Yuma Territorial Prison
04-23-2011, 08:55 PM
Yuma Territorial Prison
So, I got bored and looked up one of my fav places where I live, the Yuma Territorial Prison. And with it’s past…I got curious about if it was haunted or not. I have some pictures that turned out ‘odd’ to say the least from the last time I was there, but alas…no scanner. *tears* So, I’ll just give you all what I can about this prison that is right now, the oldest building in Yuma and hope I can go see it and take some more pictures soon.
For the background, it was opened in 1876 on July 1st, officially at least, with seven inmates to start them off. For 33 years, a total of 3,069 inmates called this home. Out of all of them, 29 were women. Only 111 out of all of them died. The number one killer? Tuberculosis.
The prison had a reputation as a brutal place, but then again, most prisons from that time and beyond have it, but it was very humane. The punishments included a ‘dark cell’, rather a cell that was carved into the wall, with a hallway that extends about 10 feet and then the rounded room.
It’s…pitch black even in the middle of the day and was about 10 to 15 degrees cooler then the outside area when I went in.
To move on, there was a ball and chain for those who tried to run away, but that was normal to. The prisoners had access to regular medical attention, which is saying something for a little town of the time, they had access to a good hospital and even had the chance to learn such things like reading and writing, seeing as the prison also housed one of the first ‘public’ libraries of the territory; the visitors were chaged a fee to tour the prison and check out books though.
On top of that, one of the earliest electric generating plants in the western stats allowed the cell blocks, which are open air cell blocks with metal cell doors on either side of them, light and ventilation.
A draw back was by 1907 it was overcrowded. The convicts, just to have a little room, constructed a new facility in Florence and the last were transferred by September of 1909.
From there, during the years of 1910 to 1914, Yuma High School occupied the prison. After that, the cells provided lodging for hoboes and drifters of the rails for a fee. During the Great Depression of the 1920s, homeless families took up residence.
Unfortunately, the people of Yuma over the years, until it became a state park of a sorts, took parts of the building, using the stones and the such as free building material for their homes.
Today, only the cells, main gate, the watch tower and the cemetery remain.
Oh! And the Ghosts of course.
Antonio Garcez actually wrote an article on the prison for Ghosts of the Prairie and actually featured it in his book on Arizona ghost stories. Reported by park rangers nad staff members, there are many stories about the dark cell, or isolation cell, a place where they were punished for not following the rules.
A Ranger named Linda Offeney told her experience when she sensed a presence in the cell that frightened her. She also told of a photo that she had in her files. It was of a female tourist from the 1930’s. The woman in the photo doesn’t seem all that odd, but there is a ghostly man just behind her and just inside the opening of a cell.
The cell that it had been taken in front of? It had been walled up and had been used to house insane prisoners before being moved.
She also talked with a writer from a magazine called Arizona Highways. The writer had come to do a story on the prison, stating that she wanted to spend a couple of days and nights in the dark cell, chained by the foot and with nothing but bread and water. Just like the prisoners.
The staff went along with it, providing her with the items and then placed a heavy blanket over the cell door to keep out ALL sunlight. There is enough that filters through during the evenings and mornings so you can see properly. The poor writer didn’t last through the day or night, calling for help within hours and claiming that ‘someone’ else was with her!
No records don’t have any mention of any prisoner dying in the cell, but there is mention of two prisoners that left the cell ended up in an insane asylum right after. Could it be one of these two prisoners, still lingering in the last place of their sanity?
The main prison isn’t the only place to be haunted. The offices and museums have their own strange happenings that go on, usually including things moving around, lights turning off and on and on one occasion, coins from the cash register in the gift shop flew into the air before landing in the drawer once more.
There are many more stories of this prison, but not all of them are shared in the sites that I found. I’m going to look for the book by Garcez and see what else he has there. :3
And hopefully soon, I’ll be able to go to the prison and see it once more. It and the graveyard that is so close by.
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