Old Charleston Jail is rumored to be haunted

Old Charleston Jail

Phantoms of infamous killers may still haunt the halls of this two hundred year old jailhouse

Paranormal Activity at
Old Charleston Jail

  • EVPs of ghostly voices have been recorded at the jail 
  • The apparition of former inmate Lavinia Fisher has been seen 
  • The figure of John Fisher has also been spotted 
  • People have reported being touched by unseen hands 
  • Visitors have reportedly been scratched by unseen forces in certain areas 
  • Footsteps have been seen in dust where no one walked 
  • Distant sounds of voices and doors slamming have been heard 
  • The spirit of a young boy reportedly moves objects around the building

Centuries of Confinement:
History of Old Charleston Jail

At the quiet curve of Franklin and Magazine streets in historic Charleston, South Carolina, looms a building that has guarded the corner for over 200 years. With its two tall towers and stone facade, the Old Charleston Jail looks like a mix of a church and an old Spanish castle.

The city’s historic jail has been a unique tourist attraction and has greeted countless visitors through its arched, barred entryway since the early 2000s.

Though it’s been almost a century since it was an active jail, recent visitors have claimed ghosts of the jail’s past still linger.

From shadowy figures to ghostly touches, the ghost stories of Old Charleston Jail lend an aura of mystery to the building.

Timeline of Old Charleston Jail's History

Swipe or use timeline points to see Old Charleston Jail through the years

Visitors have reported paranormal experiences throughout this historic and haunted jail


At the dawn of the 19th century, Charleston, South Carolina was already well over a hundred years old. Though founded in 1670, the city lacked a large, centralized jail system throughout its early life. This changed in 1802 when the city financed the construction of the Charleston City Jail.

The city chose a plot already reserved for city services, so the jail was built alongside a hospital, a poor house, and a slave workhouse. The jail began taking in inmates the following year, with an initial capacity of 130 prisoners.

Do the spirits of former inmates reside within the walls of Old Charleston Jail in South Carolina


In its original form, the Charleston City Jail was four stories tall and included a two-story octagonal tower on top. But the city’s large new jail soon needed expansions, as major scandals rocked the city. In 1822, Denmark Vesey plotted a slave revolution in the city.

Alas, Vesey’s plot was found out, and everyone involved in the conspiracy was quickly thrown into the Charleston Jail. That same year, an expansion was added to the rear of the jail, making space for other criminals alongside the Vesey plot conspirators.

The looming towers of this haunted jail are rumored to be filled with the spirits of former inmates


By 1855, more jail updates were needed. The 1822 addition was demolished and replaced by an octagonal wing designed by architects Barbot & Seyle, who also oversaw expansions to the main building and additions of several Romanesque details throughout.

Not long after this overhaul, the Charleston City Jail would serve time as a Civil War resource. Throughout the war, both Union and Confederate prisoners of war were often imprisoned at the Charleston City Jail.

Serial killer Lavinia Fisher was executed within the wall of Old Charleston Jail and is rumored to haunt the property


Following the war, the Charleston City Jail returned to its normal function. Though designed for 130 people, the jail regularly housed more than 300. And, an 1886 earthquake destroyed the top floor and the octagonal tower at the top, cutting the jail down to just three floors.

The jail’s collective issues got so bad that the city finally replaced the jail in 1939. After that, it sat in limbo for the rest of the 20th century. But, the forgotten old building soon got a new lease on life.

Ghostly claims include someone following the sound of footsteps only to see fresh tread within the locked building


In 2000, the American College of the Building Arts took over the Old Charleston Jail as its main educational center. A few years later, city tour groups started operating in the historic structure. It was through these tours that the public got their first real glimpse of the jail…and learned first-hand of the ghostly happenings.

Since opening to tours, many visitors have had reportedly haunting encounters in the old jail. And though the college has since moved out, the tours and ghost stories remain.

Visit Old Charleston Jail

Is Old Charleston Jail Haunted by Killers?

Some of the most well-known spirits of the Old Charleston Jail are reportedly a few of the city’s most infamous killers. In the late 1810s, Lavinia and John Fisher operated an inn called the Six Mile Wayfarer Home north of Charleston.

