Is Old Kosciusko County Jail and Museum Haunted?

Old Kosciusko County Jail and Museum

This small town historical museum is reportedly haunted by tragic spirits of its jailhouse history

Paranormal Claims at
Old Kosciusko County Jail

  • The voice of a murdered young woman is frequently heard in the building
  • Phantom cigar smoke is a frequent report in the research room
  • The specter of a former sheriff’s appears often, and sometimes speaks to people
  • A man’s voice is often reported and recorded in the jail
  • People reporting being touched and grabbed on the shoulders
  • White, vaporous entities have been seen drifting through the solitary confinement ceiling
  • Apparitions of women in old fashion dresses have been spotted
  • Bright visual anomalies have been seen around the jail when its dark
  • A shadowy spirit reportedly grabbed at someone with noticeably wet hands
  • Some investigators report being scratched by unseen entities
  • EMF spikes are commonly reported in certain areas

Warsaw’s Historically Haunted Jail

Down sleepy Indiana Street in small town Warsaw, Indiana, sits a small but imposing structure with a dark yet important past: Old Kosciusko County Jail.

The jail’s fortress-like walls kept the community’s worst criminals safely contained for decades, and now stands proudly as a historic museum. Within Old Kosciusko’s walls remains numerous artifacts and preserved spaces from its penal past.

Everything down to the prisoners’ penciled wall art remains on display for visitors to find. But there might be more than tourists patrolling the corridors of the jail today.

Rumors abound that Old Kosciusko is haunted by the phantoms of the unlucky souls who died in lockup there. And more recent investigations have suggested the jail’s ghostly happenings may have some especially tragic sources.

Timeline of Old Kosciusko County Jail and Museum's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Old Kosciusko County Jail and Museum through the years


The Old Kosciusko County Jail known in Warsaw today was actually the town’s third jail. The first, built around the 1830s, was nothing more than a log cabin. A true, brick jail followed soon after as the town grew. But, but the late 1860s, Warsaw needed an even larger and more state-of-the-art building. In 1870, work completed on the new Kosciusko County Jail. Its study, cream-colored brick walls promised safety and security to everyone in the community. And, it quickly went to work holding local criminals that same year.


For much of Old Kosciusko County Jail’s operation, Indiana law mandated sheriffs live in their jails. Many Warsaw sheriffs followed this law and were always near the action whenever something happened in town. One of Warsaw’s most legendary encounters occurred in 1934, when gangster John Dillinger robbed the local police station. Dillinger had recently escaped from Crown Point’s Lake County Jail, and while Warsaw police surely hoped to lock him down in Old Kosciusko, Dillinger escaped capture.


Old Kosciusko County Jail served dutifully for over a century in Warsaw. It kept both mild vagrants and serious criminals off the streets over that time. At one point, it is believed eight suspected killers were locked up in this 45-capacity jail at once. While overcrowding never stuck around, cots would sometimes need to be setup in common areas after all the cells were full. The inherent dangers in jailing and the building’s age resulted in the sheriff finally moving out of the building’s residence in 1974.


Not long after the sheriff abandoned the old residence, the rest of the jail came under scrutiny. Though the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the community needed a functional jail more than a historical one. So, in 1982, the city closed it down in favor of a new, more advanced building. Shortly after, the former jail reopened as the Kosciusko County Historical Society, and it’s been a museum ever since. But, ghost stories suggest that specters around the museum haven’t forgotten its time as a jail.

Ghosts of Old Kosciusko County Jail

Perhaps Old Kosciusko Jail being haunted shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, jails are violent places, and Warsaw’s old lock up is no exception.

Eight known violent deaths happened at Old Kosciusko, with the first happening before the building was even completed. In this instance, a worker was crushed when one of the heavy slabs of Indiana limestone used for the foundation fell from above. The ghosts within Old Kosciusko serve as reminders of how dangerous, and how tragic, jail can be.

Does Annie Chaplin Haunt
Old Kosciusko County Jail?

