The Haunted Wyoming Frontier Prison

Posted by in US Ghost Adventures

A former fortress of suffering and misery, the Wyoming Frontier Prison remains an eternal jail for ghostly former inmates. With its first cornerstone laid in 1888, the Prison was designed by the same architects who brought Alcatraz into existence. The granite fortress’ eighty-year history is filled with torment, pain, and suffering.


Why is the Wyoming Frontier Prison?

The prison was the site of suicides, death from the elements, and murders. These horrific endings have created quite a repertoire of hauntings throughout the prison. Keep reading to learn more about this infamously cursed prison. To learn more about the most haunted places in Wyoming, book a ghost tour with Cheyenne Ghosts!

History of the Wyoming Frontier Prison

Construction of the Wyoming Frontier Prison began in 1888, but due to funding issues, it wasn’t completed until December 1901. When it finally started to accept inmates, it consisted of 104 cells, no electricity, no running water, and inadequate heating—a death sentence in a place where winters can reach -66 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over 13,500 people were incarcerated throughout the prison’s operation. Overcrowding was a consistent concern, and several additions were made to the prison in 1904. With the addition of a second cell block in 1950 came the addition of solitary confinement cells and a much more efficient heating system and hot water. Unfortunately, the running water didn’t reach the original cell block for another twenty-eight years.

The prison was equipped with several different means of disciplining inmates throughout its operation, including a dungeon, several variations of solitary confinement, and a “punishment pole” to which men were handcuffed and whipped with rubber hoses.

In 1906, a ‘dungeon house’ was added to secure the most violent and brutal inmates. The security measures at the Wyoming Frontier Prison weren’t the greatest, and it became increasingly difficult to handle the people who ended up incarcerated. It took a bit of practice to establish the appropriate level of maximum security to keep inmates from escaping or killing one another.

The prison was known for its ease of escape as early as 1903 — one attempt even cost a guard his life. In 1912 alone, thirty of the Wyoming Frontier Prison’s inmates escaped through a wooden and barbed wire fence over the course of two days. After the murder of a Rawlin resident during one of these escapes, concrete walls, and towers were finally added in 1915.

Death at the Wyoming Frontier Prison

The prison also used different execution methods. The first two executions were carried out using the “traveling” Julien Gallows, which were used to hang Tom Horn in Cheyenne in 1903. In 1916, the prison completed the addition of a “death house,” which consisted of six cells to house inmates on death row and a unique indoor version of the Julien Gallows. The building also housed the gas chamber when it was chosen to replace hanging as Wyoming’s execution method of choice in 1936. Ultimately, 14 death sentences were carried out; nine men were hanged, and five were executed in the gas chamber by using hydrocyanic acid gas.

From 1912 to 1933, inmates who came to their end at the prison’s Julien Gallows were essentially forced to kill themselves. Prisoners would step onto a trap door, which would start a stream of water onto the door. Once the water opened the door, the inmate would then drop through — but not hard enough to break their neck so that they would die at an excruciatingly slow pace through strangulation. Nine men were hung this way. The gas chamber was added in 1936 to ‘more humanely’ execute prisoners. It was in use until 1965.

The prison finally closed for operations in 1981 and became a museum. It’s now renovated, and funds are being earned through tours and event rentals of the space. It’s even been featured in Thrillist’s ‘Creepiest Places to Visit in Every State’ article and declared the most haunted location in Wyoming.

A History of Horror and Hauntings

Due to incarceration’s uncivil and terrible nature, most prisons and jails across America are said to be at least a little bit haunted. Restless spirits are born in jail; for some, death isn’t the freedom they desire. The Wyoming Frontier Prison is now considered the most haunted building in Wyoming.

Wyoming Frontier Prison was known for its rough inmates and the bullying inside its walls. One time, to intimidate the others, a man who attempted to fight his way out of the death house was made into a pair of shoes and his head given to a friend of the warden — is there any truth behind this tale? We wouldn’t put it past this wild-west prison.

One particularly sad story about the prison is that of an older woman named Esther. She was known as the “Pie Lady’ and would bake pies for the men at the prison and bring them by weekly. One unknown inmate had been released on parole, and the story tells that he sought to find Esther to kill her. Shortly after, he was tracked down and imprisoned again. The prisoners loved the Pie Lady and took his punishment into their own hands. They hung him over the balcony on the second floor, and this scene now plays in a loop as apparitions.

Prisoner Cell Blocks

Dark, creeping apparitions are often reported throughout the former prisoner cell blocks. Disembodied talking, screams, and crying are commonplace and are known to send chills down the spine of whoever hears them.

The Death House

People who dare venture into The Death House report feeling immense pressure resting on their chest. A reflection of a man wearing a brimmed hat has also been seen in the room where the DIY gallows once executed prisoners.

The Dungeon House

Also known as ‘The Black Hole,’ this was the prison’s cold and dingy solitary confinement section. One entity here is said to be crazed, attacking and threatening those who enter certain areas.

Other hotbeds of activity include specific cells, the chapel, and the former women’s section. (The prison only ever held eleven women incarcerated.)

Have you ever visited the declared ‘Most Haunted Place in Wyoming?’ For more hauntings in the West (as well as across America), check out our blog here!