Foreboding and castle-like, the haunted Wyoming Frontier Prison stands in all its glory at the top of a hill, overlooking Rawlins. The prison opened its doors in 1901 to the criminals transferred from Laramie prison. It also held women, unsegregated, until 1909. Immediately, it became overcrowded and, with its 104 small, dark cells with no comforts of running water or electricity, turned into a hot bed for violence and desolation.
The level of security was subpar, enticing many prison escapes until 1915, when the towers and walls were completed. The prison tried to keep the rougher prisoners in-line by punishing them by either throwing them in the Old Hole, flogging them, or putting them in the Dungeon House. Cell Block C was later built for the more “serious discipline” cases.
Like any prison, there were deaths. Inmates killed each other, committed suicide and guards were attacked and killed. Nine men were slowly strangled to death due to the inefficiency of the Julien Gallows. Inmates died from weather conditions. Five men were executed in the gas chamber. One inmate was lynched by other prisoners when he raped an elderly woman. The most gruesome death was that of a condemned man who was awaiting his fate in the death house, when he was beat to death and skinned by other prisoners.
All of these deaths contribute to the eerie events taking place inside the prison walls. Apparitions are seen, disembodied voices are heard and knockings and other noises go unexplained. The halls of the prison are dark and dreary, harboring the residual energy of the violence that went on here.
The Frontier Prison is now a museum, open Monday-Saturday, 9-5. Tours are available.