arizona. Today it is a State Historical Park.

Three cells within this prison are notorious for being haunted. 

The first is the cell known as the “dark cell.” This room was used for solitary confinement. Prisoners were placed in this 10-foot by 10-foot space as a punishment. They were stripped down to their underwear, and often their legs were shackled separately to two ringbolts. While housed here, these prisoners were given only one meal a day, which consisted of bread and water.

The only light in this cell came from a small opening in a ventilation shaft in the ceiling. After dark, this space was pitch black. Records indicate that the prisoners placed here complained, “scorpions and snakes’ were in this dark room with them. 

Some accused the guards of purposely putting these critters down the ventilation shaft to torture them more. Two prisoners went insane while they were kept in this cell.

Today this room holds more than bad memories. It is said several ghosts reside in this area. 

One of these spirits is not a prisoner but a little girl. It is speculated that her family was one that stayed in the prison during the 1930s. This young ghost often lets the living know she is around. It seems she is attracted to people who wear red. 

She has been known to pinch, poke and touch people with her icy cold fingers. One psychic that visited the dark cell confirmed that this spirit is a little girl and not a prisoner.

In recent years, a local magazine writer for Arizona Highways announced she intended to stay in Yuma Prison’s dark cell for 48 hours so she could get a feel for what it was like for the prisoners. She had her legs shackled to the ringbolts and only took bread and water in with her. The ventilation shaft was covered thoroughly, blocking out the light. 

This writer left the dark cell after 37 hours. She told others afterward that she felt strongly that she was not the only one in the space. Freaked out, she requested to be released early.

The second haunted cell that is Yuma is #14. This cell is at the end of one corridor. In the early 1900s, a prisoner by the name of John Ryan, was kept in this space. The guards and the other prisoners did not like Ryan. In his record, it indicates that he was convicted of “an act against nature.” What this meant was he was convicted of rape or some other sexually deviant act.

Ryan committed suicide in Cell #14. Park employees, including the assistant manager, have all stated they become very uncomfortable when they are in this area of the prison. They often feel an icy chill when they are near Ryan’s cell.

The third haunted cell has an unseen presence that one female ranger admits has frightened her. This space has actually been walled up. It was once used to house insane prisoners. 

As this ranger did research, she found a photo of a woman, who was a tourist in the 1930s. She had her picture taken in front of the space. After the film was developed, she discovered a “ghostly man” was in the photo standing behind her in the doorway of the cell.

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