The Old City Jail

Charleston’s Old City Jail (Saylor, 2011)

The Old City Jail in Charleston at 21 Magazine Street is a genuinely eerie place.  Built around 1800, the jail has held some of Charleston’s most notorious criminals.  Its “iron glass” (meaning there were simply bars on the windows, and nothing else) did little to keep out the elements.  It was described as the coldest place in Charleston in the winter, and the hottest in the summer.

The Old City Jail is the most frightening place I have ever been.  Disease was widespread, as was all sorts of unimaginable violence.  It is said that more than 10,000 people died on the property.

Over the years, lots of people have reported seeing and hearing unexplainable things, myself included.  Lavinia Fisher, renowned serial killer, is said to still roam the halls, even peeking out a window from time to time.  Others report seeing an African American male in tattered clothes walking slowly through the jail.    Most have felt as though they were being watched.

Original wheelchair used in the 1820s (JEB Images, 2011)

Perhaps the most terrifying instances of alleged encounters are those where people have had physical contact.  Tour guides and construction workers have reported being pushed, shoved, grabbed, and choked.

There is also an original wheelchair that was used in the 1820s.  The wheelchair’s appearance, especially with the backdrop of old cells and chains, is a little creepy.  But the chair’s remarkable characteristic is its lack of dust on the seat.  The back of the chair and arm rests get dusty, as does the seat around the space that would be occupied by a person’s backside.  There are even new scrapes from time to time on the chair’s leg rests and foot plates.  The chair has also been known to turn suddenly during ghost tours, sometimes bumping a tour-goer in the leg.  Tour guides believe that a ghost occupies the chair.

Wheelchair seat print (BulldogTour, 2011)

A tour guide points to scrapes and a foot plate that was raised since the previous evening. (BulldogTour, 2011)

Tour guests are encouraged to take pictures and record video.  They don’t allow lighted cell phones, so bring a camera.

Get your tickets from Bulldog Tours.  They run several tours per night, and they’re the only tour company that can get you in.

Image Credits:

Saylor, T. (2011, April 15). Old City Jail, Charleston SC. Retrieved from

JEB Images. (2011, April 27). Old City Jail – Charleston, South Carolina. Retrieved from

BulldogTour. (2011, July 8). Charleston Old City Jail Documentary . Retrieved from

~ by scareschs on March 13, 2012.

4 Responses to “The Old City Jail”

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  3. I took the tour of the Old City Jail and it’s a very somber, creepy place. To hear about the conditions there brings a sense of dread over you and everyone in my group was very quiet and respectful.

    I will share this with you, because this made even a skeptic like me take note. While downstairs at the end of the tour, I was at the back of the group and turned around to take some photos down a dark hall behind me with my iphone. I only got one photo and my phone completely powered down right after the shot, even though it indicated just under 30% remaining at the time. I just shrugged at first, then our guide told us to all turn around and note the hallway. He mentioned many people have reported an apparition walking back and forth across the hall. I had my friend’s father take a couple of shots along with the rest of the group with his professional camera. His camera immediately died, too.

    When we got outside, I walked over to the guide and mentioned what happened since he said something about “gear” going crazy in the jail. I held out my phone to explain it to him. At that EXACT moment, my phone powered back up and the Apple logo displayed – I didn’t even try to power it up. Talk about the hair standing up on the back of your neck! I was left with one creepy hallway photo (no ghost to be seen). Won’t forget that one any time soon.

    • Wow, Josh. Quite an experience. If you live in the Charleston area (or if you plan to visit again) you can check with Bulldog Tours to see when they’re doing another paranormal investigation of the jail. After all of the regular tours have finished for the night, you can join a small group to go inside and try to make contact with the dead…if you dare! Mwahahaha!

      Check it out at


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