Mountain Peak Paranormal Investigations

Paranormal Investigations and Research

Category Archives: Colorado Prison Museum

July 30 2011 Public Investigation at the Canon City Prison Museum, Highlights

I would like to start out by thanking our great group of Guest Investigators for making these tours some of the best of experiences.  Also special thanks to the Staff at the Canon City Prison Museum for being great hosts for these events.

For those of you who missed the event, here are the highlights with photo’s:

Getting Started

The setting starts with a short briefing on how the nights events will play out.  We then divide everyone into teams and send them off.  It’s a seemingly simple process on the surface.  We do take the time to properly parse off the teams with the intent of everyone having a good time.

Then the fun starts.  Being that this was the first full excursion into this building by most MPPIR staff, the evenings events had the heavy possibility of being unpredictable.  We as well as our guests where not to sure what to expect.

Gas Chamber

Having the whole grounds to ourselves, including the outside area (its fenced in), we decided sending a group outdoors to visit the grounds and the Gas Chamber.  The old Gas Chamber is displayed just outside the front area in a small building.

During the first session the unexpected did happen in a way that I don’t think anyone could have predicted.  Well maybe a physic could have.

While exploring the Gas Chamber house one guest saw two cameras get nudged by an unseen force.  The first camera was located on a tripod and next to its owner.  The other was an IR stationary camera we had positioned in the area to watch the Gas chamber.  MPPIR lead investigator Ralph confirmed with playback of the camera’s video that it had moved to the left while the group was in the room.  What moved the camera is unknown.  At least one person in the room stated the camera’s both moved on with out the assistance of the living.

Mike in the Kitchen

Another hot spot in the building is the kitchen.  During our site review and first visit to the building the kitchen stopped me cold.  While walking near the office door I “felt” a scream and shock.  This sent my radar into full mode.  My attention focused directly on the Knife lock box located on the east wall.  The feelings I got here where unmistakable, something horrible happened here.  It had to do with a knife, a fight and a female.  These “feelings” where later confirmed by museum staff and Tom (a local well-known investigator to Canon City).

Thus I made a point to make sure that there was a team in this area as much as possible during the evening.  This did lead to events of interest during the course of the night.  At least on person was felt as if they were pushed gently while in the kitchen.  Hopefully we will have EVP’s from this area as the energy level in the room as reported by most of the sensitive people was really high.

Investigating the Cells

The largest of areas I sent teams into besides the grounds around the old Prison was the main cell block.  This area comprises of 80% of the main floor.  It is one level with concrete walled cells on both sides.  Many people have reported strange happenings in both the office area and the cells.

Late in the evening one of the teams tried a new twist on the flashlight game, using two flashlights.  One flashlight had a blue lens and the other with a red lens.  They told any entities present to blink the red flashlight for yes and the blue one for no.  The group was very excited about the results they got from this event.  They did spend a lot of time asking questions using this method.  I hope to repeat this experiment in the future.

The Archives

In the back of the museums basement is a room used for archives and storage.  It is in this room MPPIR placed a laser tripwire system.  This device works the same as any laser tripwire.  Break the beam and the alarm goes off.  For about 1 hour or more without being touched or moved by any investigator the alarm went off repeatedly.  We check the position of the lasers more than once and came to the conclusion that as it had sat armed for some time before this activity occurred and then stopped shortly after we checked on the device that something we could not see was setting off the alarm on the tripwire.

Dowsing for Spirits

I would also add that the archive room is an area that I “felt” a presence in.  It seemed to me during the late hours of the morning that something was moving around in the room.  After first wanting to wander into that area alone to take some pictures, I decided after getting a very uneasy feeling to gather some people who were looking for something to focus on.  I brought myself and 3 others in the room where I told them that I had felt a presence in the area.

This “entity” seemed to be directing me to the northeast corner of the room.  I kept getting the word ‘photograph’.  Now it did not seem to me to take pictures but to look for one.  What I found while scanning the shelves of the area where the books, records and photos of Inmates long gone that resided in the prison.  I did not disturb these artifacts of history but did take note that maybe the entity wanted to show me something.  I will for now have to leave that investigation there.  Though maybe the museum staff can look into why this spirit wants someone to look for a photo.

The investigation teams spent a lot of time in this area.  Most reported some sort of entity in the area.  A small number reported at least one male and 1 or 2 different female spirits.  I do find it interesting that the groups reported this.

All in all the night was an exciting evening in exploring the unknown.

©2011 MPPIR, Blog and Photo’s from Frank.


Colorado Prison Museum, Canon City

The former Women’s Prison is the home of the Colorado Prison Museum, which is located at 201 N 1st Street, Canon City, Colorado.  The sage green building was constructed  in 1935, 61 years after the construction of the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, which is still an active prison to this day and was in operation until 1968.  For the next twelve years, it housed male inmates in the honor system and for training.  It opened as a museum in 1988. The museum displays information on the prison system from its opening in 1871 to today, highlighting penal information, inmates, interesting information such as visits by the movie industry, and displays depicting live in prison – both for men and women.

