The Historic Licking County Jail in Newark, Ohio was opened in 1889 and closed 100 years later. It remains however one of Newark’s top tourist spots, with a reputation of being haunted.
Built out of massive sandstone blocks, the entire building has a fortress or castle feel to it from the outside. In addition they added many architectural details such as the downspouts coming out the frogs mouth on the bulkhead above the doorway below.
The jail also served as the sheriff’s residence, as well as a couple of other apartments for workers. One worker was the female matron and cook.
It was here we met Nelson, who’s mother was the matron and cook in the 1960s, and where Nelson grew up. Without a doubt his story telling of a ‘youth growing up in jail’ added to the tour.
The favorite amongst the staff is a story where as a young teenager he and his mother lived on a 3rd floor apartment, directly above the office where the night shift guards hung out. One night his mother was out late and the guards had fallen asleep on the job, so Nelson thought it would be humorous to drop a lit firecracker out their apartment window and have it explode just outside the guards window – which he did.
The result was excited guards calling out all the police in the town with a report of a prisoner having a weapon. After hours of lock down and a complete search of the prisoners no gun was found (obviously) – Nelson indicated he was an adult before he fessed up about his prank!
Imagine coming home as a teenager and winding your way up the stairs in cages to get home…
With neighbors being the prisoners who were normally locked up for up to 6 months. Most were doing a bit of time for drunk driving or other relatively minor offenses. The more serious criminals were sent to prisons after their trials.
Security was critical though, as noted by the gun port for the guards.
Apparently bridge builders had the skill with steel and iron to build the cells.
The photo below is the mechanics of the door that makes that infamous prison door slamming sound.
A sad irony of our times is this country’s obsession with carrying around guns – so much so there has to be a ‘no weapons on site’ sign for a jail. Still with Nelson’s excellent story telling, and the rest of the staff’s passion with the history and legends of the building, it was an enjoyable couple of hours being ‘in the clink’, although no ghosts were sighted 🙂