Ozarks Life: Visiting the Missouri State Penitentiary, Part 2

Chad Plein continues his series of looking into the paranormal claims at the old prison.
Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 10:19 AM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Rising like a fortress, for 168 years the Missouri State Penitentiary was designed to keep prisoners from escaping. Today, almost two decades after it closed, many believe some inmates are still here.

For a fifth Halloween, Chad Plein is following David Glidden for a paranormal investigation. Glidden’s the founder of Four State Paranormal and the YouTube series, Haunting History. His team wants to find evidence of these haunting claims.

“We have places that, we call them peekers, they like peek out at the cells at you,” former corrections officer Tom Wells said.

Wells is a Crocker native and a go-to source for these claims. During our interview with him in Building 3, we heard shuffling coming from a level above us.

Unfortunately, David’s team did not catch any audio from this event. It goes down as a personal experience and not evidence of a haunting.

WEB EXTRA: During that interview with Wells, he opened up about his experience and a prisoner he believes is still here. Click here for his story.

So why do people think the Missouri State Penitentiary is haunted?

It opened in 1836, 100 years before Alcatraz and it closed 40 years after the Rock was shut down. During that long history, hundreds of deaths happened inside these stone walls. Some think the hate, chaos, and angst left an imprint on the penitentiary.

“You have the emotions that were left behind by the people that were here,” Glidden said. “You had everything from deaths, to fighting, to even some good times. There’s a lot of energy dispersed here. And who knows, maybe some people felt like they still can’t escape or can’t get out.”

On this night, David’s team has full access to four buildings on the property, including where Wells’ interview was, Building 3. It was here during the riot of 1954, Walter Lee Donnell was murdered in his cell. Fellow inmates beat him to death with a hammer because they thought he was a snitch.

Building 1 is the woman’s facility where a woman is said to still walk from cell to cell.

The execution chamber. Inside, 40-people were killed; one by lethal injection and 39 by cyanide gas. Claud McGee was one of them. Already serving a life sentence for murder, he then killed a friend while inside. McGee became the only inmate executed for a crime committed while in prison.

And finally Building 4. It was built in 1868 by criminals from the Civil War. The notorious dungeon cells are in its basement. They were primitive solitary confinement. John B. Johnson, nicknamed Firebug, was kept in one of these cells for several years in the 1880s. Reports say he started a fire at the penitentiary that caused major damage and killed many inmates.

“They locked people up in the dark down there for over a year sometimes,” former penitentiary maintenance worker, Larry Neal said. “And people would lose their mind down there or go blind or murder each other.”

Once the sun went down, we broke up into teams. David and started in the dungeon cells of Building 4. This building has claims of full-bodied apparitions, voices, shadows moving in the dark, and cries coming from the dungeon cells.

“I just want to know did they treat you alright?” Glidden asked into the darkness.

We asked many questions hoping a voice, or an EVP, an Electronic Voice Phenomenon, will show up on our recorder.

“When a spirit communicates,” Glidden said about the theory, “it communicates on a really, low-frequency that we don’t hear. But it filters through on the recorder making it audible.”

“Have you ever been to Springfield?” Plein asked during the session.

We won’t know if Firebug or another prisoner is with us until David can review the audio. So it’s off to the main floor, where David sets up a device in front of a cell door.

The device shines a laser grid onto the wall and floor. If a cloud or mist rolls between the wall and the device, it will distort the laser grid. The device also has a display that shows temperature spikes. If you wave your hand in front of the laser grid, the display shows the arm in red. If something cold is detected in the grid, the lights on the display turn blue.

After 15-minutes of nothing, suddenly the device starts lighting up.

“We’ve got a cold mass right there in front,” Glidden said.

The device has blue dots showing up slowly at the top of the screen. Within three minutes, more and more blue dots appear on the screen until it’s almost entirely shining an eerie blue.

“When a spirit manifests, it draws energy out of the air and leaves cold spots,” Glidden explains this theory. “So what we could be seeing, possibly, is the drawing of energy from this spot for something to happen somewhere.”

Is this something trying to appear in front of Glidden and Plein?

Tune in next Friday for the conclusion of the visit to the Missouri State Penitentiary. Glidden’s team will share what, if any, evidence was captured that night.

You can visit the state penitentiary and go on one of its various ghost tours by clicking here. Right now unfortunately it’s almost booked solid this fall.

Click here to see Glidden’s YouTube series, Haunting History.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com