Most people fear a night in jail. We couldn't wait to be locked up.
In 1778, Bodmin's local Justices built three penal institutions – another County Jail, a Debtors' Jail and a House of Correction. Sir John Call Bart, JP, MP designed them, based on prison reformer John Howard's ideals. Bodmin Gaol's pioneering design was light and airy with hot water, a chapel, infirmary, individual cells and different areas for different crimes.
Men and women were separated
In 1850s, a 220 cell gaol was built, but there weren't enough prisoners to fill it, so they transferred one wing to the Royal Navy in 1887. In 1897, an execution shed was constructed in one of the prison yards and is the only working Victorian execution shed and gallows in Britain. The female prison closed in 1911 and the male civil gaol wasn't used after 1916 as prisoners and staff went to war. The Naval prison closed in 1922.
In 1927, Bodmin Jail closed its doors forever
Some prisoners never left....
Selina Wadge was executed on 15th August 1878 for murdering her two year old son, Henry and throwing his body down a well. Her ghost lays feelings of guilt and remorse on pregnant women on the 3rd and 4th floors. Children report seeing a crying woman in a long dress. Anne Jeffries also haunts the jail.
After denying accusations of witchcraft, she was reputedly starved to death. She took three months to die. In the Naval Wing, a warden who allegedly abused prisoners, pushes women aside to drag men into cells. Another warden, George, who died of a heart attack, still wanders the jail. Visitors often feel despondent and a sense of desolation. Some complain of backache or splitting headaches.
We teamed up with fellow ghost hunter, Laura, and Neen's mum, Elaine. As darkness encroached, we arrived at Bodmin Jail. The barman guessed we were there for a paranormal investigation.
Was it the cameras that betrayed us, or excitement buzzing around us like furious bees?
Inside Naval Wing cell
Our investigation began in the crumbling Naval Wing. Faint voices could be heard, but the jail overlooks the town so voices probably carried. We heard rustling and stones dropping but due to the wing's condition and resident bats, we believe it's natural phenomena. While we claimed separate cells, Neen thought she saw a shadowy figure and fled. Cat, Elaine and Laura entered her cell but didn't sense anything.
The Boiler Room
Neen and Elaine returned inside, leaving us and Laura to hunt the demon that apparently lurks there. He's harmless but feeds on fear to gain strength. Like Popeye with spinach, only Hell-bound.
A pet demon might be useful for hexing enemies, scaring off muggers or filing your tax returns…
We visited each of the five floors, trying to tempt the spirits to interact with our motion sensor lights or cuddly executioner, Ketch. Elaine threw a stone to play with any child spirits, but they didn't throw it back. On the 3rd floor, Laura felt something tickle her hand.
Paranormal groups report the basement's boiler room being the most active area. When we visited the jail three years ago, a repulsive stench plagued the basement. Apparently, ghost hunters attribute that to a ghostly tramp. We positioned old keys by the motion sensor lights, so if the spirits touched them, the lights would alert us. In a room containing hanging mannequins, we demanded noose imprints but they obviously decided we had enough necklaces.
Neen saw a grey figure in the doorway, but wasn't sure if it was her imagination. We invited it to touch her. She moved...
The basement was as active as a sleep clinic, so we retreated upstairs and asked resident medium, Sonia, to do glass divination with us, to see if she could rouse the spirits. The glass shifted, but we couldn't keep still, so our slipping fingers probably caused it. After thirty minutes, we'd got nothing except slight vibrations and swaying sensations, which can be explained by tiredness.