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Saint Augustine Jail

Saint Augustine Jail paranormal

Photo by: Marianne Donley
Location submitted by: sdonley on 02/16/2015
DBA Approved: Y

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PANICd#: 1528

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The Old Jail Museum, formerly the original Saint John County Jail; (1891-1953), can be found near the corner of San Marco Avenue (A1A) and Missouri Avenue, between Dufferin Street and Mantanzas Avenue; not far from the Florida Heritage Museum.

167 San Marco Avenue
St. Augustine , FL 32084
Phone: (904) 829-3800
Open to the public: Yes

Lat: 29.908127
Lon: -81.3195417

Database Summary:

Demographic Rank: 6
History: 1
Stories: 3
Claims: 16
Evidence: 1
Resources: 2
Retrievals: 11423
Vistor Rating: 2.0
Votes: 3

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History information is some background and history about the location. This is meant to be a basic summary. Below the history records you will find sources in which you can click on to find out more information. There may be multiple history records per location.

In 1891, with the opening of his Ponce de Leon hotel, Flagler wanted to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for his patrons by creating a secure fortress to house criminals. It was important to Flagler that the exterior appearance of this fortress wouldn't disrupt the majestic atmosphere of the Ancient City. In order to accomplish this, it was designed with a Romanesque Revival style that gave it the distinct appearance of a Victorian house without the interior comfort and charm. It was almost unrecognizable as a jail apart from the barred windows.

Also, the original jail was too close for comfort at the time, so Flagler asked that the new jail be built at a further location. P.J. Pauley Jail Company, the same people responsible for building Alcatraz in San Francisco, were employed to construct the prison. The jail served the city of St. Augustine until 1953. It held some of the most violent and masochistic criminals and carried out capital punishment on a set of gallows on the property.

In 1954, only a year after the jail closed, it was transformed into a local attraction. The building underwent restoration in 1993 by owner Henry L. "Slim" McDaniel. Today, the Old Jail provides guests to St. Augustine with a glimpse into the history of the penal system and the daily life of its prisoners. The St. Augustine Old Jail was added to the U. S. National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

The Old Jail is located at 167 San Marco Avenue, just north of the downtown district. Free parking is available onsite.

Added by: sdonley on 08/01/2017 DB#:311


Stories are just that. Stories and personal accounts that have been reported about the location.

One may think that they didn't care that the men suffered a tortuous death. For the philosophy of this jail was that the prisoners were there to be punished, not rehabilitated. However, in Dave Lapham's book, Ancient City Hauntings: More Ghosts of St. Augustine, he reports that at some time, once the officials realized that after a medical experiment was conducted, during the hanging of a cooperative condemned man, the executions stopped at this jail.

Jail conditions supported this philosophy though. Food served consisted of grits in the morning, tac if they were sent out to work, and beans for dinner. Beds were made of Spanish moss, the perfect breeding ground for red bugs, who are blood-sucking varmints. Blankets were an optional luxury.

There was no protection from the whims of the guards, or the sheriff warden, and solitary confinement and other overly harsh punishments were dished out for seemingly minor offenses. Through various studies, researchers say that people who have absolute control over others have the tendency to abuse them. The solitary confinement area had no windows and no bed.

Besides having no glass in the barred windows, there was also no heat, no running water, and no sanitation for the disposal of human waste, as a form of punishment. Only a bucket was provided for every 4 prisoners. Sick prisoners were kept among the general population. At this time, the prison authorities in Florida didn't understand the necessity of having proper sanitation, but they should've known better than to put the sick in with the well inmates.

What probably kept the prisoners from going insane, was the required work program. The prisoners were put on work details in the community, bringing money into the county's coffers. The conditions were hard, and the hours were long, but it did get them out of a stark environment, and gave them the opportunity to catch little animals to supplement their bleak diet, while working. If they could escape, they knew that the populous would help them, as this program was not popular with the people, who saw the abuse.

Added by: sdonley on 08/13/2017 DB#:1287

Men in Chains

One of the many complaints to those living close to the Old Jail is the frequent sounds of footsteps walking inside. Loud, clunky noises indicate that these footsteps belong to the disembodied souls of the criminals that once lived and died there. Guests touring the facility have also reported this phenomenon.

Unpleasant Aromas

At any given time, visitors and workers at the Old Jail sense the aroma of sewage in the air; although there is none to be found on site. Others report a sickeningly sweet smell, which many describe as that of molasses boiling on a stove. But despite the daily cleanings and air fresheners, these two aromas seem to linger, just like the ghosts.

Barking Dogs

Although dogs once lived at the Old Jail, there are no furry residents living there today. Even still, it's believed that the reported sounds of dogs barking belong to these long lost pooches, which were family pets of the sheriff from centuries ago.

