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Real Haunted House

The Handprint in Cell 17

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
By Shannon Reinbold-Gee

Carbon County Jail/Old Jail Museum, Jim Thorpe (PA)

In the modern-day town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania there is a small jail cell with an apparently long memory. Cell 17 of the Carbon County Jail bears a testament to one manâ??s innocence in the form of a single handprint on the wall. On â??The Day of the Ropeâ? (June 21, 1877) ten men were hanged because they fought for better treatment and better working conditions for their people. One of them, a bold ringleader named Alexander Campbell placed his hand upon the wall and swore itâ??d stay there as proof of his innocence.

It has.

Once a rag-tag group of Irish immigrants terrorized the coalmine country of Pennsylvania, and for good reason. Times were hard and the Irishâ??the newcomers trying to survive the Potato Famine and political hardshipsâ??had wrongly believed America would welcome them. Instead, they got sucked into the vicious drudgery of working the coalmines in northeastern Pennsylvania and thousands of men, and the boy children working beside them, died as a result.

The coal regions of Pennsylvania bear the scars of those desperate days, some places continue to seep twisting, smoky ghost-like wisps from the ground as fires still burn in the tunnels and shafts far below the surface. It makes for a haunting scene, and there are more reasons than just physical sparks and flames.

Living in tiny houses and knowing they owed everything they earned to â??the company storeâ? grated on the proud Irish. Through legal means they established the Workerâ??s Benevolent Association and made small progress, the group being shut down by the powerful railroad magnates and coal companies who stood to profit from gouging the public with high fuel costs. Public opinion was easy to turn against the Irish and quickly the very coal miners who were dying of â??black lungâ? as they struggled to pay their bills were getting blamed for the rising cost of coal. The companies took advantage of the situation, reducing workersâ?? wages by 20%.

Hard workers, but not ones to play the submissive, the Irish organized and took on the name â??Molly Maguiresâ? (also supposedly using the â??The Ancient Order of the Hiberniansâ? as a front for their activities). They did whatever they could without any political power of their own to make change happen. Desperate times quickly led to desperate (and sometimes illegal) measures and the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad (under Franklin B. Gowen) sent a Pinkerton Detective to worm his way into the organization, gain their trust and bring them down.

The Pinkerton (James McPharlan, a.k.a. Jamie McKenna) was very successful. He befriended the Mollies and in the course of 3 years he gathered (and in some key cases supposedly fabricated) enough evidence to bring down some of the most important men in the area. One of them was Alexander Campbell. On the day he was hanged, Campbell again claimed his innocence and rested his hand on the wall of Cell 17, swearing his handprint would forever remain as a sign of his innocence. He was forcibly removed and hanged on the gallows built for the occasion.

His handprint still remains. Sheriffs have tried to remove it over the years, but to no avail. Theyâ??ve tried cleaning it off, painting it over and even tearing down the wall and rebuilding a new one. Regardless of their method, the handprint returns as if seeping through from another dimension.

Today the 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 still sticks to the wall with the handprint as Campbellâ??s ghost observes the scene, a true testament to one manâ??s innocence?

44 comments on this haunted house. Share your story »

44 Comments

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Chea says:

October 21, 2008, 11:33 am

this is so freaky and seems to be very haunted. Me and my friends are going here to see the cell.

Sara says:

October 28, 2008, 5:19 pm

let me know how it goes it seem very interesting

Michele says:

October 30, 2008, 1:50 pm

I was there 2 years ago. Very worth seeing. The whole place is creepy and feels haunted. The handprint is weird- you can see where they tried to paint and plaster it over. (fyi-no photos allowed)

JB says:

October 31, 2008, 11:34 pm

Grew up in the area. This is a site to see!! Scientists from around the world can not figure out what causes the handprint. They have made several attempts to remove it, and it always comes back.

JB says:

October 31, 2008, 11:36 pm

BTW….last time I was there, you could take pics, they just don’t let anyone in the cell any more. I always show my friends the pics I have of the hand print!!

Emma says:

November 7, 2008, 9:26 am

well,i went there 2 years ago and i have to tell you it was freaky,i wonder if they think that something will happen if you take a picture thats why they tried to cover it up.theres got to be a reason why it keeps coming back,maybe trieing to get rid of it made something or someone mad.

lizette says:

February 3, 2009, 2:10 pm

it sounds like someone is just putting it on their and it might be some one working their

charles christman says:

March 22, 2009, 9:00 am

very scary,from the front door and back!anyone who says it isn’t haunted,does not have any sensitivities.I enjoyed it immensely…..looking forward to seeing it again…very soon!!Thanks…..

jeanne says:

April 18, 2009, 10:14 pm

My family and I have visited a couple of times. Me, only once. Couldn’t finish. Got nauseous and couldn’t breathe. Choking feeling. The owner said thats because of the hangings. Yikes. I start to hyperventilate just when I pull into parking lot, to drop people off. Have to park up street, so i can breathe. I’m not a drama queen, but this is freaking real! You just FEEL the misery and sadness and hopelessness.

