While in Jefferson City, we toured the Missouri State Penitentiary as I had hoped we would. When my exercise group heard of my hopes, they thought one of my brain cogs had slipped. Why would anyone want to go there they asked. A lot of people are interested because the site expects 30,000 to take the tour this season!
Front, where tour starts...note wide space was doors for wagons.
There is so much history in the walls of the place. The architecture is fabulous. Our tour guide was a former warden and he really educated us prison life. I was interested, but a few months ago when I learned my great great uncle was incarcerated there, the story of MSP became even more interesting. My mother did not know this about her great uncle (nor did she know him actually), but she was horrified when I found the fact doing research. But when I learned he was arrested for theft in Indian Territory, a federal crime, but served in a state pen, my imagination soared. I would love to find out WHAT he stole. The years in put in were roughly 1899-1903.
When we walked in, there was a visceral response to the building. DH leaned over and said, “This place is depressing as soon as you step inside. Originally the two big doors were for wagons to pass through to unload. Also this building held the women prisoners at one time. Built in 1836, some of this place it old. As our guide pointed out, it was built about the time Davy Crockett was killed at the Alamo. MSP was the biggest prison in the country; it held as many as 5000 prisoners at one time.
If you are interested in ghosts, you might want to visit the Missouri State Penitentiary. There are nighttime tours and even special arrangements can be made to sleepover. Not this gal!!! A woman about my age worked the gift shop. We began to talk and she never believed in ghosts until she has had some experiences here. Voices talking to her, bolts slamming shut, etc. and in the day time no less.
This is the oldest building. This is where my relative would have been. The cells were built for six people with mats on the floor. Later bunks were put in. In the new buildings, the cells were for two to four men. This old building is beautiful on the outside. Its profile reminds me of a church. All the stone buildings were built of stone quarried on site by prisoners. This was also the building where Sonny Liston was incarcerated, cell #33.
This building reminded me of a castle. This is the building that James Earl Ray was incarcerated before he escaped to kill Martin Luther King.
The gas chamber.
We also went into the gas chamber, a very macabre place. I did not like the feel here. The chamber was built from an old submarine. We were told how the gas worked and how dangerous it was to others as the cyanide killed in a minute. So lots of care was taken and even the guards from the nearby tower were removed during the time of use.
Note wire cages at ground level...where solitary prisoners got their one hour of outside.
Lots of information to think about…lots of angles to the death penalty…lots of points to consider about confinement or correction…but I just soaked up the history and left the heavy debates for thinking about on a later day. In the meantime, just for fun--a new teeshirt!!!