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Haunted Places: Burlington County Prison Museum
Burlington County Prison (which has now been transformed into a museum) was built in 1811 and operated for 154 years before shutting down permanently in 1965. Until 1908, the darkened, solitary cell on the third floor was used as a death row for inmates sentenced to death. At least eight felons spent their final hour in "the dungeon" as it was called. In 1908, when the death penalty was suspended, the prison began using the dungeon cell as a method of punishment instead, ordering prisoners who misbehaved into solitary confinement. Convicted murderer Joel Clough, who spent his last night alive on Burlington Prison's death row, is said to be the primary haunter of the dungeon.
In addition to it being the home of numerous violent offenders, the site of at least eight hangings (some of who are allegedly buried out back in the prison yard), and the location of a murder that took place in the basement, many other factors contribute to the prison being a prime candidate for a haunting: 1.) the building is in it's original condition, there have been no major alterations; the hanging gallows still stand out back in the courtyard 2.) there are white mannequins resembling prisoners throughout the cells that are placed there to convey what the experience of solitary confinement was like 3.) there is an ongoing recording played over the speakers of the prison that mimics the sounds (dripping faucet, inmates wailing) heard in the jail when it was in use, and 4.) since it is a museum, artifacts line the walls, including an inmate's Bible and a piece of hangman's rope. Drawings and writings done by the prisoners on the walls of the jail have also not been erased.
Museum workers have reported seeing apparitions on the first floor, ghosts "with no legs" floating from the massive front entrance towards the small back door that leads out into the prison yard. Visitors have heard voices and seen shadowy figures out the corner of their eyes in the basement. Some have even reported witnessing a tall man wearing a uniform or work clothes hanging around the basement area. But the most activity, without a doubt, occurs on the third floor where the death row dungeon is located.
Despite the accounts of paranormal activity on other floors, when my mother and I visited the prison museum in 2005, it was on the first floor that we picked an EVP of a voice saying, "Wow it's hot in here." (Click here and scroll down to the bottom to hear the EVP.) After we made out way through the rest of the prison and got up to the third floor, we entered the cell to the right of "the dungeon" before checking out the death row chamber itself. Upon seeing on the walls the pencil markings of a tree, carved by some lonely prisoner decades ago, I was immediately gripped with the most intense nausea I had ever experienced. My stomach felt like it was seizing. It was enough for me to double over in pain, and I thought I was having a standard stomach ache. However, as soon as we left the cell and I settled down on a chair just outside the doorway, my symptoms alleviated, then completely disappeared. Later, I would wonder why this cell had a chair sitting just outside it's entrance when all the other cells did not? Perhaps I was not the only one to experience such debilitating pain upon entering that particular room.
Prison WritingsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Burlington County Prison, located in Mount Holly, NJ, is open year-round Thursday-Saturday from 10:00am-4:00pm, and Sundays from Noon-4:00pm. The cost of admission is only $4 for adults, and $2 for students and seniors. Check out their website at http://www.prisonmuseum.net/ for special events and exhibits.