Newark, Ohio may not be the first place that people want to visit when traveling through the state but the city does hold tremendous appeal. People taking the time to investigate the area will find that there is more to the city than they may have initially thought. Newark is home to multiple parks, landmarks, a waterpark, and there are even locations for enjoying shows and concerts. The Dawes Arboretum is one of the top locations people visiting the area love to visit. There is an assortment of walking trails, an observatory tower, and a variety of trees numbering in the hundreds.

An even bigger draw to Newark, Ohio is the old Licking County Jail. People come from near and far to see the old jail in hopes of performing their own paranormal investigation in one of the most haunted places in Ohio. The majority of people never leave without some type of paranormal experience.

History of Old Licking Jail

Around the world, there are certain types of buildings required by all major cities. There is a need for homes, stores, hospitals, and of course some type of jail. In 1889, in Licking County Ohio the area’s fourth jail, the Old Licking County Jail was erected. The impressive structure, with an almost castle-like appearance, was the creation of Joseph Warren Yost, a popular architect in the state of Ohio. Yost is well known for Ohio State University’s Orton Hall. Yost came up with jail, boasting a Richardson Romanesque style that received incredible praise for its design. In its early days many people believed that the jail was the sturdiest jail ever built in the state due to the use of Millersburg brownstone. The sandstone was actually quarried in Millersburg, Ohio and transported to the site of the new jail.

In keeping with the design idea of other jails built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Old Licking County Jail was designed to serve two purposes. The front of the building had three levels. The first two levels served as housing for the Sheriff and his family. The first floor contained all of the important rooms, such as the kitchen, living room, office, and foyer. The second floor had bedrooms. On the third floor were the living quarters for the Jail’s Matron. The back portion of the building served as the area in which the prisoners were incarcerated. The jail housed both male and female criminals in the 32 cells on separate floors. In total the old Licking County Jail had the capacity to hold as many as 68 prisoners in the cells that were at the smallest 8 feet X 8 feet. Throughout the history of the jail the number of those incarcerated surpassed the max capacity of 68. Female prisoners were moved to another location during the 1970s. As of 1987 the incarceration of prisoners in the old jail ceased.

Since its opening, the front of the old jail remained the housing quarters for multiple sheriffs and their families. It was not until around the 1970s that things changed. Instead of the different floors serving as living spaces they underwent a renovation. Upon completion of that the front of the jail had multiple offices and work areas available for all of the staff, not just the sheriff. Unfortunately, during many of those changes, a lot of the architectural details on the building were removed, damaged, or stolen.

As many would suspect during the decades that the jail housed prisoners countless tragic events occurred. There were a number of murders, suicides, and other deaths ruled as accidental, which took place. One of the most tragic events that took place during the jail’s history involved Carl Etherington. When Etherington arrived in Newark, Ohio in 1910, he came there for his job as a detective with the Anti-Saloon League of Ohio. It was his job to locate saloons and speakeasies serving illegal alcohol and raid them. During one of those raids William Howard, a saloon owner, was shot and killed by Etherington. For his safety, Etherington was taken back to jail. Angry over the murder of William Howard a lynch mob went to jail. The managed to break into the jail, locate Etherington, and then beat him with a hammer. If that was not enough retribution, they took him outside and strung him up, hanging him from a telephone pole. It took the actions of Judson Harmon, governor at the time, to restore order. Of the people that participated in the death of Etherington, 58 were indicted on everything from first-degree murder, rioting, as well as assault and battery. Other tragedies occurred in the sheriff’s living quarters, where four different sheriffs suffered from heart attacks.

In 1987, due to the building of new and more modern jail, the Old Licking County Jail’s doors were officially closed. The jail remained empty and unused for many years. It briefly had a purpose once again when the Veteran’s Service Commission wanted to use the jail. They had hundreds of boxes with important records and no place to store them. The jail seemed the ideal solution to that problem. Interest in bringing the jail back to its former glory occurred in 2012. Countless volunteers and the Records and Archives Department began cleaning out the jail that has been standing in the same location for well over a century.

Hauntings of Old Licking Jail

The violent and tragic history of the Old Licking County Jail remains not only in the stories told but also in the ghostly sightings and paranormal activity. People come from all over for both public and private tours of the haunted jail. Members of the Ghost Adventures team, from the Travel Channel, have even visited the old jail to witness for themselves the paranormal activity people claim exists at the jail. Many people who have come to the old jail to see if it is as haunted as people claim have said that there is an incredible amount of activity at the location. Some have gone as far as to say it is one of the most haunted places in Ohio because of the amount of activity experienced.

Some of the claims made by professional and novice paranormal investigators include seeing ghostly apparitions wandering about the jail. Others have seen shadows and experienced areas that were initially warm turning into instant cold spots.  Those that have experienced shadows, or even what they qualify as black masses, state they disappear as quickly as they appear. Other activity that people have experienced includes an assortment of noises. There are those that have heard a tapping, loud banging, while others have heard what sounds to be feet scuffing and people moaning. Some paranormal investigators have made claims of hearing people screaming for help in areas of the building where access is completely blocked off to foot traffic.

People who have traveled to the Old Licking County Jail have also experienced more physical experiences. People have seen fully charged electronics, such as video recorders and phones, completely stop working. Guests have seen chairs move across the room without any assistance from the living. Doors have opened and slammed shut. In a few unusual encounters, people have felt the sensation of someone tugging on their clothing but no one was near them when this occurred.  Additional people have experienced far more frightening encounters with the ghosts that live in the old jail. They have physically felt someone touch and push them; again nobody was in the room with them or close enough to touch them.

Of all the rooms in the jail, the area with the most activity appears to be the dungeon. Those who have been brave enough to venture into that part of the jail call it the most frightening area in the entire building. Others that have been down in the dungeon will leave in a hurry refusing to continue the tour while others refuse to ever come back to the jail. The overall consensus from most people that have entered just the former foyer of the jail says there is an uneasy and even creepy feeling to the jail. Anyone visiting can almost always walk away feeling as though they were touched by the ghost of one of the former inmates or one of the sheriffs who lived and died on the property.

Anyone brave enough to visit the most haunted jail in Ohio needs to be prepared for a wide array of paranormal activity. Hearing disembodied voices is par for the course. Sometimes, people have even heard what sounds like chanting coming from the jail cells. Those paranormal investigators who take EVP recorders that do not suffer any type of electrical or functional issues might walk away with chilling EVPs.

To help ensure that people are able to come and enjoy the jail the Licking County Governmental Preservation Society has become involved. They have a team set up to gather old artifacts and historical documents. These items are cataloged and preserved so people for many generations can learn about and enjoy this incredibly haunted jail.