As we started the tour outside of the jail, Paulette told us about the history of the jail which is quite extensive and spans over a century. In 1802, the Old City Jail was built along with fur other buildings to serve as federal prisons. During this time, the government thought that long term incarceration was the cure for crime inside cities.
The jail would operate into the late 1930s until it was finally closed due to inhumane conditions. The guards and prisoners were forced to be without electricity, running water, and the building was infested with outside critters.
The exact number of prisoners is not known for the prison, however, we do know there was over 1,000 prisoners during the Civil War. Over the years the prison was open, 14,000 inmates met their demise inside the walls; only 600 of these were executions.
An outside of the jail, in the middle you can see a small ball.
Orb or dust, you decide.
With the historical context set, our "not hokey tour" began around the back where the old gallows would have been. Paulette told us about the different way of hanging the old City Jail had which included a pulley system and a weight that plunged down into a well. When this weight fell into the well, the rope would jump and snap the persons neck, that is if you are the right size. Many people would not die correctly and would hang until they suffocated. The last hanging took place on July 7, 1911 where Daniel Duncan took 39 minutes to die after they let the weight down. After this happened, South Carolina outlawed all hanging executions.
Once we were led into the prison, we were put into a room where the Crane of Pain was used."This was a set of ropes and a pulley that attached to the prisoners arms and legs then they were pulled taunt and whipped with a catonine tails then rubbed down with rock salt to prevent disease."
Here is Zach attached to the Crane of Pain. Used to discipline children now.
Can be purchased for around $12 at Lowe's.
While we walked down another pitch black hallway, we filed into a room filled with cells and a metal banged unexpectedly making our small hearts race. "That was similar t my first experience here," Paulette laughed at our reactions. On my third night here, I had to lock up alone and being scared I began singing "Jesus Loves Me" while locking up; as soon as I stopped signing, this 350 pound metal door slammed open without a warning. This I know was Lavinia.
Lavinia Fisher was the first woman executed at the Old City Jail. She was arrested along with two partners for murder at their Inn where they would poison unsuspecting tenants and take their fortunes. It was said oleander was put into tea and they became so ill the died within a few hours. One night, for some unknown reason, a man escaped and led police to the Six Mile Inn where they found three bodies on the property which was enough to arrest the three for attempted murder. Lavinia was sentenced to be hung, however, she tried very hard to get out of her punishment claiming a married woman could not be hung. She was brought to Marion Square for her hanging and when asked if she had any last words she proudly said "If anyone here has a message for Satan I'll be dining with him this evening" then she jumped from the podium and broke her own neck.
Lavinia is quite active in the Old City Jail as seen in the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures. They had a creepy encounter with her when they came to visit Charleston.