Kevin says:

June 7, 2009, 2:06 pm

I used to live near Jim Thorpe and drove by the jail every now and then. I never got the chance to actually see it, but I have heard tons of stories. Now I live in TX and there is a similar story for Galveston. The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has a face imprinted onto the wall of the exterior. Its very well-known down here. And it is DEFINITELY a story to look into. They have tried removing the panel of the wall with the face, but it comes back on the panel below. I recommend researching this if you enjoyed the handprint.

Matt M says:

August 21, 2009, 12:50 pm

I would love to investigate this place but they want 100$ a hour with a minimum of 2 hours and you cant stay past 11 pm lol Oh yea you also cant go in the cell with the print! :(

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Nikkie says:

September 13, 2009, 10:54 am

heyy!! this place sounds really cool going to bring my freinds to see it.

Love scary places. :)

geri says:

October 25, 2009, 6:26 pm

We went there 2 years ago and I have to tell you, this place is creepy to the max. Plus I took several photos inside when the lights were very dim and you can see orbs (bright green swirls) all over the place. Very haunted

kevin says:

December 16, 2009, 3:44 pm

i belive that

melody says:

December 25, 2009, 3:58 pm

yes very scary really scared me when i couldnt run cuz i had to pee

Kayla says:

May 11, 2010, 9:41 pm

very creepy, you could really feel the hairs on your neck stand.

catherine fisher says:

July 25, 2010, 9:31 pm

Hi i would like to say we were just at the jailhouse at Jim Thorpe- and we were told from my husbands family history it is NOT alec campbell” handprint?? It was told to us the it was Tom Fisher’s handprint -But really no one will every really know- It keeps going back and forth-
Family still lives there for over 100 years- The tour is nice though

Amber says:

July 29, 2010, 12:35 am

I went there for a field trip when I was in 7th grade. It had an eerie feeling to it and in the blocks in the lower level i took some pictures and when they came out they had ords in them. Also my friend was with me and she said that when she was on the lower floor with the black cells that she felt someone touching her shoulder.

John D says:

August 6, 2010, 5:14 pm

The most scariest, eeriest, atrangest, and mysterious place on this earth, when it was open or now that it is closed, is PENNHURST in Spring City, PA. There was more torture and abuse done to those patients than our military has done to our prisoners in Guantanamo and Iraq combined. Look it up and visit if you dare. My cousin spent 18 years there.

eric says:

August 9, 2010, 7:14 pm

i live in tamaqua , moved there a year ago…ive been ghost hunting for awhile and would love to know exactly where this place is at in jim thorpe. can someone please help me out?

Jamie says:

August 16, 2010, 4:08 pm

I went on a field trip here when I was in 7th grade. I didn’t really know much about it before going. I instantly got a headache when we arrived. I pushed it off as from being on a noisy bus for a little while. I walked in and it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I felt such a weight it took my breathe away. I dismissed this as well. We went on our tour and it came to the part where we were headed down to the area where the hand print is. I got to the top of the steps and breathing became increasingly more difficult. I started crying and hyperventilating. I did not want to go down. My chaperons said I had to stay with everyone so I was forced to keep going. I got down there and I started to feel so much sadness and anger. I had no clue what was going on but I knew I had to get out of there. I couldn’t breathe and I was crying hysterically. I was very dizzy and felt very weak. I was also very angry on top on that. I remember thinking I do not belong here. I do not belong here. Finally someone took me upstairs and the closer I got to the exit the better I felt. It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me.

tony says:

August 18, 2010, 1:51 am

i have been going to jim thorpe every year and i go to the old jail every time and its very creepy there are parts of the jail that just make you feel like someone is watching you the worst part is right near the libary everyone should go have fun in the dungeon haha

Katie says:

September 23, 2010, 9:57 pm

I was there about 10 years ago and I was able to go into Cell 17 and take pictures. I seen the handprint it looked like someone that was sweating, left it there. It looked that fresh. I hope they open it back up, so I can take my daughter.

Angel says:

October 25, 2010, 2:00 pm

My boyfriend and I visited the jail last year around Halloween. As soon as we went into one of the jail cells, I immediately felt sick and was going to pass out. He felt like someone was pushing down on his shoulders and could not move. We didn’t mention either incident to each other until after we left the building. We also took several pictures inside and outside and found several orbs in them. Great place to visit. We would love to be able to tour the whole building.

