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Colton Hall Museum and Jail

Mist and darkness surrounds Monterey's Colton Hall

Have you ever felt a shiver down your spine while strolling through a place that seems to hold tight to the past? Welcome to Monterey, CA, a coastal gem adorned with the title ‘Language Capital of the World‘ due to the presence of the renowned Middlebury Institute of International Studies.


Amid its charm, however, lies a portal to the past, and none more captivating and spine-tingling than the legendary Colton Hall Museum and Jail. Are you ready to unveil the secrets that Colton Hall holds after dark? Read on to uncover what lies beyond the veil. 


If you find yourself wandering the streets of Monterey, make sure you join us on a chilling ghost tour. US Ghost Adventures will introduce you to the haunting tales that linger within Monterey’s haunted heart.


The Rise of Colton Hall


Colton Hall was the brainchild of Navy Chaplain Walter Colton. Constructed in 1847, it stands strong to this day. Serving as the first American Alcalde of Monterey during the 1846 Mexican-American War transition, Colton’s multifaceted role included judge, sheriff, and prison warden. He pioneered justice by sentencing offenders to public works, an innovative approach reflected in Colton Hall’s creation, which stands today as a symbol of California’s birthplace.


Walter Colton’s legacy is nuanced, blending influence and controversy. He was the first to oversee California in a transitional government and shaped its early history. From establishing California’s first newspaper to impaneling the first jury in California and introducing prison labor practices, his progressive movements also afforded him unchecked power.

His journal, “Three Years in California,” reveals the challenges and moral ambiguities of his role, creating a complex narrative. Colton Hall embodies the echoes of a figure whose actions left an indelible mark on California’s development. The balcony alone is rife with heavy energy, as it once held the weight of harsh sentences and soldiers meeting their grim fate.


Hanged by Shadows


Operating as a jail until 1956, Colton Hall had a roster of infamous characters that graced its cells. They were key players in the unfolding drama of the Roach-Belcher Feud—a saga of vendetta murders that unfurled in the 1850s. 


This feud, sparked by the clash between Bill Roach and “Big Eagle” Lew Belcher, derived its intensity from a widow’s inherited wealth. The tale took a cryptic twist when one of Belcher’s confidants, the notorious outlaw Anastacio Garcia, faced an eerie demise. He was hanged in his jail cell by shadowy figures, vigilantes dispensing their brand of justice beyond the reach of the law.


Then, in the twentieth century, the jail hosted Eddie Romero, a free-spirited repeat offender who later became the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s character, Pilon, in the novel Tortilla Flat. Amidst the tales of various inmates, one noteworthy story involves a pair of Californians serving time for robbery. 


It is said that the spirits of those who died tend to stay around their place of death, particularly if it was a traumatic and untimely one. It was here that several inmates lost their lives to Colton’s death sentences, and it is here that they remain for, seemingly, eternity.


Hauntings at Colton Hall


One chilling account comes from Stephanie, a college student who, with two companions, ventured into the jail as part of a project. As they delved into the historical narratives, a sudden, thunderous banging disrupted their conversation, emanating from the old wooden door with three distinct reverberations. 


Startled, they investigated the source, expecting to find someone outside. To their bewilderment, an elderly lady on a bench nearby, accompanied only by her dog, denied any knowledge of the disruptive knocks. The air grew thick with an eerie tension as the unexplained disturbance lingered.


Staff members of the Museum and Jail are not immune to the unnerving activity that reverberates within the walls of death. The sounds of guitar plucking can be heard coming from the cells. Footsteps and the creaking of the cots the former inmates slept on often terrify those within earshot. Cold spots are known to manifest at any given moment, sending chills down the spines of those in their path.


Horrifyingly still, it’s believed that the executed prisoners are reliving their deaths in the brutal fashion in which they occurred. Slow-moving footsteps can be heard on the balcony. But none is more bone-chilling than the sounds of anguished moans and choking sounds of the delinquents that met a gruesome end at Colton Hall. 

Haunted Monterey


The heart-pounding haunts don’t stop at Colton Hall. Monterey is home to many firsts of California’s landmarks and haunting echoes of vengeful spirits. This coastal paradise is a thrilling home for experiences that will leave you forever entwined with the haunted legacy of Monterey’s grisly tales.


Join US Ghost Adventures on a ghost tour beneath the moonlit shadows, where real stories of murders, mysteries, and the macabre unfold.  


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