By: Melissa Brinks,
The Bodmin Jail haunting legend surrounds one of the scariest paranormal sites in the United Kingdom. Often cited as the UK’s most haunted venue, the jail played host to some 50 public hangings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The ghost of William Hampton, the last man hanged in 1909, is said to roam the halls of Bodmin Jail, appearing to visitors and ghost hunters as they walk the ruins.
Like many haunted prisons, there’s more than one spooky story lurking around this particular jail. As a site of much distress and trauma over the years, the Bodmin Jail plays host to multiple frightening stories of prisoners who have come back from the grave. While Hampton might be the most prominent, there are multiple prison ghosts caught on camera in this historic location.
Video Footage Allegedly Shows Hampton’s Ghost Walking Through The Jail
With all of the tortured souls that had been imprisoned, it’s no surprise paranormal investigators have captured some intriguing footage at Bodmin Jail. While investigating the prison after dark, Tony and Bev Ferguson reportedly asked the resident spirits to reveal themselves shortly before capturing what appears to be a man walking across the frame in the distance. The figure does have a remarkably human shape, particularly its gait; rather than floating randomly, it appears to walk directly through an archway. Other footage shot that night includes orbs, which are often said to be a precursor to a full-body apparition like the one Ferguson claims to have captured.
Hampton Murdered His Girlfriend Due To Jealousy Or A Possible Affair With Her Mother
In 1909, Hampton was accused and convicted of the murder of his young girlfriend, who was just 16. Though they had gotten engaged the previous year, it’s believed that his girlfriend, Emily Tredea, had pulled away from him and wanted to break off the engagement. According to other sources, Hampton was carrying on an affair with Tredea’s mother, and perhaps killed Tredea to keep her quiet about it. Whatever the case, Hampton was executed on July 20, 1909. It’s rumored that the jury pleaded for mercy in Hampton’s case, but he was killed nonetheless.
People Believe Hampton Haunts The Jail Due To Some Uncertainty About His Case
With his crime being clear but his motivations murky, it’s no surprise that Hampton’s ghost is still said to roam the halls of Bodmin Jail. Though Hampton was found guilty, rumors abound the story isn’t exactly as it appears. He and his girlfriend did not have a history of physical altercations, and acquaintances recount Hampton as a mild-mannered fellow.
If Hampton is one of the resident ghosts at Bodmin Jail, perhaps it’s exactly that that keeps his spirit from resting in peace. Hampton himself confessed to the crime so it’s unlikely that he was wrongfully convicted and executed, but the element of doubt about precisely why encourages people to speculate about why he, out of the more than 50 people executed at the jail, is one of the spirits to haunt the jail.
The Ghost Of A Woman Who Drowned Her Child Also Allegedly Haunts The Jail
While Hampton might be the most famous, especially because he was the last person executed at the prison, there are still other spirits said to roam the halls of Bodmin Jail. Selina Wadge was accused and convicted of killing her child in June 1878. She was expected to be granted clemency by reason of mental illness, but that pardon never came. Today, it’s said children visiting the jail may see a woman in a long black dress that nobody else can see. The ghosts of a warden and several murderers, including a pair of brothers, have also been said to visit the jail, terrifying and entrancing visitors to the historic location.
The Prison Was Built By Prisoners Of War
As if housing the doomed souls of more than 50 criminals sentenced to death wasn’t enough, Bodmin Jail was also built in the 18th century by prisoners. Those prisoners were French, likely captured during the Anglo-French War or Napoleonic Wars. These prisoners were overseen by Sir John Call, an engineer and baronet. These French prisoners must have had some impact on the appearance of the prison, as it is notably Châteauesque in comparisons to other buildings of the area and time period. But with a history based on the labor of prisoners of war, roughly 50 executions, and a legacy of poor treatment, it’s no surprise that the jail is said to be haunted today.
Executions At Bodmin Jail Were Often Public
In Bodmin Jail’s heyday, public executions were huge events. Entire families would come together to watch somebody be hanged for their crimes, sometimes picnicking as part of the event. With the exception of only a few executions – including Hampton’s hanging – those who were sentenced to death died in public, surrounded by onlookers. Perhaps that’s part of the reason the area is said to be so rife with ghostly activity; condemned to die as spectacle, those spirits may still walk the Earth.
The Drop Gate Was Once Ruled Illegal For A Surprising Reason
Hangings at Bodmin Jail were done with a trapdoor and pit. That pit, like the rest of the jail, underwent some changes over Bodmin’s long history. At one point, the pit’s design was ruled illegal – not because it was particularly inhumane or ineffective, but because it wasn’t public enough. The drop was then moved, which allowed thousands of people to witness the executions from the surrounding area. In 1868, it was rule that executions had to be private, and the remaining sentences at Bodmin Jail were carried out in the same location but hidden from the public behind canvas. It wasn’t until 1901 that hangings took place inside the jail, making them truly private.
The Jail Is Frequented By Ghost Hunters And Paranormal Enthusiasts Alike
Because of its legacy as a prison, and particularly as a prison where executions took place, Bodmin Jail is of notable interest to ghost hunters. Most Haunted, one of England’s most popular paranormal shows, had a particularly revelatory episode set there, though it had more to do with exposing one of its hosts as a fake than capturing paranormal activity. Paranormal investigators have also had experiences there, and the jail itself has ghost tour packages for prospective visitors. While the history is fascinating, ghosts are a big part of the draw for tourists as well as amateur and professional paranormal investigators. According to The Mirror, the tours pack quite the punch: “Grown men have fainted, women vomited, and people run screaming from its depths – Bodmin Jail has fascinated and terrified its visitors in equal measure for years.”
Both Men and Women Were Executed At The Prison
In its 150 years of operation, there were over 50 prisoners executed at Bodmin Jail, both men and women. These executions weren’t reserved for particularly heinous crimes – in those days, you could be executed for what amounts to petty theft or setting corn or haystacks on fire. While the prison both housed and executed men and women, men were far more likely to die in the gallows. The procedure often used was called the “long drop,” pioneered by William Marwood, and it was said to be more humane. The older technique – the short drop – killed by strangulation, whereas Marwood’s technique killed by asphyxiation while unconscious.
Bodmin Jail Housed Prisoners For Over 150 Years
Bodmin Jail was built in 1779. It was allegedly revolutionary in its time for being a particularly airy and healthy prison where prisoners were paid for their work. However, other accounts say disagree, claiming the jail was built in a manner to torture and isolate its prisoners.
Bodmin Jail’s good reputation began to change in the crime wave of the early 1800s when people suddenly had to share cells due to overcrowding. Due to new requirements and the deteriorating condition of the older parts of the prison, much of it was rebuilt in the late 1850s. The new jail included 220 cells that separated prisoners by crime. The Prison closed in 1922 and all of its buildings were sold in 1929.