Rumor has it guests at the Fisher’s inn would often go missing. But, these reports were not investigated for several years. When they were, authorities uncovered a long murderous history.

America Serial Killers: Lavinia & John Fisher

While most of these tales have been embellished over the years, Lavinia and John Fisher were found to have lured travelers to their inn to rob and kill them.

Lavinia would serve them poisoned tea to put them to sleep, and then John would rob them and beat them to death. Both were held at the Old Charleston Jail after capture and were executed there.

For many prisoners, Old Charleston Jail in South Carolina was their final stop – some say they still linger there

Famously, Lavinia left the crowd around the gallows with these final words, “If any of you have a message for the devil, tell me now, for I shall be seeing him shortly” (Though several retellings of this story have her final words phrased differently).

If Lavinia expected to see Hell, she may have been disappointed, as many visitors say Lavinia’s ghost is still stuck in the Old Charleston Jail.

Would you be willing to spend the night in a haunted jail?

Fisher Phantoms at Old Charleston Jail

Lavinia Fisher is one of the most often spotted spirits around the jail. Her vivid apparition is regularly seen walking around the jail, as well as the grounds outside. Her figure has reportedly been captured in photos and videos taken by visitors.

Lavinia’s figure is not the only one you might see around Old Charleston Jail. John Fisher’s shadowy figure has been seen darting around the halls of the jail as well, though he is spotted less often than Lavinia. Additionally, figures of 1800s-era jail guards have been seen. In one instance, one of these guard figures charged at visitors with a rifle, only to disappear suddenly.

Charleston, South Carolina is the home of Old Charleston Jail – rumored to be one of the most haunted places in America

Ghost Voices From the Jailhouse

Ghostly voices are also commonly heard around the Old Charleston Jail. Distant, disembodied voices are frequent reports from tourists, who say it sounds like some spectral prisoners are still calling out from their cells. Additionally, the voice of Lavinia Fisher has also been heard, and reportedly recorded by visiting ghost hunters.

Going along with the mysterious voices, other strange sounds have been heard in the jail. The sound of cell doors loudly slamming is one of the more regular sounds around the building. Sounds of mysterious footsteps are also sometimes reported. In one instance, renovation workers followed the sounds to find fresh footprints in closed-off areas of the building.

Get Grabbed By a Ghost at This Old Jail

The spirits around Old Charleston Jail are also known to get a little handsy. Lavinia Fisher, keeping with her killer reputation, is said to sometimes scratch people who visit her old cell. In other areas of the jail, people report being brushed or lightly touched by unseen hands. Others have claimed to feel unseen hands pull and tug at their hair.

This large, castle-like jail is rumored to be haunted by one of the most prolific serial killers in American history

Along with physical interaction, spirits at the jail are known for moving objects around the building. One well-known case of this comes from an old wheelchair, which is reportedly rolled around the halls by the spirit of a young boy.

Supposedly, this young boy was once a messenger for the jail wardens, and now his spirit remains in the building. Perhaps he’s merely trying to clear the halls so he can pass through with his messages.

Old Charleston Jail:
A Haunted Hotspot

Though the Old Charleston Jail has been a fixture of the city since the early 1800s, its haunting reputation has reached a national audience in recent years. Along with the regular tours, the jail’s haunts have been featured on SyFy’s Ghost Hunters and Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, heightening the building’s place as one of Charleston’s most famous haunts.

After recent years of closure for renovations and updates, the jail’s reopening for tours has seen hundreds more visitors pass through and learn about the structure’s storied past.

Within the walls of Old Charleston Jail disembodied cries make staff members and visitors alike feel uncomfortable

While the upper floors remain closed as of 2023 for renovations, the first floor of the building is still a popular tourist stop, as well as a paranormal hotspot. So if you’re ever in Charleston, do yourself a favor and go to jail.

The city’s old stone lock-up has plenty of history to share with you, and the spirits within seem to take any opportunity to share something spooky with visitors. However, if you run into Lavinia Fisher’s ghost, maybe don’t let her share any tea with you.