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The Old Montana Prison

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We investigated the Old Montana Prison twice last year. Here are our findings. We found this prison to be very active, to say the least, and when you take along a psychic, the spirits will come and they will bring their friends, too. We were joined by our investigator buddies from S.L.A.S.H, Grace Altman and Becki Marks, on our first visit. We obtained several EVP's [electronic voice phenomena} throughout the prison. Due to the constant noise from the road and houses nearby, we had to discard some of them. The prison itself makes a lot of noise that is not paranormal in nature. Cell house 1912 is by far the most active area. We heard footsteps, saw shadows, and black masses. Some of us were touched, as well. We returned for another investigation, this time with psychic Jennifer VonBehren and her husband Eric, as well as Grace Altman and Becki Marks. We were able to communicate with the spirits using a flashlight in 4 areas of the prison. In the Chapel area, where people hear organ music, we had the longest communication due to several spirits wanting to try turn the light on for us. In the shower area, Jennifer sensed a male spirit, a Native American man, who was very angry and wanted us to get out. He is stuck in this area due to killing an inmate there. This area has a very heavy feel. In the Hole, Jennifer felt that someone had been stabbed there. She also heard the name Harry. Harry's name was heard in other areas as well. We later found out that there was an inmate by the name of Harry Edwards, who thought he was Christ and wore ropes. The 1912 cell blocks are very active, especially the 3rd tier on both sides. On the right side, Jennifer was touched 3 times, and at the same time someone pulled Eric's sleeve. Jennifer saw 2 male ghosts talking to each other. On the left side, Becki and Jennifer saw a black mass that was coming towards them. Shadow movement was also seen. In the first floor, in cell number 23, there is a spirit called Oscar, who said he was stabbed outside his cell. He was very good at using the flashlight and was very polite. He had taken care of the gardens and helped an inmate called "Turkey Pete." Jennifer saw someone going into cell 129. The spirit there moved our flashlight twice. If you are sensitive to spirits, The Death Tower is not a good place to be. Jennifer felt very sick, nauseated, and her head hurt. She kept tasting blood in her mouth. The 1959 riot ended in the Death Towe,r and 2 inmates were killed by a shot to the head. Jennifer heard a male voice, and there was a spirit in the 3rd floor bathroom. You can still find blood stains on the walls and the stairs. We got the word "raid" several times on the Ovilus. In East Siberia, in the cell furthest to the right, there was a younger male spirit. He was sick, and a bit disturbed, as he was banging his head against the wall. He said that someone was putting stuff in their food to make them sick. Several towers have a male spirit in them. Many have seen them. The Women's Ward, aka Maximum Security, is also active. We were able to communicate with a female spirit, whose name was Katie. There is also a very angry spirit there who likes to beat others. People have been scratched there. Jennifer kept hearing movement from the left hallway. As we went there, another female spirit went right between 2 investigators. In the Theater, Jennifer saw a male spirit on the landing going upstairs on the right side of the room. He said that that was where the fire started that destroyed the Theater, and that he started it. Outside, in the old Hole, there was a very loud spirit crying and calling for help. Jennifer heard the name Larry. She helped him cross over. In the Admin area, people have heard voices and doors slamming. In the hallway, by a door leading to another hallway, someone had gotten stabbed. In the car museum, Jennifer saw 2 spirits, an older male and a little girl. The girl has been seen in the 1912 old shower area, as well. The main Office area has a male ghost that likes to let his presence known by turning on electronic devices. We would like to thank Melanie and Sandy for their help, as well as the staff of this awesome place. The people in Deer Lodge are by far the most helpful and nicest, of all the places we have been to. Go check out this awesome museum and take a ghost tour, as the guides have some awesome stories to tell. Here is a quote by Ellen Baumler: "Those who did time at Deer Lodge, left part of themselves in its dark places." So true.


The Old Montana Prison was constructed in 1871. Like all the other prisons, it became overcrowded in no time, making the prison conditions very uncomfortable for everybody. There was no electricity or plumbing. For heat, they used wood stoves and oil lamps to light them. Due to insufficient funds, things remained that way for a long time. In 1890, Frank Conley became the warden and things started to improve. He used inmate labor to build new buildings to house more prisoners, helping to alleviate the overcrowding. He believed that the inmates needed something to do to keep them out of trouble. In 1893, the inmates started Conley's biggest project, building the prison wall, made out of locally quarried sandstones. Out went the old picket fence. The walls had 6 towers, Sally Port, and a smaller portal to admit people. The inmates also helped build roads and other buildings for the state. Conley was also running 11 ranches, and its produce and meat was used at the prison. Conley began to use the inmates for his own personal gain, so his time as a warden ended in 1921, being the longest term as a warden in Montana. He remained a Mayor of Deer Lodge until 1929, and he passed away in 1939. The prison intended to follow the Auburn system, also called the New York System, which meant community work during the day, and separate sleeping quarters at night with enforced silence at all times. It didn't work, but it got reinstated at a later time. Old Montana Prison had its share of escape attempts. The most serious one was in 1908, that resulted in the death of Deputy Warden Robinson, and Warden Conley was stabbed needing 103 stitches. Two of the four inmates involved, Hayes and Rock, were hung. They remained the only 2 men executed within the prison walls. After Conley, the prison conditions got worse again, and the place was mismanaged. The state lessened the use of inmate labor, and prohibited the sales of convict made items for civilians. The library was the only means of education and that, as well, was outdated. Warden got rid of the usage of con bosses, the system that was started due to shortage of staff, and that made some inmates very unhappy. The prison yard was mostly converted into a vegetable garden, eliminating exercise areas. The inmates wanted improvements in the mail system and the food. Due to all this, inmates turned to riots. The first riot was in 1957, a pea riot, that started with the prison band and spread to the whole prison. The 2nd riot was in 1958, in response to the cancellation of the promised 8-point program. The last riot was the longest, bloodiest, and most serious one in 1959. It was planned and executed by Jerry Myles, Lee Smart, George Alton, and few other inmates. Myles, Smart, and Deputy Roth lost their lives. Warden Powell resigned in 1962. The Old Montana Prison was put on a National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The prison closed its doors in 1979. Today, it is a museum run by the Powell County Museum and Arts Foundation. Wikipedia has a great article about the prison with lots of great information that you can check out. The museum shop sells a great book called, "Dark Spaces," by Ellen Baumler, that I also recommend for more great information.

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