John D says:

October 25, 2010, 2:58 pm

My ancestor Judge Dreher hung those Maguires. I am glad that they got what was coming to them. I visited there and it isn’t scary because my great great great uncle got rid of them guilty troublemakers. If you want to visit a scary place, go to Pennhurst.

Eileen P says:

October 29, 2010, 5:43 pm

John D, you need to do some reading on those trials. They were a joke. And one of the condemned was pardoned by the governor, but the “gentlemen” in charge of the hangings wouldn’t open the door to the governor’s messenger until all the prisoners were dead. Those in charge were monsters. No wonder the place is haunted.

MGR says:

March 8, 2011, 11:20 am

I grew up in Jim Thorpe and this jail was actually used up until 1995. I never really believed that the hand print keeps “reappearing” or that scientist “investigated it”, but I can tell you I’ve been though the jail MANY times and there is definatley paranormal activity going on! The whole town is haunted….there is ALOT of American history in our little town. The house I grew up in was haunted and when I was a teenager, I saw the ghost of a hoarse in the middle of the road by the elementary school on the east side of town. If your a ghost hunter, make the trip…you can stay at the Inn at Jim Thorpe, that is a haunted hotel. Have fun!

RICHARD GONGALEZ says:

March 21, 2011, 2:46 pm

IS THIS REAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! TELL THE TRUE *******!!!!!!!!

Timmy says:

March 22, 2011, 7:28 am

Ok, riddle me this. If Alexander Campbell had such powers as to leave a handprint on (multiple) wall(s) after his death, why didn´t he just disappear from his coal-mining job? They guy obviously had powers, but didn´t know how to properly use them. How ironic that this lowly Irish coal miner was in fact the most powerful man in the world. Think about that.

Timmy says:

March 22, 2011, 7:31 am

Also, I´m Native American so I take EXTREME offense to the town being named Jim Thorpe. But what a GREAT ghost story!!!!! :)

Kelly says:

April 2, 2011, 10:31 am

We are creatures of habit…….There was a time, when one couldnt simply pull or flick a switch in the middle of the night when one was nudged awake by a throbbing bladder. So a walk in the dark was done. As anyone who is blind today will tell you, its safer to always leave things where they can be found with no light. In most homes in the days before plumbing, and electricity, there was this handy thing known here in the midwest as …..a pisspot,, or thunder jug, depending on the call of nature specifics. A gallon sized white enamaled bucket with a wire bale and a lid to match. All homes ( and jail cells) had them. All sat in the exact same spot, all the time. Men will, especially in the morning, or in the middle of the night when groggy and tipsy from slumber, will….place a hand on the wall , (the right hand, as 80% of us are right handed) A hand that has naturally occuring salts, acids and oils. And in those days, weekly or bi-weekly bathing was the norm. Hands were washed frequently, but men gotta scratch were it itches, run the comb through the hair as the hand follows to smooth the hair down, etc etc. Add to that, that in rural areas, in those days, there was no tractors with loader buckets, no augers to move the feed or grain. So everything was done by hand with a shovel. In those days we needed more fuel in our bodys to run that shovel, to lift those sacks of feed or run that pitch fork. So we ate differently than we need to now. We ate more grease and fats. Our bodys could burn off a skillet fried breakfast of 3-4 eggs fried in butter or lard, several strips of bacon, homade bread with real churned butter. As my daughter said after I treated her to 2 large strips of seasoned side pork, “I can feel it ( the oils) oozing out the pores of my skin!” To some extent, our obesity rate today is due to “Great grandmas cooking” handed down from generations. So, there’s my theory. Its just an oily hand print above the pisspot. Paint it first with “Kills” neutralizer, then paint it with any color paint you like, and the ghost print is gone forever. And I DO beleive in the super natural and ghosts.

Jo says:

June 15, 2011, 11:18 am

My house seems to have more ghosts than the jail does. The hand is questionable in authenticity as I actually knew people who were imprisoned there just before it closed to prisons in approx 1995 who had seen it firsthand. On the other hand there were man deaths there. As it is now-you can’t even enter that cell or take your own photos of it.

jadasiah conyer says:

June 25, 2011, 11:30 am

Im a teen and i live in allentown pensylvainia,and i have never been to a paranormal place before.but these places sound worthy of checking out and i think theres a lot of history behind the killings… i just feel really bad that the ghosts there never got to tell their story and thats not right.

jadasiah conyer says:

June 25, 2011, 11:46 am

by the way i lived in pensylvania my whole life and still living in in this state by the way im still sticking with my opinion

jerry says:

June 30, 2011, 2:50 pm

I remember seeing this in the 60’s visiting with my grandparents in lehighton

amber says:

October 2, 2011, 5:03 pm

I grew up in that area and when i was in school that was one of the field trips. as soon as you go into the jail an eerie feeling over you almost like your being watched and in cell 17 its the worst feeling

Doug says:

October 10, 2011, 1:21 pm

I have been there two times and have caught some awesome EVP’s on my digital voice recorder during the middle of the day. I also have many pics with orbs in them, it is the real thing! I try to go back at least once a year, and they also have nighttime ghost tours on Saturday during October.