Wailing and Sinister Laughing

It probably comes as no surprise that those who tour the Old Jail hear voices in the cells and hallways. There are many reports of wailing, moaning sounds coming from the maximum security and solitary confinement areas and some visitors have even reported hearing the voice of a little girl coming from the sheriff's quarters. Others have heard someone whistling at them; and several guests have reported hearing a dastardly laugh in one of the women's cells.

The Cold Shoulder

Haunted places often have areas that people describe as cold spots and the Old Jail is no exception. There have also been many accounts of people feeling as if someone with a cold hand is touching their shoulder. Other reports from visitors include the sensation that someone is tugging at their hair and that someone is blowing on them as they walk by.

Added by: sdonley on 08/13/2017 DB#:1288

It is not surprising that this old jail is haunted. Most locations that house the incarcerated are a magnet for paranormal activity, both residual and intelligent. This location is no different. There are several reports of inmates dying from disease, abuse and attacks by other inmates, and there are even reports of the sheriff's daughter dying from either disease or an accidental death. Sudden, accidental or per-mature deaths can cause entities to remain at the location where their human existence ceased.

Just outside the building in the courtyard of this location is a gallows that was used actively for executions as well. These executions, were not often quick at times and were extremely painful. It is possible that the spirits of these prisoners did not want or feared crossing over since they felt guilty of their humanly crimes and were afraid of their own judgement.

Added by: sdonley on 08/01/2017 DB#:1265

Paranormal Claims

Here are the paranormal claims for this location. These have been found through Internet research, reports from members, or reports from personal interviews. To add a claim, please contact, and we will review and add your information.

Claim # Added Added By Claim
2465 08/01/2017 sdonley At random and at different times, two awful odors can loft through the building; The smell of sewage, causing stomach upset in some and a sickeningly sweet smell that makes the living uncomfortable have been reported.
2466 08/01/2017 sdonley Apparitions and shadows appear to the living, on occasion.
2467 08/01/2017 sdonley An apparition of a man was seen sitting on a chair
2468 08/01/2017 sdonley A cowering apparition was spotted in a cell by a tour guide, but disappeared through a wall.
2469 08/01/2017 sdonley Unseen presences are not only felt by the living, but they also tug at, blow on and talk /whistle to those folks who come inside the building.
2470 08/01/2017 sdonley A male presence was sensed by a psychic, pacing the hallway by the kitchen.
2471 08/01/2017 sdonley In one of the women's cells, a very grumpy unseen presence has been known to push and trip people.
2472 08/01/2017 sdonley During a tour, a tour guide first felt a punch in his side, and then a cold hand move down his back; but being the professional that he is, this terrified tour guide managed to finish his spiel.
2473 08/01/2017 sdonley A psychic medium found an entity that had been seen around the building. She found out that this entity was executed by hanging for a crime he didn't commit, and was afraid to go to the light because of all of his misdeeds.
2474 08/01/2017 sdonley Voices of unseen presences have been heard directly by the living.
2475 08/01/2017 sdonley Wails, yells and moans have been heard by people.
2476 08/01/2017 sdonley A VP of a nasty laugh was heard by a man opening the safe in the office there.
2477 08/01/2017 sdonley The sound of a little girl's voice has been heard in one of the children's bedrooms used by the sheriff warden's family.
2478 08/01/2017 sdonley Shuffling, footsteps and the jangling of chains are heard around and on the steps of the Jail.
2479 08/01/2017 sdonley Neighbors of this jail have heard disembodied barks of dogs coming from the back of the jail, where the prison dogs were kept.
2626 01/09/2018 sdonley Investigators have recorded EVP audio at various locations.

Paranormal Evidence

Paranormal evidence is based on claims that have been reported for this location. There can be several types of evidence; however, we have grouped them based on media type for better organization. Here you will find evidence that are logs, audio, video, or photographic.

To add evidence for a claim, you must submit it to for approval to be entered into the database.

CLAIM #: 2626 - Investigators have recorded EVP audio at various locations.

Evidence Type: Video
Encounter Type: EVP
Hauting Type: Unknown
Investigation Status: More Investigation Needed
F.S. Parnaormal Video
Submitted By: sdonley On: 01/09/2018
DBA Approved: Y

Additional Resources

This is a collection of Internet resources for this location. This section will house links to other websites that contain information related to history, claims, investigations, or even the location's website. Records
Added: 02/16/2015 By: sdonley
Find the haunted Saint Augustine Fort at
Spirits found at this location
Added: 01/09/2018 By: sdonley
Update blog post by PANICd.

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