Tag Archives: Ghost Adventures

Still Not Free: Ghostly Prisoners at the Yuma Territorial Prison

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At a glance:

  • Actively haunted and easy to access prison from 1875
  • Site of a deadly riot
  • Famous prisoners and an infamous isolation cell

I’ve made countless trips across the California and Arizona desert, entering and leaving Los Angeles.  On one of these trips, I ended up taking a very southern route that passed me through Yuma, Arizona.  Even just briefly seeing the micro city from Interstate 8, I was immediately taken by its beauty.  Trains traversed the Colorado River via aged bridges, huge sand dunes formed the horizon, surrounding the historic western town.

I thought to myself immediately, “I need to find a haunted location here and get back as soon as I can.”  To my surprise, the work was done for me pretty quickly.  Turning on an episode of “Ghost Adventures,” I could tell from the first establishing shot, “They’re in Yuma!”  Sure enough, the episode was about the Yuma Territorial Prison (season 12, episode 8), a captivating, haunted structure that’s 36 years older than the state of Arizona itself.

Soon, I was making my own pilgrimage, heading south from Los Angeles and tip-toeing along the US/Mexico border to make my way to the wild west era prison.

The Yuma Territorial Prison (now operated by the State Park system of Arizona) is open year-round to visitors for a minimal fee (check out the operating hours prior to your visit here: http://www.yumaprison.org/hours-fees-parking.html).

battlehillThe site is intimate.  You are given a brochure at the visitor’s center and told to enjoy.  And with that, you are off!  The prison was surprisingly well attended considering 1) it’s Yuma and 2) it was a typical day, with temperatures reaching well into the triple digits.  That said, there was still plenty of opportunities to explore the grounds alone as most visitors spent their time indoors.  The main yard looks out over a canal and to the site of another place that merits future investigations – the location of a revolt of the Yuma/Quechan tribe that resulted in the destruction of two missions and the death of every European male, including the mission’s leader, Padre Graces, in 1781.

It’s hard not to think of the site of a failed Native American revolt that I investigated in Santa Barbara, which yielded the most drastic cold spot I’d ever personally recorded:

The prison, colorfully, and accurately, nicknamed “Hellhole Prison,” saw a tremendous amount of history and colorful characters pass through it’s doors despite only being in operation for 33 years (1876-1909).  Those very first inmates were put to work immediately, helping complete construction of their still unfinished new home.

darkcell-lowaasThe most iconic feature of the prison is the solitary confinement cell, aka “The Dark Cell.”  Prisoners found themselves confined within a strap iron cage, in the middle of this this dark cell.  The only light came from a small ventilation pipe directly overhead.  It was not uncommon for a prisoner to find themselves in the dark cell multiple times.  Just check out the rap sheet for attempted murderer AA Stewart, who was sentenced for 4 days for insulting an officer, then another 10 days for disobeying an officer and threatening him.  One might think spending a full month in solitary after an escape attempt would break his will, but the rebel had spirit, escaping and disappearing into the desert two months later.

Today, there is talk of a spirit of a child haunting the dark call.  In addition to people not feeling alone there, there are reports of being touched by a small, cold hand.  See a short video “tour” of the cell at AZCentral here: http://azc.cc/1RS0Nwv

The most infamous single incident at the prison happened in 1887 during an attempted prison escape that left four prisoners dead, three wounded and the superintendent of the prison suffering from multiple wounds from a butcher’s knife that were so severe, the man, Thomas Gates, eventually committed suicide to escape the pain.  A detailed step-by-step retelling of the escape attempt can be found here: http://westernamericana2.blogspot.com/2010/06/yuma-territorial-prison-1875-1909-by.html along with a write-up of one of the more famous prisoners, “Buckskin Frank Leslie,” who was once a co-worker of Wyatt Earp at the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone.

Present day, the scene of the blood bath is around the main, green, courtyard.  One can even stand in the guard tower, in the footprints where sharp shooter Benjamin Hartlee took aim and gunned down attempted escapees Villa, Lopez, Bustamante, Vasquez.  Likewise, you can stand in front of the sallyport where Gates was held at knife point as the skirmish unfolded around him.  It was from here that Gates gave the signal to the guard tower to open fire.

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For as much as the prison was considered harsh, largely due to the landscape, climate and predatory wildlife of the area, it was actually quite comfortable for the day.  The building even had hydroelectric electricity by 1884, a full nine years before people saw streetlights for the first time at Chicago’s 1893 world’s fair.

clippingAn interesting blurb in the “Cochise Review” (as re-reported by the “Phoenix Herald”) in 1900 even mentions how successful the prison was at helping criminals rehabilitate from “the morphine habit,” citing the positive change felt by famed female stagecoach robber Pearl Heart.

