Haunted Charleston: The Old City Jail Building

charleston's old city jail at 21 magazine st.

Built in 1802, the Old City Jail housed some of Charleston County’s most infamous criminals, including 19th-century pirates, errant slaves, and Lavinia Fisher, America’s first female serial killer. Thousands of inmates died within the structure’s imposing walls and it’s these tormented spirits that reportedly haunt the 210-year-old building today.

Now owned by Charleston’s School of the Building Arts (SoBA), the jail is generally off-limits to the public, though tourists can take the Haunted Jail Tour offered by Bulldog Tours. Spooked visitors describe objects that disappear, an alarm that goes off for no apparent reason, cell phone batteries that mysteriously die and recharge, heavy doors that open and close on their own, and the sound of heavy breathing in empty cells, among other eerie events. Visitors have also seen a black specter wandering about the halls. A former warden, perhaps?

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