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Canon City’s Haunted Prison

I came across an article in my Google alerts called “A Night in a Haunted Museum.” It caught my eye because it was about the prison in Canon City, Colorado.

My husband’s family on his mother’s side all live down there. Before his grandma passed away we used to go down there whenever we were back home for holidays and what not.

Because we usually only had a week in town, we rarely spent but 48 hours (if that) down there. And it was rare, rare, rare for us to go during pleasant summer months. We mostly went around Christmas. Exchanging presents and, if we were lucky, hitting the slopes with his uncle Karl was about all we had time for.

TRIP TO THE PRISON MUSEUM

Several years ago, we went back home in August for Wayne’s grandparents on his father’s side 70th wedding anniversary. Because there was no skiing to be had or presents to exchange when we visited his family down south, we had something we rarely have when we’re in Canon City: time.

Suddenly they felt pressured to entertain us. But all of us had been to the Royal Gorge, Canon City’s biggest hot spot, who knows how many times. None of us were too key on going back.

Erna and Karl had a big ranch on the outskirts of town. We’d never explored Canon City’s downtown area, but I’d always wanted to. It looked so quaint. I suggested maybe we could go there and goof around.

That’s when Erna suggested we check out the prison museum. 

Outisde of Museum of Colorado Prisons (yep, that is a gas chamber)

Prisons are Canon City’s biggest industry. Most everyone who lives in Canon City has some connection to one correctional facility or the other.

Wayne had never been, I’m always up for a new museum, so we went.

GHOSTS OF INMATES PAST

I had no idea going in it was rumored to be haunted. It was one of those places that felt like their were spirits lingering there, but was I imagining it? (Or only being hopeful?)

The museum is adjacent to the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, which has been an active prison since 1871, and is housed in the former Women’s Prison building. I remember a lot of rock around there. And hills. Which meant little then, except it seemed like a pretty vista for a prison to be set in. But now I wonder if it is haunted, could it’s geographical location contribute to that?

Inside, I was enchanted by all the displays. In fact, that’s why it was probably so easy to imagine ghosts, whether they were there or not. Many of the cells were preserved as if the inmates were still there.

Inside of Colorado Museum of Prisons

What surprised me most was how lush some of the cells were. Inmates were allowed to sew and decorate their cells. Some even had curtains hung!

You also got to go down in the work area where they did washing and stuff. (It’s been a while, like close to 10 years, so my memory eludes me. I want to say they had a sort of sewing shop set up down there too.)

THE GUARD WHO’D SEEN GHOSTS

What I remember most is what happened once we left the prison. That evening one of Karl and Erna’s friends stopped by for a visit and to pick something up.

Erna said, “We went to your old workplace today, Roy.” (I actually don’t remember if his name was Roy or not. It seems like it was something like that, though.)

“Oh yeah? You went to the prison museum, huh? What’d you think?” he asked Wayne and I.

“I thought it was fascinating. You worked there? What did you do?” I asked.

“I was a guard for years and years before I moved into administration.”

I knew he might think I was nuts, but I just had to ask, “Are their ghosts there by any chance?”

He sort of raised his eyebrow and I expected him to respond like how a lot of people did back then (pre-Ghost Hunters making an interest in the paranormal acceptable). Instead, he surprised me.

“You tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what I’ve seen.” 

“I didn’t see anything. It was more of a feeling.”

“Well, I’ve never ‘seen’ anything either exactly. Not like an actual ghost. But I’ve seen things I can’t explain. And heard things, like voices and stuff, when I shouldn’t have. I’ve seen a lot of things in my time and I’m not one to believe in ghosts, but what I saw there? Yeah, I’m inclined to think it’s haunted.”

Try as I might to get him to elaborate, he wouldn’t. He said he had somewhere else to get to and left us. Dagnabit!

But before he did he told me, “If you’re interested in ghosts and stuff, you might like Woodpecker Hill. It’s the old cemetery where they buried prisoners. Some nutty stuff is said to happen out there. You might see something there if you’re looking to find it.”

I never did get a chance to make it over there yet. Maybe when we go to Colorado in September we can run down there and check it out.

Courtney Mroch
Courtney Mroch, otherwise known as HJ's Ambassador of Dark and Paranormal Tourism, is an author, traveler, and ghost enthusiast. When she's not writing, jaunting, or planning her next trip, it's a safe bet you'll find her on a tennis court somewhere. She currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
http://www.courtneymroch.com

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