Indeed, the prison did house a number of the most ruthless female prisoners one could dream up including 16 year-old Maria Moreno, who killed her younger brother with a shotgun blast to the face over an insult and Elena Estrada, who literally cut out her lover’s heart when she caught him cheating.

We see the energy over 3,000 inmates brought into the prison over the years, the hardships they experienced on site and we haven’t even mentioned that over 100 inmates died in prison due to illness (mostly tuberculosis) or other non-violent maladies.  You can easily imagine the location being haunted.

I casually asked a very official-looking state employee if he believed in the tales of the site being haunted.  He was almost angry at how casually I asked the question.  “I hear voices and shouts…. hear my name called to me almost every night when I’m working here alone.”  It’s so often that employees of a haunted site, or someone in an official or authoritarian position, will downplay paranormal claims or experiences.  It also comes off suspicious to me if an employee is glamorizing the haunted history of a site, as if it’s part of their marketing pitch.  In this case, it was neither of those things.  It was matter of fact – this place is actively haunted

The Ghost Adventures team caught a particularly engaging vision of a full band performing on stage in the on-site theater.  This was captured live by the Infrared, body-mapping Kinect camera.  While what they caught was jaw-dropping and the figures truly seemed to interact with the commands the team was giving, it should be noted that the theater was a recent addition, a room built specifically for tourists to watch an informational video.  While this doesn’t mean the room can’t be haunted, prisoners were not performing on this stage in the late 1800s/early 1900s, as the show insinuates.

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The nearby 115-body cemetery lacks any kind of individual grave markers, merely piles of rock over each body.  There isn’t even a plaque listing the names.  One has to wonder if this lack of individual recognition is leading some of the dead to continue to make their presence known.  That alone, coupled with the residual hauntings that are undoubtedly continue at this historic prison, leads this place to be something of a paranormal gold mine.  Phantom talking throughout the cell blocks, the metal clanging sounds of cell doors opening and closing by themselves are not uncommon occurrences.

The prison’s history continued after being a correctional institution. The campus become Yuma’s High School, a fact they continue to celebrate today with a wonderfully themed school shield and their team name being the Yuma Criminals.  Then, one of the structures was converted into the county hospital.  Later, during the market crash, countless homeless persons relocated here to live. So, even after the prisoner’s had moved out, there was still ample possibility for “new” hauntings to take hold.

A visit to the Yuma Territorial Prison is a can’t miss adventure for anyone interested in history, the wild west or haunted locations.  It should also be noted that the women’s cells were destroyed in 1923 when the Southern Pacific Railroad expanded into the area.  I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there are additional hauntings here, just outside of the current walls.

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Chicago Ghost Conference

By: Connor Bright

Finally putting my feet up and relaxing after an awesome and VERY busy weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference!

This was my 3rd year attending the show, which this year was super close to Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery! As Scott and I were driving to the Chicago Gaelic Park (where the ghost con was), I checked my Time Hop app and learned that it was also the anniversary of my first visit to the cemetery. So that was a fun little coincidence!

As always the Conference was A LOT of fun! A great place to see old friends and meet the new faces of the Chicago paranormal community!

Scott was there promoting his documentary on the La Crosse river drownings with Jay Bachochin (check it out here) as well as selling copies of his book Voices From the Chicago Grave (get it here)

I mostly came for the booze….just kidding! I got to sit with the talented and beautiful Virginia Madsen! Star of too many movies to name here, but mostly at the ghost con because of her work in “Candyman” and “A Haunting in Connecticut.” She is AWESOME and I am really looking forward to seeing her and Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy” this Christmas!

The show is run by Ursula Bielski, who is a wonderful and amazing woman with a CRAZY amount of knowledge on all things paranormal! She’s the best, Google her!

We got in a little too late (and I was a little too tired) for any of the Friday night activities….but we made sure we were well rested and prepared for Saturday!!

Saturday Scott lead a panel on urban legends in Chicago which was ENTIRELY full of AMAZING blonde ladies! From right to left: Ursula Bielski, Mary Marshall, Liz Nygard, and Virginia Madsen.

I…..mostly took selfies and tried to get everyone to join the Instagram Cult!

After day one of the conference, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the costume party!!! Which was “Come-as-your-favorite-dead-Chicago-resident” themed. Also, it was at Chet’s Melody Lounge, right across the street from Resurrection Cemetery (home to Chicago’s most famous ghost, the aptly named “Resurrection Mary”).

