The Old Chester County Jail in Chester, South Carolina was constructed in 1914. The jail housed prisoners until 1973 who were convicted of charges ranging from petty theft to murder. In 1981, the Chester County Historical Society converted the jail into a museum reflecting the county’s history. The Historical Society had previously operated from the basement of the county courthouse across the street. A stoic reminder of the past, the museum houses a comprehensive collection of genealogy on many families, local histories, as well as an expansive photography collection. The museum has an assortment of military memorabilia and guns from every major U.S. war, beginning with the American Revolution up to Desert Storm. The Historical Society’s Native American projectile-point and pottery collections are considered to be some of the finest in the Southeast. There are even a few unusual relics, like a wooden bench that was slept on by Vice-President Aaron Burr in 1806. The museum’s rifle and handgun collection is one of the largest in South Carolina (over 80 long rifles and 35 handguns) and includes guns from all over the world dating back to the 1800s. Some are so rare even the Smithsonian visited to view them.
Above the museum sits the abandoned jail. While in operation, it was said to be a dangerous place. There is a rumor that no one came out of the sheriff’s office with their teeth still in their mouth. If you ask around about the jail, many will tell you that it is haunted. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most haunted locations in South Carolina. People often report seeing a face in the top floor window, but there’s no floor beneath those windows. Once late at night, a policeman thought someone had broken in, but after thoroughly checking the building, he found no one was there. Elizabeth Anderson, the museum’s curator, reports plenty of activity since she began working at the museum including unexplained footsteps, pictures moved around, items misplaced in obscure locations. She has to keep her keys around her wrist otherwise they would disappear too. Whenever she makes her way into the jail, it is common to hear voices in an empty room behind a steel door.
Over the years, the Old Chester County Jail has been the subject of multiple paranormal investigations. One of the most notable spirits is referred to as the Trustee, described as a man being tall, burly, wide-shouldered, and old. The Trustee is believed to be a former inmate who was convicted of murdering his wife. At the time of the murder, he had 7 or 8 young children. The sheriff allowed him to stay at the jail instead of transferring off to prison so he could be near his children. He spent 40 years there living in the basement, which would have been the intake area while it was active. After processing the inmates, the Trustee would take them upstairs. There are a host of other spirits that still linger around the jail. When a paranormal investigator asked, “What’s your name?” in one of the jail cells, he received the response “Billy,” a name that happens to be etched into the cell’s wall. Visitors will leave Billy offerings, things someone might long for while locked up like playing cards or cigarettes.
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