It’s no wonder that Wyoming has some of the most haunted prisons in the country as the state hosted many outlaws. With the first discovery of gold in the state near the Sweetwater River in 1842. Bloodshed for the coveted treasure followed soon thereafter and continued for three decades. Ruthless prospectors staked their claim by any means necessary for a chance at striking it rich. That is until the law started mitigating these vicious crimes, putting malicious offenders behind prison bars.
Today, these prisons are haunted by those who live in them and experienced their deaths during their stay. While the tales they leave behind are gruesome, the paranormal activity is so prevalent it’s often hard to distinguish one encounter from another, leaving visitors to enter at their own risk.
Wyoming Frontier Prison – Rawlins
Described as one of the most haunted places in Wyoming the Frontier Prison hosts over 15,000 visitors annually. This includes the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures which captured some of the most compelling evidence the crew ever caught, including a camera moving of its own volition. It’s understandable that Wyoming Frontier Prison Director, Tina Hill, can’t highlight any one story from this historic site.
“We’ve been told by numerous paranormal investigators that our [prison] has so much activity that it’s difficult to pull any one spirit out of the pack,” explains Hill. “Every paranormal investigation that we hold here comes up with some evidence, so I just tell everyone that we are officially haunted.”
Located in Rawlins, Wyoming Frontier Prison is the former Wyoming State Penitentiary in operation from 1901-1981, housing over 13,500 inmates over those 80 years. Approximately 200 people died here during that time period, most from executions and infamously brutal inmate violence. Hill goes on to add,
Hill goes on to add, “Over the years, we’ve had numerous anecdotal stories of guests and staff being touched on the shoulders or back, hair being tugged, hearing footsteps, whistling, voices, hearing your name being called, cell doors opening and closing, windows rattling, benches being moved, small items being misplaced and then found.”
Famous Inmates, Ghosts and Legends
Responsible for the cruel slaying of a circuit court judge’s children, Andrew Pixley was sentenced to death. He went on to receive the title of “longest to die by gas chamber”, lasting nearly seven minutes, laughing the entire time. Today, candles placed inside Pixley’s cell during ghost tours can go out completely, and then suddenly relight.
Another legendary inmate is Annie Bruce, the first woman ever convicted of murder in Wyoming. At the tender age of 14, she was overcome with the desire to kill someone. She poured rat poison into one of her pies, knowingly serving it to her father later that afternoon. After only three bites he doubled over in pain with enough poison to kill five men. Despite her murderous youth, she was released from prison at age 18, going on to marry and start a family.
The Museum exhibits are free and open Monday – Thursday 9 am-12 & 1-4 pm.
Guided tours last approximately 1 hour, Monday – Thursday 10:30 am & 1:30 pm.
Leashed pets are welcome.
For more information visit: http://wyomingfrontierprison.org/
Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site – Laramie
The Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site is one of the oldest buildings in Wyoming. Built in Laramie in 1872 and still intact with its original two-foot thick walls of hand-quarried limestone with red sunstone trim. It then became a federal penitentiary from 1872-1890. The building would then serve as a state prison from then until 1901. Then it became an agricultural experimentation station until the late 1970s. In 1991, the facility was restored to its historical state, where it is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
As the Union Pacific train and ensuing settlers moved into the area, the clash between outlaws and lawmen resulted in the building of the U.S. Penitentiary. Here the Auburn Prison System was adopted, enforcing prisoners to work and fund the prison, be silent at all times, wear black and white striped uniforms, replace their names with numbers and move about the prison in “lockstep.”
While not as widely publicized as a haunted prison in the Cowboy State, one visit from the Colorado ParaFPI reports from their visit,
“We had a blast last night at the WY Territorial prison. At one point we had one of our open equipment cases closed by itself. Guess they wanted us out of there.”
Famous Inmates, Ghosts, and Legends
The most popular inmate to have served was Robert Leroy Parker, otherwise known as the infamous Butch Cassidy, inmate #187. Arrested for stealing horses in Lander, WY as George Cassidy, where he served 18 months of his two-year sentence for grand larceny. Ironically he received a full pardon from the governor for good behavior in 1896 when he went on to form the notorious Wild Bunch Gang and become the legendary Butch Cassidy. The WY Territorial Prison would be the only prison to ever hold Butch Cassidy.
The most widely known ghost at the Territorial Prison is Julius Greenwelch, inmate #338. After landing himself in prison for murdering his wife, who was working at his favorite brothel, Greenwelch was sentenced to life. Here he convinced prison officials into letting him set up a cigar-making enterprise, before dying in 1901. Today Julius’ spirit remains accompanied by cigar smells when he’s present.
Located on 197 acres, the site offers restored historic buildings, museum exhibits, a picnic area, a nature trail, a visitor center and a gift shop. Visitors can receive a “convict identity” and take a self-guided tour, or take guided tours offered on Thurs., Fri, Sat, Sun and Mon.
For more information visit: https://wyoparks.wyo.gov/index.php/places-to-go/wyoming-territorial-prison