Bodmin Jail was once a grim place which was home to murder, starvation and execution, not to mention the thousands of convicts that passed through its doors. Now the disused jail is one of Cornwall's best tourist attractions.
The ruined prison in the town of Bodmin was once dark, damp, rat infested and full of misery, pain and death. Throughout its life it saw many death sentences carried out and it's said that many of the souls that died there still remain, making it a great day out for paranormal lovers.
The jail is situated in the heart of the Cornish countryside and was originally built in 1779. It was designed to hold 100 prisoners, but a population surge soon resulted in chronic overcrowding with women and children also imprisoned. Laws reforms failed to control this rise in crime with crowds flocking from across the country to witness the public hangings that took places outside the prison walls.
I visited the jail in the summer of 2018 and, despite the fact some major building work was taking place there, the museum was a great experience. The jail has been well restored and maintained and the exhibits on display in the old cells give a great insight into what life would have been like in the prison.
I was quite excited to see that the museum had a 'paranormal room', a small room which gave a brief history of paranormal investigation and on display were some of the tools of the trade, including a ouija board and several electronic ghost hunting gadgets. On one wall was a large scrying mirror and the room was well stocked with leaflets promoted the museum's after dark tours and paranormal events.
I wasn't on a paranormal event, just a self-guided daytime tour but the prison still had a pretty creepy feeling, perhaps because records show leniency to be in very short supply, with many meeting their maker courtesy of petty crime, from murders to those who made the mistake of stealing a cow, each perpetrator met with the same agonising fate.
Visitors and staff have reported plenty of ghostly goings on. Objects are said to fly across the cells, as if seen by unseen hands. Also murderous screams have been heard causing people have run in absolute terror. The ghostly figure of a priest has been seen in what used to be the prison's chapel.
Although I didn't see or experience anything odd there, I thought the most unsettling area of the prison was the cellar, where a large fire would have once burnt to heat the whole prison. I visited on a week day outside of the school holidays so the attraction was pretty quiet, this meant that when I was in the cellar I was there on my own.
I spent about 20 minutes in this area on my own in silence listening out for any unexplained knocks and bangs and willing something strange to happen. Sadly nothing did, however I did have a creepy experience in another part of the building. Again I found myself alone, this time on the top floor of the prison and I decide to take a photo looking down the spiral stone staircase that connects the five floors of exhibits. As I held my camera out over the banister I became aware of an odd sound coming from the walls around me. It sounded like something moving or scratching, but as they were solid stone walls I couldn't work out where the sound was coming from. It actually freaked me out a bit, to the point where I abandoned taking a photo and ran back into the corridor.
All of the prison's exhibits were interesting and told the stories of former inmates, their crimes and their punishment, but one cell in particular held a story which I found very interesting. It told the story of a former inmate named Anne Jefferies.
According to the sign on her cell door, she had attracted a large following in the Cornish community as she was suspected of being a changeling, someone who has the ability to change into an animal, she also had legendary healing powers.
A mannequin of Anne was set up in the cell, which would have been similar to the one she was thrown into in solitary confinement where she was deprived of food. However, she was strangely not affected in any way by the lack of food. Her health and weight remained stable throughout.
In the mocked up version of Anne's cell, several fairies had been placed on the table. Apparently, Anna had insisted that she was fed and card for by fairies that came to her cell at night.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend a visit to Bodmin Jail. You can find out more details at the attraction's official website, bodminjail.org