There is a place that I have been to multiple times, and even with what happened the last time I was there, I can’t wait to go back to revisit it. The Old City Jail in Charleston, South Carolina, is one of my favorite places to investigate. The spirits there are active and what to communicate with visitors.
It was constructed in 1802 to be used as a jail. The jail was built to house only 130 prisoners, but at its height of business (not including the Civil War) have over 350 inmates. It originally had four floors, but an earthquake in 1886 damaged the upper floor and other parts of the jail. It served as a jail from 1803 through 1939. The ground floor was for the jailers and the “gentleman” prisoners (the wealthy or high-status prisoners). The second floor was for debtors and prostitutes. The third floor was for murderers and thieves. During the Civil War, Union prisoners of war were held at the jail along with the regular prisoners. There were so many Union prisoners of war that some were kept in the yard with tents as their only protection from the elements.
There are a few notorious prisoners held at the Old City Jail. Denmark Vesey was an African American leader who attempted to lead a slave revolt. He was convicted and hung for planning the event in July 1822. Jaque Alexander Tardy was a French pirate who was known to poison his victims. He had been caught trying to steal a boat named Cora and had been sentenced to two years. And then there is Lavina Fisher. According to urban legends, she is the United States’ first female serial killer. She used her small inn to lure men under the guise of providing them a place to rest while she poisoned and robbed them. She and her husband, John, were convicted of highway robbery. Because of South Carolina law, they couldn’t execute a married woman. To get around this law, the city of Charleston hung her husband first. Then the next day, they brought Lavina out to be executed. She wore her wedding dress to gallows because she hoped that someone would offer to marry her and save her from the gallows. Upset when she was still unmarried by the time she arrived at the gallows, she shouted out, “If any of you have a message for the devil, tell me now, for I shall be seeing him shortly!” With that, she jumped off the stage and hung herself.
The Old City Jail has a long history of paranormal activity. People have reported seeing things move on their own. Voices and whispers have been heard when no one is around. The heavy doors slam close by themselves. When the jail was being renovated in 2000, footprints in the dust could be seen. During these same renovations, construction workers occasionally see a guard holding a rifle patrolling the third floor. The guard would charge at the workers but vanish just before he got to them. Visitors and employees report that their jewelry occasionally goes missing while they are over there. Lavina has been seen walking around, and people have captured a female voice during EVP sessions. People have had their hair pulled. Sometimes they describe it has felt like it was stuck in a spider web (gentle pulling), and others have said that it was violent tugs that yank their head backward. Bricks from the wall surrounding the jail were used in building the apartments across the street. Tenants in the apartments have also reported hearing voices, footsteps, and whispers in their apartments.
I first visited the Old City jail in December 2012. I was on a trip with Bob, the Wilmington paranormal group leader I was training at the time. The trip was to Savannah and Charleston. It was only to be one night in each place. After touring the Old City Jail the first night, we decided we wanted to stay a second night because the tour guide had told us weekday tours were typically smaller. Both times we toured it, we could feel being watched in the room in the room that used to house a warden that was overly hard on the inmates. On the second night, one of the women on our tour cried out in that room while the tour guide gave us the history of the room. She said that she felt someone breathing on her neck, but no one was standing on the side that she felt the breathing. There is a room where they have a display set up to show how they would tie the hands up to whip inmates on the second floor. The tour guide had someone put their hands in the ties to demonstrate with an imaginary whip. The person sand he felt a burning sensation on his back during this. He lifted his shirt, and there was a red welt going across the upper back. After this trip, Bob and I decided that we needed to bring his team down to the jail to do an investigation.
We brought the team down in March. At that time, Jeremy was apart of the group, and we had just started dating each other a little before this trip. One the third floor, there is a cell set up to show how cells use to look. According to tour guides that Lavina claims it as her own and messes with people who enter it. During this investigation, I volunteered to enter the cell with a voice recorder while the team members conducted an EVP session. I sat in the middle of the cage, and halfway through, I could feel my hair being petted. No one was in the cell with me or near enough to touch me. When we played back my voice recorder, we heard a female laughing quietly. This laughter was not caught on any of the other voice recorders in the group.
After the EVP session, we split up into groups of two or three people to investigate the different rooms. Jeremy and I were in one room on the third floor conducting another EVP session. We could hear two females talking in the hallway but assumed it was fellow teammates. Jeremy stepped out into the hallway to ask them to be quiet. Not only weren’t there any females in the hallway, but the only other females in the group were down on the first floor. We played back our voice recorders, but they did not get the voices we had heard. After about an hour, we went back to the room with the cell because that was the largest room to comfortably hold our team. Again we tried to reach out to Lavina, but we were using a flashlight to do yes and no questions this time. She seemed to only respond to Jeremy’s questions, so we decided to leave him alone for his questioning. I went with the other females in the group down to the second floor, where the whipping display was set up. After being in the room for a few minutes, I suddenly became extremely dizzy and started having a massive headache. One of the girls in the room took a picture of me, and the picture showed a bar of light going through my head. They tried to figure out where the light had come from while I sat down. The dizziness and headache were to the point I felt like I was going to be sick. One of the girls in the group took a video of me almost passing out. In the video, an orb can be seen circling my head repeatedly. One of the girls went to go get Jeremy as the other girls helped me go downstairs to get fresh air. Once I was in the parking lot, I instantly started feeling better. The dizziness and the headache eased up completely. Once Bob heard what was going on, he decided it was time to wrap things up.
Jeremy’s notes on the investigation:
In 2013 I went on an investigation to the Old City Jail in Charleston, SC. During that investigation we had one goal, to make contact with the first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher. Among our group I was the only non-married male although I was dating my teammate, Kelly. The highlight of the trip was when we entered the cell where Lavinia spent her final hours before being hung to death. There was about 10 of us on this investigation and out of the 10 of us I was the only one that was getting any responses from who we thought was the targeted spirit. Kellyrecommended that she step out in order to allow me to have alone time in order to see if she would open up more to me, the rest of the team respected that and followed her lead. While communicating with the spirit she did confirm that she was still looking for a groom even in the afterlife and that if she found a suitable groom that she would be pardoned of her crimes and finally join her late husband. What I was not aware of until afterward was that the closer I got to building rapport with Lavinia, themore she was taking out of Kelly in the other room. The longer my conversation went in the cell the dizzier and tiring Kelly was getting to the point that she was experiencing a huge feeling of nausea andalmost passed out. The team did capture a video of a spirit orb traveling around Kelly’s body and pass through her head at one point! All this proved to us is that Lavinia is a very jealous spirit and when shewants something she will not hesitate to resort to her killer instincts and try to gut the competition inside and out. Overall it was quite the experience communicating with such a dangerous, yet misunderstood entity. While I do wish that she finally finds her peace and is reunited with John, I hope it doesn’t come at the “Death of a Bachelor”.
Unfortunately, neither Jeremy nor I have any of the evidence, including EVPs, the photo, and video from that night. It was part of the agreement I had with Bob that any evidence captured during investigations I attended with his team remained his team’s property. I have since changed the contract I have when I am training teams or individuals to keep a copy of the evidence when I am involved with the investigation. I am want to go back to Old City Jail for another investigation. If I was to rent again for an investigation, would you like to join me? Let me know in the comments below.