The Colorado State Penitentiary was built-in 1868 on 25 acres of land donated by Jonathan Draper of rough-hewn stone and consisted of 44 cells. The first prisoner was John Shepler incarcerated in 1871. The first female prisoner was Mrs. Dr. Mary Solanden (#60) of Boulder in 1873 for manslaughter in the abortion death of a patient.

Women at that time were housed in the men’s facility. The arrival of women to the penitentiary caused some consternation. There were 44 cells  The prison had an iron sink, a toilette and a slop sink.  No one knows where the women were originally housed. In the 1880’s the warden requested money for a female facility since female prisoners now numbered 10-12, which was granted and a facility was built for the women of 6 cells over the laundry and bath houses. In the 1890’s money was requested and granted for a workroom and a matron. This was still inside the prison walls.

The Women’s Prison outside the wall was constructed in 1935 and operated until 1968. During that time, there was a prisoner Mrs. Vandenstahl who was in cell one for two years with a sentence of 25-40 years. Her twenty-two year old lover shot and killed her husband and told police that it was her idea.  After an appeal, she was released.

Women were allowed to decorate their cells, participate in cosmetology classes and did their own laundry. Two women escaped by climbing over the fence while no one was looking. They were apprehended in a few days, tired and apparently ready to come back.

There are 32 cells on the upper level and offices, including the Matron’s Office.  The lower lever contains the kitchen, cafeteria, class room and storage. Most women were incarcerated in the early days for performing abortions, prostitution, larceny and conspiracy. Today, women are mostly incarcerated larceny and drunken driving. The female population varies from year to year and has been declining. The facility also housed male prisoners who were in the Trustee program and was used for training.

The museum shows a part of prison life and a part of prison history in each cell and displays along the central hallway. Life in prison in the early days was much different from today. Prisoners were subject to corporal punishment using the “gray mare” a large saw horse that they were bent over. executions were by hanging, than gas chamber, than lethal injection, the last of which was Gary Davis in 1997. Interestingly, capital punishment was outlawed in 1897 and reinstated after a riot in 1901. Originally, there were no walls around the prison had only 4 guards. Work crews were sent out with no guards to work on roads and other municipal projects. No women have ever been executed. The male population today stands at 700 with available work programs for the inmates.

During the tour, you can hear the guards next door projecting their orders through loud speakers. The ancient prison wall topped with two tiers of coiled razor wire glints in the afternoon sun a few feet from this building that is surrounded by green grass, tall trees, and a wall topped with a fence ten feet high.

One of the prison’s most famous inmates was Alfred Packer, Colorado’s famous cannibal. With a party of five men, he left Montrose for Breckenridge and encountered a fierce snowstorm. Lost and low on provisions, Packer was the only man to survive the ordeal. His story was that one of the other members of the party, Shannon Bell, was the killer and consumer of the men. Packer said he killed Bell in self-defense. Packer was tried for murder in 1874 under Colorado laws but the crime had been committed in 1873 Colorado Territory. He was incarcerated in Colorado Territorial Prison, Canon City.After an appeal got him a new trial in 1896, he was convicted of manslaughter and got 40 years. Paroled in 1901, he died in 1907.

Joseph Corbett Jr was convicted of murdering Adolph Coors III in October 1960 for Coors murder in February of that year. Coors remains wer found in September 1960 around Pikes Peak. Corbet had kidnapped Coors and sent a ransom note. He subsequently killed Coors and was apprehended in Vancouver, tried, convicted and incarcerated in Canon City in October 1960 until 1978. He committed suicide in 2009. The Coors family refused to respond to the ransom note.

Antonne Woode was incarcerated when he was 11 years old in 1893 for murdering his neighbor for his gold watch. He was paroled when he was 23 in 1905. During that time, after killing a guard and taking two more employees captive, Woode escaped with Thomas Reynolds, C.E. Wagner and Kid Wallace. Woode and Wallace were found three days later, Wagner was never found and Reynolds was found by a mob and hanged outside the prison where his body was left until the next morning. Despite that, Woode was not suspected other murder of the guard, Captain Rooney, and was paroled in 1905 at the age of 23.

Of the more interesting women prisoners was Angeline Garramone, received at the prison for Forgery & Uttering and was then received during her stay in January 1912 for murder. She was paroled in 1922 and discharged in 1972.

The main prison was also home to several riots, the worst in 1929 and 1947, and 77 executions, several escapes both successful and unsuccessful. No sentence of execution was ever given to a woman.

©2011, MPPIR, Blog Nancy B, Photos; Frank C and Nancy B

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