I’m not going to lie, I thought Scott and I would have the most clever costumes…Black and white John Dillinger and Anna Sage (the woman in ORANGE, not red)

But then freaking Dave Schrader and Jeff Belanger show up as MRS. O’LEARY AND HER COW!! (The same cow that started the Great Chicago Fire) They just deserve all of the awards for that! All of them!!

We danced the night away and I did my best Janis Joplin impression on karaoke (which do me a favor and if you have video…delete it, okay? lol).

Sunday got off to a slow start, for obvious reasons! But once I picked out a good enough outfit to hide that my skin was still kinda grey….the ball got rolling and it was a lot of fun!

Some very FANTASTIC speakers, such as the brilliant Mary Marshall (you have to love a strong woman like her in the paranormal field)

We all gave interviews with Shadows on the Wall Paranormal Radio (who are awesome dudes and you should check them out!).

And I promise I’m not just saying that because they wanted to talk to me WITHOUT Scott! (That doesn’t happen much, since we’re a team)

We had a GREAT time as always at the Chicago Ghost Conference! We learned a lot of new things and heard all of the latest on the paranormal in Chicagoland and the rest of the county! It’s always a good thing to get back to your roots and catch up with old and new friends at the most friendly ghost convention around!!

Since I apparently can’t take a picture unless it’s a selfie, I have two people to thank for all of these!

Thank you, Kenneth Munyer of Midnight Paranormal Society! You take a darn great black and white photo (and sweet colored ones too!)

And thank you Jay for letting me borrow your pictures, check out his group the Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators, currently on the trail of Bigfoot!

Until Next Year!


Haunted Road Trip LA to Las Vegas

On our tours over this weekend our haunted road trip videos came up a few times! This one is a favorite! Turn one of the most boring drives, into an exciting one! Here are some haunted stops on the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas!


LA Hauntings will be at the Chicago Ghost Conference!

Please do take a moment to listen to the great lineup of paranormal experts that will be speaking at the Chicago Ghost Conference! The group is headlined by Josh Gates of “Destination Truth,” Jeff Belanger of “Ghost Adventures,” Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio and Chris Flemming of “Psychic Kids,” but features another dozen or so great speakers including Ursula Bielski and LA Hauntings’ own, Scott Markus!


A visit to Linda Vista Hospital

By Scott Markus

For those of you who don’t know, my day job is working as a filmmaker (see: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1377864/)

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts

Whether it be Chicago, Hawaii or Los Angeles, it’s always an amazing experience making a movie on-location (as opposed to in a studio). Now, I do hope to uncover some ghost stories from our many backlots here in CA. I’ve worked on a handful and can’t imagine them NOT being haunted, but that’s a tale for another post (though if you have any leads, let me know).

Today, I unexpectedly found myself at Linda Vista Hospital in East Los Angeles. Not only was I without any ghost hunting equipment, but I was also without a camera (the images you see were taken with my cell phone). What an amazing gold mine this place was – a pure playground of amazing locations from basement to roof.

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts

I talked to one worker there who came across an (at first) cooperative spirit. After he and a friend heard unexplainable sounds, the man requested that the spirit knock on the wall. The spirit complied. After asking for another series of knocks, only louder, the spirit again complied. Walking towards the source of the sounds, the man came across a doorway that he believed these sounds were emanating from. He asked, “Is this the room you’re in?” This time the response was less benign. He heard a loud scratch on the wall he was standing next to, which was immediately followed by a growl into his ear. Both of these sounds were heard by the man and his friend. As one might assume, they made a hasty exit and did not return again that night.

This location might sound or look familiar to you. In addition to serving as a filming location to literally dozens of movies and television shows in recent years, this hospital was also the subject of a recent “Ghost Adventures” episode (season 3, episode 5 to be exact) and, even more recently, an episode of Paranormal Challenge (season 1, episode 10, which featured the always amazing Ursula Bielski).

Ursula Bielski photo UrsulaBielski_zps5d4d67c2.pngAs you might guess, I fell in love with the location and will be covering it extensively in my upcoming book.  Now is your chance – What do you know about the location?  Do you know any interesting trivia that one can’t easily find on Wikipedia?  Have you had a paranormal experience there?  Have you heard any Urban legends about the hospital?  Do you have any interesting pictures, video, EVPs from the location to share?  Here, I’ll bribe you with more glorious cell phone pictures (click the thumbnails to see them larger) (in order, left to right: operating room, basement-I know the morgue is down here, but can’t say for sure this is the right area, main 1st floor hallway, filming in the rear courtyard, hospital chapel):

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - Operating room Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - basement morgue Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - chapel
Oh yeah, and as if that place wasn’t rockin’ enough as it is – they also host a zombie prom dances in the chapel room around Halloween each year.