Maryland Life: Spectral Sightings at the Cecil County Jail: Ghosts of Prisoners Past

For decades, there have been stories about ghosts in the old Cecil County Jail on North Street in Elkton.  Most were sort of vague as people reported out-of-place creaking noises, foot-steps in unoccupied hallways ways, and things like that.  But about two years ago a person whom I know to be reliable came to me with astonishing, never before told story about spectral sightings and voices of jailbirds of long ago inside those strong fortress-like walls.  While I don’t know what she saw and heard, she experienced something that frightened her.

ticket to witness last hanging at old jail

What more likely spot for spirits than a place filled with more than century of tragedy, a long obsolete lockup that managed to outlive its usefulness as a the county pen in just 113-years. In this 19th century structure a sheriff was killed in the line of duty, five people spent their last night’s on earth before meeting the executioner and many a hardened criminal passed their days behind that heavy iron-barred door.

It’s an interesting, previously undocumented story of the type that I’ve never done before in the Oct/Nov. issue of Maryland life.  If you’re interested in these sorts of pieces, pick-up a print copy and check out the Ghost of Prisoners Past: Spectral Sightings at the Cecil County Jail in Maryland Life.


11 responses to “Maryland Life: Spectral Sightings at the Cecil County Jail: Ghosts of Prisoners Past

  1. I just read and greatly enjoyed your article on the old jail in Maryland Life magazine. I’m an English teacher in Harford County, and I’ve collected a lot of Harford County ghost stories over the years. Every year (just for fun) I take a group of kids and adults out to supposedly haunted sites and share the history of the places. However, some of the kids who have been coming since the first year are making it difficult for me to keep from repeating stories. Do you have any more good ghost stories from around Elkton or the Rt. 40 corridor? Thanks, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, but just in case…
    Thanks, Adam

  2. Thanks Adam. It’s an interesting Elkton ghost story and what I like is that it’s a new one. People talked about ghosts in the old jail before, but hardly anyone would be willing to go on the record. There are many other good ghosts stories around Elkton, including the historical society building.

  3. The old cecil county jail was built 10yrs after the civil war. It held many people, some who were hung and whipped on the old whipping post. It should be saved and shown as a part of the county history. I used to work for the sheriffs dept. under jack Dewitt. I remember the storys he used to tell about the place. The last hanging was in 1903 and the gallows were kept in the basement and when needed they were placed back into the yard. The old whipping post was last used in 1944 for a man that had beat his wifes. Up stairs in the attic is the largest wooden barrell that was found in this county that was being used for moonshine. It was built so good that rather then blow it up, the put it in the old jail to hold the hot water. I have seen it. Come on people, lets save that jail for the history….Charlie

  4. Charlie, thanks for shariing some history on the old jail with us. What years were you at the Sheriff’s Office?

    • Hi Mike, I worked for Jack from 1977 untill 1980 when I went on with the state. I retired in 2001 at the rank of lieutenant and have been retired ever since. I am trying to get back too work, maybe as a balif in the court house. My goal is to work 9 more years and then draw my social security at 64 which will give me a greater amount. As for the old jail, that place should be saved and used as a teaching tool for kids. The history behind it is awsome. Since it was built in 1870, we have to know that some civil war veterans were held there, ones who had violated the law. Also there has been only one sheriff killed there, behind the old jail where the parking lot is was the stables for the horses and there was a prisoner working who had a gun in the stables. When the sheriff went out to bring him back into the jail, the inmate shot and killed the sheriff. He was convicted and hung at the jail one year after it happen. As I had stated Jack told me about the largest still that was found around north east and the barrell used to hold the moon shine was so big and made so well that they saved it and put it up in the old jail and use it today to keep the hot water in. I have been up there and seen it, it is very large and made from oak. I also have one of the old folger keys that was used to unlock the cells in the jail. Jack gave it too me when I moved on with the state. I know that if you were in the old jail and facing it, the females and kids were kept on the upper left side in teh back. The lower left side was were they kept the people who were on death row and waiting to be hung or being sent to the Maryland Pen. The upper and lower cells on the right were for the county inmates being held there. I know alot about the jail and which office was Jacks, his cheif deputy, the investigators offices on the second floor and the evidnec room. I also met my wife there 32years ago and we have been together ever since. I have a picture of the last man hung there and the last man who was whipped there. There have been many med who have died in that place from be killed, hung and murdered by other inmates. I do enjoy this countys history..Charlie

  5. Thanks for all the information! I was a guest of the establishment a few times in the late 60’s, and yes, I was in the upper left, both womens & juveniles! We ate pretty good- deer meat from deer killed on the highway, 3 day old bread from the Acme round the corner! and the local Baptist church brought us cookies if we listened to their sermon, and their gospel singing group. (They were great!) Aahh…the memories!

  6. Beth P. thanks for sharing your recollections about that old lockup.

  7. charlie roach

    Hello again Mike, I do enjoy the stories about the old jail on North St in Elkton. I have walked those hallways many times and also the old jail cells. I wish so much that the county would buy that building back and return it to what is was and allow people to tour it. I can remember Jack setting at his desk in the second office on the left when you entered the frount door. I can remember back in 1977 when someone in the jail set a fire and when had to get all the inmates out into the yard untill the smoke cleared. If you ever get the chance, go up into the attic and see the large wooden barrell that is used to hold the hot water. I remember Jack telling me how it came from an old moonshiner and it was built so good that the county had it placed into the old jail to hold the water. As I had stated, I have an old key that was used to unlock the cells, jack gave it to me.

    • Charlie, I agree it’s an interesting old building and it would be great to see it to put to some relevant use. I worry that they’ll tear it down someday. Certainly lots of history inside those old walls.

  8. Kimberly Anderson

    The “ticket to witness the last hanging “, was on October 20, 1905, can that prisoners name be found also?
    I home school my special needs son, and next week would like to start learning the full history of Elkton (we’ve recently moved here)….Thank you for your time

    • Hello Kim, I think that is great that you want too learn about the old jail. I myself used to work in that jail as a deputy. I didn’t work in the jail but put many people in there. The story about the ghost and the many who died are true. The old sheriff Jack Dewitt knew them all. The oldest person spent 35 years in that place and he was a civil war veteran. I knew a jailer named David Howell who worked the night shift and he talked about the sounds of someone walking on the old slate floors and when he checked, he found no one out of the cells. I wish you the best and feel free to write me at rscpl2000 at yahoo.

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