Top 10 Creepy Abandoned Real Life Prisons



Top 10 Creepy Abandoned Real Life Prisons

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These places were terrifying before they were abandoned, making them doubly so now! For this list, we'll be looking at the creepiest prisons that are no longer housing inmates. Our countdown includes Alcatraz, Goli Otok, Garcia Moreno Prison, and more!

Top 10 Creepy Abandoned Prisons

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 creepy abandoned prisons.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the creepiest prisons that are no longer housing inmates. However, they can be active as tourist destinations.

Have you ever explored an abandoned prison? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Garcia Moreno Prison

Quito, Ecuador
With most abandoned prisons, all artifacts have been removed, leaving behind a dusty, decrepit shell of a once active place. But with Garcia Moreno, it’s like the inmates just walked out one day and never returned. Located in the San Roque neighborhood of Ecuador, Garcia Moreno was built in the 1870s and closed in 2014 due to overcrowding. It housed numerous murderers, including serial killer Juan Fernando Hermosa. Today it looks much as it did with inmates, complete with old magazines, a Kung Fu Panda drawing, pin up girls, watches, shoes, and even a guitar. If you want strong Chernobyl vibes, then Garcia Moreno is your place.

#9: J Ward

Victoria, Australia
With Australia’s J Ward, people get two for the price of one - those two being a prison and an insane asylum. Originally called the Ararat County Gaol, J Ward opened in 1861 and held just 21 prisoners. Three executions took place in the prison - those of killers Andrew Vere, Henry Morgan, and Robert Francis Burns, who’s believed to have killed eight people. The prison was converted in 1887 into part of the Ararat Lunatic Asylum; it ran as such until 1991. The building is now open for tours, and people report hearing shrieks and footsteps in its otherwise silent halls. Visitors can also gaze at the prisoners’ artwork that still adorns the walls.

#8: Pottawattamie County Jail

Council Bluffs, Iowa
Located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, this is a rather unique jail. Most commonly known as Squirrel Cage Jail, Pottawattamie is the most famous example of a rotary-style prison. Up to 18 rotaries were built in the Midwestern United States, and most opened in a very narrow window in the late 19th century. Instead of traditional cell “wings”, rotary jails contain a spinning platform that allows only one cell to be accessed at a time. However, this design proved incredibly dangerous, as many inmates lost limbs in the spinning contraption. Pottawattamie was built in 1885 and closed as a jail in 1969. In 1972, it was made part of the National Register of Historic Places.

#7: Old Essex County Jail

Newark, New Jersey
Originally built in the 1830s, New Jersey’s Old Essex County Jail is another member of the National Register of Historic Places. This is mainly due to its architectural history. Because the structure was added to throughout the proceeding century, the Old Essex represents the evolution of prison design in America. But despite being a part of the Register, the prison is in ruins. It certainly makes for a creepy visit, should you decide to brave the overgrowth and decay. Many of the oldest buildings have collapsed into rubble, and parts of the jail were destroyed in a fire. Urban exploring doesn’t get scarier than this. Or more dangerous.

#6: Sinop Fortress

Sinop, Turkey
As old as Old Essex County Jail is, it’s nothing compared to Turkey’s Sinop Fortress. Located on the very Northern tip of Turkey on the coast of the Black Sea, Sinop Fortress is dated to the 7th century BC. Located within the inner fortress of the castle is Sinop Fortress Prison. Erected in 1887 and abandoned in 1997, it housed many dangerous inmates owing to its reputation as an inescapable maximum security prison. Being built within a castle will do that! The prison was also notable for its incredibly damp conditions, and it’s said that prisoners couldn’t even light matches owing to the moisture in the air. The old prison is currently open for tours, should you be brave enough to venture inside.

#5: Atlanta Prison Farm

Atlanta, Georgia
Much like Old Essex, the Atlanta Prison Farm is now totally in ruin. The concept of this prison was that low-risk convicts could work off their sentences through manual labor - typically construction and agricultural work. The prison shuttered in 1995, however, and suffered a devastating fire in 2009 that destroyed most of the building. It became a location for vagrancy, urban exploring, intricate graffiti, and illegal dumping. However, the county is quite serious about its security and has installed fences, cameras, and motion detectors to deter explorers. Those who breach the property risk significant trespassing fines.

#4: West Virginia Penitentiary

Moundsville, West Virginia
Easily one of the most gorgeous prisons in the United States, West Virginia Penitentiary is a massive Gothic-style prison located in Moundsville. It’s built much in the style of a castle, complete with large battlements and turrets. The prison opened in 1876 and operated until 1995. Aside from its Gothic architecture, the prison is also notable for its 94 executions and for housing an antique electric chair named Old Sparky. The prison is open for tours, and has become a hot spot of supernatural sightings. It’s considered a gold mine for paranormal investigators and is thought to be one of the most haunted buildings in America.

#3: Goli Otok

Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, Croatia
Located off the coast of Croatia, in the midst of the Adriatic Sea, lies a very unique prison by the name of Goli Otok. “Goli Otok” means “barren island” in Croatian, and the name derives from the site’s lack of vegetation, owing to the strong bora winds. Known as “Croatian Alcatraz,” Goli Otok once served as a top secret political prison and brutal labor camp, housing Russian prisoners of war and Stalinists. The prison was run by the inmates, resulting in a brutal hierarchical system that often involved beatings. It was finally shuttered in 1988 and is now completely abandoned. The prison’s distinctive location and violent history help make it one of the creepiest in the world.

#2: Bodmin Jail

Bodmin, Cornwall
This decrepit prison lies in sight of Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor. It opened in 1779 and garnered instant recognition for housing its convicts in individual cells - a first in British history. The prison played host to roughly 50 public hangings in its lifetime and operated for a century and a half before closing for good in 1927. Only parts of the prison remain open to the public, as much of the complex has fallen into a state of disrepair. The site is well known for its supposed paranormal activity and remains a popular destination for paranormal researchers and investigators.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Palazzo D’Avalos, Procida, Italy
A Creepy But Beautiful Prison on the Terra Murata Cliffs

HM Prison Pentridge, Victoria, Australia
A Castle-Style Prison in Australia Housing Numerous Grave Sites

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
A Massive Prison in Philadelphia World Famous For Its Ghosts

Old Charleston Jail, Charleston, South Carolina
This Old Prison in South Carolina Was Opened in 1802

Wyoming Territorial Penitentiary, Laramie, Wyoming
Built in 1872, Wyoming Territorial Is Among the Oldest Buildings in the State

#1: Alcatraz

San Francisco, California
Perhaps the most famous prison in the entire world, Alcatraz didn’t mess around. Nicknamed The Rock for its unique position, Alcatraz was built on a small island just off the coast of San Francisco and served as a maximum security prison. It housed the likes of Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, Whitey Bulger, and Frank Morris - who famously spearheaded the iconic 1962 escape. The prison lasted less than thirty years, opening in 1934 and closing in 1963. Despite being regularly maintained, Alcatraz is incredibly creepy. The prison’s dark and violent past, isolated location, imposing structure, and notable prisoners lend it an unsettling air, and the prison has a notable reputation for being haunted.