Charleston’s Old City Jail | South Carolina | USA

Charleston Old City Jail Address – – 21 Magazine Street, Charleston, South Carolina, USA – MAP

History of Charleston Old City Jail

The history of this land dates back to 1738 with a workhouse for slaves. There was a separate jail on site.  Charleston Old City Jail was built in 1802.

Then in 1790, the current building was constructed to hold 130 of the most notorious criminals of the time. Later this would rise to over 300 inmates, and at times they were locked into crowded cells for many hours each day.

Charleston Old City Jail, Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Historic picture of Charleston Old City Jail

It’s believed that over 10,000 people died in buildings on this land from 1738 until Charleston Old City Jail was closed in 1939.


The building was closed for renovations in 2000.

When reopened, the workers found bare footprints in the gathering dust.  You may think “trespassers”.  They’d have to be insane to go into a dangerous, vacant building with no shoes.

The spirit of a guard has been seen by several contractors. They all watch as he walks slowly past them and right through the bars of a jail cell.

No matter how hot a day, visitors in the basement experience a cold spot so extreme they can see their breath.

Inmates are seen frequently in cells and wandering the halls. Doors are found open after workers were sure they closed them tight. Also, many tour guides have complained of being choked by invisible hands.

Lavinia Fisher

Lavinia Fisher, America's first woman serial killer? Resident ghost of Charleston Old City Jail
Lavinia Fisher, America’s first woman serial killer?

Just before the criminal was hanged, she screamed to the crowd, “If you have a message you want to send to hell, give it to me, and I’ll carry it!”

Lavinia Fisher was arrested with her husband.  Hotel owners accused of targeting travelers for criminal activities.

Much of her story is legend, as records were not well kept in the early 1800’s.  If she did kill, then technically it wasn’t alone.  Still Fisher is considered America’s first woman serial killer.

Said to have worked with a group, including her husband John Fisher.  She’d lure men into the File Mile House and Six Mile House, eventually sending them up to their rooms with cups of poisoned tea.  John then sent to make sure the men were dead before robbing the bodies.

They were arrested when John turned on the group to protect Lavinia from a violent end.  They were charged with “highway robbery”, surprisingly a capital crime.  The sentence for both the hang meant there was reason to try and escape.  Kept in the same poorly guarded cell, the Fisher’s fashioned a rope from linens.  It broke under the weigh of John and he crashed to the ground.  John was recaptured.

John was hanged on February 3rd 1820, and his wife the next day.

She’s become a resident ghost of Charleston Old City Jail.  With EVP’s (ghost voices), photos and much more evidence featuring the possible murderess.

Read ghost stories from other haunted jails, including Toronto’s Don Jail | The Ottawa Jail | Alcatraz | Ohio State Reformatory (Mansfield) | West Virginia Penitentiary