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In early January, my friend Rebecca and I took a day trip over to Council Bluffs. We tried to visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum that day but, as it was a Sunday, the museum was closed. Fortunately for us, the Squirrel Cage Jail Museum is right next to it and it was open. The bad news is that it costs money to get in (unlike the Union Pacific Railroad Museum) but seeing as how I'd always wanted to visit the Jail, I sprung the $6 or $7 it cost to get in.
See, the Jail has a reputation for being haunted, and you all know how much I love a good haunted location. In fact, there is an organization that holds regular night ghost hunts in the Jail. Group ghost hunts with strangers aren't really my thing and cost quite a bit more than just visiting the jail yourself and maybe running an EVP recorder while walking around - which is what I did.
Completed in just five months, it opened in September of 1885 and was as unique as it was interesting. The reason it was called Squirrel Cage Jail was because of the design. The cells are contained in a cylindrical structure inside the main building and that structure can be controlled by one person using a crank. This meant there only needed to be one jailer on duty making security easy and efficient.
There are three levels of cells on the cylinder.
Surrounding the cylinder jail structure were rooms used for many other things. An apartment for the jailer was built on the fourth floor, for instance, while a kitchen that fed everyone inside was built on the first floor, just inside the entrance.
This model shows you exactly how the cells jail looked from the inside.
As we walked around, we could tell the cells were pretty cramped as the circular shape of the structure made every individual cell shaped like a piece of pie.
Access to the cells was only on one side so all the jailer had to do to access a prisoner was rotate the cage, using a crank, around to reach the one he wanted.
There were plenty of signs around letting people know about its haunted history.
This picture display shows many arrest records of the jail.
The whole jail had an interesting vibe - not creepy like during my time at Edinburgh Manor - but rather I felt like I was stepping back in time.
Jake Bird, the Tacoma Axe Killer, was one of the Jail's most infamous former inmates. He spent time in the Jail during the 1920s. He was a serial killer who actively stalked and killed white women. It was his axe killing of a mother and daughter in Tacoma, WA, that was his downfall. During his trial, he put the "Jake Bird Hex" on anyone associated with his punishment.
Six people associated with the trial allegedly died, giving some credence and a bit of fear about Bird's hex.
Unfortunately, the sewage smells from the basement made their way up the shaft of the cylinder to the fourth-floor Jailer's apartment. As you can imagine, that made life in the apartment a bit stinky so some side cells that were going to house women were turned into the new Jailer's apartment.
A view from the outside of that 2nd-floor apartment.
A room for Trustees. Trustees were prisoners who had good behavior and were rewarded with a bit of freedom in exchange for helping out the Guards...or Jailer in this instance.
Eventually, I made it up to the fourth-floor apartment.
It contains an Ediphone - an object I've never set eyes on before!
A blueprint glimpse of how the cells work.
A view of the ceiling where you can see the graffiti of the names of prisoners past - locked in time.
This was a small side bedroom where I spent about 10 minutes doing an EVP session. I swore I heard some faint voice, but when I enhanced it in my audio processor...it was just my breathing. Figures! LOL
A view of the topmost part of the cells. You can see the turning spindle in the middle.
At the very end of our visit, we checked out the Solitary Confinement room.
More of a long hallway, it would've prevented anyone from really lying down and/or be comfortable.
A view from the other direction.
This is a painting of what the prison would've looked like in its surroundings back when it first became a jail. Of course, these days it's completely surrounded by the city of Council Bluffs.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures and an abbreviated history of the Squirrel Cage Jail. I realize there are more pictures in this post than any singular past post I've done before, but there were so many more pictures that I had taken so it was hard to choose! I'm a bit bummed that I wasn't able to detect anything paranormal there, but that is so often the case when doing even a full-fledged investigation that I'm not surprised. I have a real ghost hunt planned for sometime soon after the weather warms up more, and you'll definitely get the scoop when it happens.
I released a new book recently called The Urban Prepper: A Succinct Guidebook, so if you're interested in checking it out, click on the link here.