Located in Columbia City, Indiana is the Columbia City Jail. People come to see the jail for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that it is home to the Columbia City Jail ghosts and an array of paranormal activity. The jail is also an incredible piece of architecture which has been around since 1875.
The original name of this building is the Old Whitley Jail. A local businessman turns the jail into an old haunted house every Halloween, which proves to be one of the main reason people come to see the jail that is in less than stellar condition.
History of Old Whitley Jail (Columbia City Haunted Jail)
The Columbia City Jail dates back to 1875. The designer of this incredible brick building was J.C. Johnson. The building originally named the Whitley Jail for the county in which it resides, is three stories tall and ornately decorated. Johnson included carved sandstone details, dormers, and a mansard roof.
Upon completion of the building, it served as both the area’s local jail and the sheriff’s residence. With the sheriff in the same building as his prisoners, it was easier for him to watch over his prisoners. Having them watched around the clock helped prevent additional illegal activity or trouble while they were in custody.
The Old Whitley Jail remained in use for nearly two centuries. In addition to serving as the jail and sheriff’s home, there are stories that the building was also used as a courthouse. At the time, having both buildings connected helped expedite the handling of criminals and their court cases, as there was no need to travel far for jurisprudence. Once a new courthouse was built roughly a block away, there was no longer a need to use the Whitley Jail in that capacity.
What becomes of an old jail when there is no longer any reason for its original construction? The jail was used for many years as a home for county offices following the retiring of the jail. The county offices remained in the beautiful brick building until wear and tear, along with old age, left the heating system completely useless. With the building empty in 1985 eventually, someone saw the investment opportunity in gaining ownership of the old Whitley Jail and snatched the property up. This took place in 1991. Instead of returning the beautiful building to its former glory, the new owner, a car dealer in close proximity to the jail, decided to use the building as a haunted house once a year.
The Columbia City Jail acquired a new name and a new purpose; it has served as a haunted house scaring people for over twenty years. In addition to the Halloween haunted house, the old Columbia City Jail is also the sight of other spooky events at other times throughout the year. As entertaining as the place might be for scaring kids and adults during Halloween, there are many citizens in the area hoping to have the ownership changed. People who think the Columbia City Jail should be returned to the impressive brick jail it once was have taken to pursuing avenues to have it removed from the current owner.
The concerned citizens believe that the jail should be purchased by the city and restored to what it once was when the doors opened in 1875. They want it to be turned into a historical museum that will be able to be used for multiple purposes throughout the year. Without time, effort, and care restoring this old jail, there is a very good possibility it will continue to deteriorate. Locals are hoping the current owner will decide to take better care of the Columbia City Jail or hand it over to someone else who will care for it properly.
Hauntings of the Columbia City Jail
The Columbia City Jail is more than just an old jail that now serves as a haunted house every Halloween. It is one of the most haunted places in Indiana. There have been many sightings over the years of different ghosts as well as people experiencing a variety of ghostly activity.
In the history of the jail, there is one man who is said to haunt the jail to this day. The man was Charles Butler. Charles Butler was a man who could have had it all in his life, and in many respects, he did have it all. He was married to his wife Abbie and they had a son together. Charles Butler was a man who loved to get drunk and bully anyone he could. He also had a horrible temper and anyone in his way would suffer his wrath. Sadly, the main targets for his abuse were his wife and child. He eventually killed his wife in 1883 when she was shot in the back protecting her son from his crazy father.
Charles Butler was arrested and landed in the old Whitley County Jail. The man in charge of the jail at the time was Sheriff Frank Allwein. He had been out of jail at the time and a total of five inmates escaped. Charles Butler was one of those inmates. Butler was free for a time but eventually, he was found and captured. After being found guilty of murder he was sentenced to death. It is this execution that is the cause of many of the hauntings in the jail.
Charles Butler was sentenced to death by hanging. He was attached to the gallows and when the trap door fell, Butler did not instantly fall and break his neck. It is said he hung and was strangled to death for 10 minutes. The authorities cut him down and roughly three minutes later he died inside the jail.
People who have come to the Columbia City Jail have said that they can feel the presence of a number of entities inside the old jailhouse. There are many that believe the prisoners that died via the gallows are still suffering and refuse to leave the area. Of all the ghosts at the jailhouse, Charles Butler remains a permanent resident. There are those that say you can feel an intense electrical presence simply entering the building. Many people have said that their cameras malfunction and batteries that had a full charge end up completely drained in a short period of time. Some people have also made the incredible claim that Charles Butler’s ghost has been seen standing outside the jail on a number of occasions. Perhaps he cannot leave the place where he perished so violently.
Along with Charles Butler, there are those that believe Sheriff Allwein remains at the jail. Paranormal investigators who have spent time at the old jailhouse say that a ghostly figure moves from the jail section to the sheriff’s quarters. There were also reports of being watched when actually sitting in the old jail cell. The sound of footsteps approaching and then passing down the hall were heard. To further support the belief Sheriff Allwein is still around there is a door that opens without any assistance from anyone living.
During that same investigation, while sitting in one of the cells and investigator got the distinct impression that grabbed her leg and moved up to her knee. When someone shined a lot of the paranormal investigator there was no one else in the cell. The sounds of a man laughing, knocking, and someone running was experienced by the entire investigating team when they were in one of the front rooms of the old jail. They also had the sensation of someone brushing against or passed them and watched the curtains move without any assistance from wind or a living person.
The paranormal team is not the only one who has experienced paranormal activity when at the Columbia City Jail. Other visitors have also made claims of feeling as if they are being watched and seeing curtains move without any form of assistance. Another story claims there is a ghostly figure that is relatively blurry that likes to touch people on either their shoulders or their hands. People who have gone to work in the building have said they have heard what amounts to scraping in the walls as well as footsteps in the interior of the building.
Other people who have visited or worked in the old jailhouse have had other odd occurrences. There are reports that there is a very unsettling feeling that takes people over when they are in the cellar. Some people have said it is extremely cold down there, even for a cellar. One of the oddest reports from the cellar is that claims have been made that they can smell what they assumed was blood in the area. A worker who was in the attic of the jail stated while his co-workers were out of the building he thought he heard someone talking, but he was the only one there. He also said when he went to leave the attic he saw someone making their way to the basement but the figure did not look completely human.