The old Cecil County jail has always been a place for some good ghost stories. And this evening was no exception, as the Elkton Historic District Commission held a long hearing on whether a developer could demolish most of the building, while preserving the front facade. As motion after motion failed to get enough votes to pass and the commissioners debated weighty legal and procedural matters, an old sheriff’s deputy lightened things up a little by sharing some accounts of strange late night occurrences.
Back in the 1960s, in the middle of long Cecil County winter night when one elderly jailer, Elwood Racine, guarded seven prisoners while the one deputy working the graveyard shift patrolled the county, the road-man would get a radio call to come back to office to help the turnkey. While all the prisoners were securely locked down and sound asleep on this particularly quiet night footsteps were echoing through the cell blocks, as if someone was aggressively running around. Both of them clearly heard the noises so they were sure a prisoner was outside the cell.
The two grabbed those big keys and carefully opened that heavy door, the one that secured the prisoners in the 1870s lockup, in case an offender was attempting a jailbreak. A careful search would find nothing on those quiet 1960s night as the handfull of detainees were sleeping soundly. But back at booking, those heavy footsteps would start again as if someone was descending the metal steps going down to the main cell block. At other times they’d hear those heavy iron barred doors slam shut. These sorts of things occurred periodically, but those two lawmen never did find anyone out in the block on those dark, lonely nights so long ago.
The officers eventually got used to things going bump in the night so they’d shrug it off, assuming it was a ghost of prisoner who’d breathed his last in the old prison as he met the hangman’s noose or that it was some other unsettled spectral type of thing.
While the Historic District Commissioners continued mulling over the technicalities of changing ordinances so the project could move forward and debated whether the old jail had any historical and architectural value, one thing was obvious. It’s still good for stories..