Friday, January 10, 2014

Scaring Up "Ghosts" at the Ohio Penitentiary


Columbus, Aug. 11.  The guards of the Ohio Penitentiary have decided on the "ghost scare" as a sure cure for misbehaved colored prisoners and attempted their first experiment with ghosts Saturday night.  The experiment worked to such good purpose that the prisoner experimented upon nearly went into hysterics.

Many of the colored prisoners are habitual criminals and spend most of their time in solitary confinement much to the annoyance of the guards in charge.  One of the guards conceived the idea of giving a "ghost scare."  Throwing a sheet over his head he went into the cellar about 11 o'clock and proceeded towards the cell of one of the men confined.

With a yell that could be heard all over the big prison, the colored prisoner fell to the floor begging for his life and moaning as if he was about to die.  The guard thinking that his man had enough went away, but the prisoner could not be quieted.  He threw himself about and appeared to be in such agony that medical attention had to be called to quiet him.

In a short time the news that ghosts were about the prison was known to all of the prisoners, who had heard the scream of the scared man, and sleep was impossible the rest of the night.

The plan worked so well that the colored population have vowed that they will be good for all time to come and have promised the guards that if they will keep the ghosts away they will have no more trouble on their account.

It is the plan of the guards to try the "scare" as often as the occasion calls for.  If it works again as it did Saturday night the "solitary" will be a deserted place for a long time to come.  Many tricks have been used, but none of them has had the effect of the one lone ghost.

The subject of the experiment is in good condition again, but does not know the ghost he saw was not real.  Much comment on the mysterious ghost is passed, and when the occasion requires the men to go near the cellar they waste no time in getting by the supposed headquarters of the whiteclad spirits.

From:  The Evening Independent [Massillon, OH].  11 August 1909

Above is a REAL newspaper article about the former Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio.  The prison opened in 1834 and served the incarcerated of the Buckeye State until 1984.  It was demolished in 1998 after housing decades of famous prisoners, suffering devastating riots, and even surviving through one of the worst prison fires in history.

I picked this particular article to include in the Friday Night Funnies section of this blog because despite it being pretty cruel and unusual punishment, it appears to come off as an absurdly simple joke.  However...I can't help to wonder if there isn't something a LOT more sinister hidden in this little ghost prank.  Obviously it bothers me that only the "colored" population was targeted for this experiment. doesn't take a genius to make the connection between that little fact and the "sheeted" ghost of the article...

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