Carbon County Jail, Jim Thorpe

carbon country jail


Built in 1871, the Carbon County Jail served as the main county prison until 1994. Its imposing castle-like structure is built into the side of a rocky mountain. The building is now open today as a museum and offers tours to the public.


The ghost story of this building is one of the most famous within the state of Pennsylvania. On hanging day, known as “The Day of the Rope” (June 21, 1877) ten men were hanged because they fought for better treatment and working conditions. One of them, a ringleader named Alexander Campbell apparently placed his hand upon the wall in cell 17 and swore it’d stay there as proof of his innocence.

Alexander Campbell was one of the leaders of a group of Irish immigrants to the state who called themselves the "Molly Maguires". This group were working in the coal mines of the area and were treated very poorly, many died from the condition black lung from working in the mines and so the "Molly's" were formed to try to improve conditions.

This angered the local coal companies who sent a detective to infiltrate the group, after three years the detective collected (or fabricated) enough evidence to bring the most important men of the group down, one of these men was Alexander Campbell, he placed his hand on the wall of his cell (cell 17) and swore it would remain as a sign of his innocence, and remain it did.

Hand print

His hand print is still there to this day. Sheriffs have tried to remove it over the years, but to no avail. They’ve tried cleaning it off, painting it over and even tearing down the wall and rebuilding a new one. Regardless of their method, the hand print returns as if seeping through from another dimension.

Today the carbon county jail has been closed and is known as the Old Jail Museum. Tours are run regularly and the story of Alexander Campbell is still told to the amazed tourists. Some visitors still report an eerie sensation lingering in Cell 17. Could it be some small sense of satisfaction which still sticks to the wall with the hand print as Campbell’s ghost observes the scene, a true testament to one man’s innocence?

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