One of the most well-known ghost stories around Old Kosciusko revolves around Annie Chaplin. Chaplin was the daughter of a successful Warsaw businessman in 1880 who forged a $300 check from her father. It is believed she did this so she could run off with her lover, local sewing machine salesman Guin Smith. But, her father quickly found out about the ruse and had Annie locked in jail.

For days he refused to bail her out, until she finally admitted Smith’s role in the scheme. Smith was charged and locked up, but unlike Annie quickly made bail and got out. On his way out, he swore revenge on Annie for ratting on him. And, he’d soon make good on his promise.

One day, Annie excused herself to the jail’s outhouses, and Smith took his chance. He jumped the then-low jailhouse fence and shot her twice with a revolver, killing her instantly. Then, Smith turned the weapon on himself.

Both were discovered dead moments later by jail staff. While this tragedy may have escaped the news after just a few days, it never truly escaped the confines of Old Kosciusko County Jail.

Old Kosciusko Jail’s Phantom Voices

To this day, Annie Chaplin’s spirit is reportedly encountered throughout the jail. Her spirit most often manifests as a disembodied voice echoing through the jail’s metal corridors. Her intelligent responses to questions have also been recorded by previous investigators in the building.

Guin Smith’s ghostly voice has also been heard throughout the jail. While Annie’s spirit seems open and nice to those who have encountered her, Smith’s is said to be quite hostile. There is an ongoing rumor that Smith wanted to run away with Annie because she was pregnant, and now continues to protect his child that could have been.

Old Kosciusko County Jail’s
Sheriff Spirit

Aside from the tragic entities of Chaplin and Smith, there is said to be the ghost of former Sheriff John Hammersley in the building. His entity frequently appears in uniform in many different areas.

In one instance, a child was noticed talking and laughing with someone who seemingly wasn’t there. When asked who they were speaking with, the child pointed out a picture of Sheriff Hammersley, calling him fun to talk to.

Additionally, Hammersley was a frequent cigar smoker during his tenure in the building, but often had to take his smoking out to the garage.

Now, the former garage is a historical research room, and is the only room where mysterious odors of cigar smoke are reported. Hammersley is also thought to be a spirit who often reaches out and touches or pats people on the shoulder as they’re walking by.

Misty Mysteries of
Old Kosciusko County Jail

Along with Old Kosciusko’s identified and known spirits, the jail has its share of unknown entities. One report is of a white, vapor-like mist that has appeared in the solitary confinement cell. A witness reported the mist drifted towards the ceiling and then seemed to fade right through it.

Additionally, more well-formed human apparitions have been noticed walking around the jail. Interestingly, many of these unknown figures are said to be women. Women in old fashioned dresses are often seen wandering the cellblocks, leading many to wonder who these mystery ladies are and what they’re doing in jail.

Ghostly Games of Guess Who at Old Kosciusko Jail

Perhaps Old Kosciusko’s most one-of-a-kind apparition encounter is when a person in the sheriff’s residence reported having two wet hands placed around their face from behind. When they turned around, all they saw was a misty, female apparition disappearing.

But, despite what they’d just seen, they noticed visible, wet hand prints on their face from the spirit. While this has only been reported to happen once, many have since tried to learn more about this unknown spirit.

Old Kosciusko Jail’s Haunting Happenings

Old Kosciusko County Jail is truly overflowing with ghost stories and paranormal reports. Since opening up to ghost hunters, visitors have reported even further haunting activity. These reports include strange EMF spikes in particular areas of the jail and numerous potential EVP recordings.

Others have reported being scratched by unseen forces in one particular cellblock. Some ghost hunters have also reported bright, glowing orb-like anomalies appearing in their vision as they explore the jail in the dark.

Old Kosciusko Jail:
Warsaw’s Haunted Gem

While Old Kosciusko County Jail mostly keeps busy these days as a museum and research center, the hauntings can be hard to avoid. The jail’s spooky stories have spread far and wide, making Old Kosciusko a popular stop off for paranormal enthusiasts in the Midwest.

It seems like no matter what the reason is for your visit, you may leave Old Kosciusko County Jail with a ghost story or two. And if you’re lucky, one of those stories might just be about a nice talk with the jail’s friendly old sheriff spirit.