Saturday, October 31, 2015

Scared To Death

What original prison looked like.
Credit: Oklahoma Historical Society
Oklahoma’s Guthrie Territorial Prison was the state’s first official prison. Its 15-inch thick walls and the fact that its lower level was underground and heavily guarded made escapes almost impossible.

This prison was constructed of brick and a dark limestone taken from a local quarry. Because of this dark color the locals and prisoners nicknamed it the Black Jail.

This prison because of a lack of ventilation was cold and damp in the winter and sweltering hot in the summer. Around the time Oklahoma became a state the Black Jail was closed down.

The Nazarene Church took over the property and renovated it. They used the old prison until the 1970s. Then an orphanage for young children moved in—run by the Samaritan Foundation-- but in the mid 1990s the building was found an unfit environment for this purpose mainly because of the lack of ventilation and insulation.

What prison looks like today.
Since its territorial prison days this structure has had paranormal activity. The sounds of men’s voices are heard on the first floor, in the basement area and in the hallways.

A ghost-hunting group recorded the sounds of metal doors slamming shut—despite the fact that all but one of these prison metal doors had been removed years before.

Witnesses have reported seeing fleeting images of prisoners in several of the old cells. In one cell a phantom prisoner is heard coughing.

A female ghost, believed to have been a member of the Nazarene Church is heard singing on the ground floor near the main entrance. This ghost has also been seen wearing a long dress and crossing Noble Street walking toward the main entrance.

The sounds of children playing outside the prison have also been heard. It is not known whether these spirits are connected to the days when the building was a Church or was an orphanage.

But by far the most active ghost connected to the Black Jail is a prisoner by the name of James Phillips. He was held at the Territorial Prison until his unexpected death in 1907.

Phillips was convicted of murdering a resident of Guthrie and was kept in solitary confinement in the prison’s basement level. He was slated to die by hanging.

The scaffolding for this execution was constructed on Noble Street directly across the street from the Black Jail.

Phillips had a view of this construction from his cell window. As the days passed and he watched the gallows completion it meant it was closer to the date of his death—it is said this traumatized him.

Not long before he was to be hanged, Phillips was found dead in his cell by the guards. It was determined it was heart failure—due to the fact Phillips was forced to watch his own gallows being built in front of him. So he literally died of fright.

It is said that Phillip’s emotional turmoil is the reason his ghost still lingers. His presence is felt in his old cell and the surrounding areas.

Shortly after his death, guards, and other prisoners claimed they heard footsteps within his cell and along the hallway that leads to it. In the years since visitors have made similar reports.

There have also been several reports of people seeing an apparition at the window of Phillip’s old cell. This ghost is looking out toward the location of his anticipated death on Noble Street.

Several of these witnesses have stated the face they saw at this window held an expression of fear and horror.

The sound of a man sobbing is also heard coming from Phillip’s cell.

Excerpts from Haunted Route 66 by Richard Southall

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