Steven says:

October 14, 2011, 12:58 am

When I went on a tour in the jail this bare footprint showed up on the steps NO ONE WAS BAREFOOT the person that did the tour started screaming and ran around lol TRUE STORY

Al says:

February 2, 2012, 5:49 pm

I tried to take a photo of the handprint and the tour guide made me stop, saying the camera flash may damage the handprint. What? It’s lasted all these years through all that repainting and renovation work, and they’re afraid a camera flash would destroy it? They I was told I could buy a photo of the handprint in the gift shop.

Darren B says:

February 10, 2012, 10:44 am

The whole place isn’t just haunted, it’s down-right evil!
I hope the hand stays there forever as a testament to the crooked and evil people that think they’re so good they don’t even have to care! I hope God shatters their atoms into nothingness!
I grew up in Lansford, spent a couple weeks on the second floor of that place – naughty boy – when I was just 11. Carbon County SUCKS! Worse than Russia! China! The entire place is corrupt! No, I don’t live there anymore. I like to be free. They closed down that jail so they could open a new one that CHARGES you to go to jail – $15 a day now! And if you don’t pay, yep, you go back. How F’d up is that! The ways of the coal barrons aren’t lost on today’s (2012) corporations! they want you to work for them, until death do you part, and make sure you have just a little less then you need to keep living to force you to work more, while they slumber in mansions and are proclaimed great ‘citizens’ of the country for their ‘industrious’ efforts to make America great. What a bunch of … There are few things I HATE, and Carbon County, it’s jails and people (not all – but most – and especially the pigs and judges who think they OWN the place) are at the top of my short list of things I HATE! I can’t wait for all the coal mine timber to rot and the whole place collapse into nothing! If you live there, get out! There is real opportunity outside of that area! Funny that in such tiny towns where everyone knows everyone that drugs are the biggest problem … yet they never arrest the providers, just the users ( I Don’t do drugs BTW, just know too many dead people because of drugs). Seems the governments there are the real crooks! The should be helping the citizens by ridding the place of drugs, but then the jail wouldn’t make $$.

Pam says:

October 23, 2014, 11:58 am

Five of us took the night time tour recently. Everything seemed to be fine except when we were in the dungeon. 4 out of 5 of us were attracted by one of the cells. We went in that cell and it was very cold. We took several pictures and then went into other cells to compare. The other cells weren’t that cold at all. After we got home we took a look at the pictures and in that cell there were eyes looking back at us.

Libertarian Matt says:

March 31, 2016, 1:18 am

Darren B I ran for Sheriff in 2014. I got 575 votes in carbon county. You nailed Carbon County to a tea! Yesterday I did a citizen’s Arrest of the county detective, the sheriff for enforcing my lawful arrest, and a deputy Sheriff. The charges conspiracy to violate rights Title 18 U.S.241! On Friday I am going to Scranton on Friday to see United States Attorney Office so they can enforce my lawfull order under the color of law! Maybe the Molly’s spirits will help me get Justice for the people of Carbon County, and bring down the evil establishment of Carbon County! I HATE THEM TOO UNLIKE YOU I AM STABIN AND AT WAR WITH THEM! In Libery,
Matt Schutter Libertarian Candidate for State Representative

Libertarian Matt says:

March 31, 2016, 1:46 am

Darren B I ran for Sheriff in 2014. I got 575 votes in carbon county. You nailed Carbon County to a tea! Yesterday I did a citizen’s Arrest of the county detective, the sheriff for enforcing my lawful arrest, and a deputy Sheriff. The charges conspiracy to violate rights Title 18 U.S.241! On Friday I am going to Scranton on Friday to see United States Attorney Office so they can enforce my lawfull order under the color of law! Maybe the Molly’s spirits will help me get Justice for the people of Carbon County, and bring down the evil establishment of Carbon County! I HATE THEM TOO UNLIKE YOU I AM STAYING AND AT WAR WITH THEM! In Libery,
Matt Schutter Libertarian Candidate for State Representative

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