Burlington County is the largest county in New Jersey. There are a lot of amazing things to do here like visiting the area of protected pine forests called The Pine Barrens, a historical site called the Batsto Village, an amusement park called The Funplex, and many more.
A scenic view at Burlington County, New Jersey. (Link: https://www.55places.com/blog/the-best-lowest-priced-55-communities-in-burlington-county-nj)
Another reason why people visit Burlington County is because of the fact that it is where the historic Burlington County Prison is located. It was the oldest prison in the United States at the time it closed.
An undated photo of Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlington_County_Prison)
History Of Burlington County Prison
The Burlington County Prison was constructed between 1810 and 1811. It was designed by Benjamin Latrobe and during that time, it embodied a progressive prison design. This was part of a movement to reform poor British prisons in the past. Actually, the architect of the Burlington County Prison, Robert Mills, even chose a quote that said, “Justice Which, While It Punishes, Would Endeavor to Reform the Offender.” This quote could be seen on the door of the Burlington County Prison. The rules of the prison included inmates being bathed, deloused, and have their clothing disinfected. Each cell was also directed to have a bible or a prayer book. The goal was to improve the souls of the inmates while they stayed at the prison.
A photo showing an exit at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g46648-d3258308-i219852922-Burlington_County_Prison_Museum-Mount_Holly_New_Jersey.html)
There were individual cells, good ventilation, and the construction was fireproof. The main entrance features a heavy wooden door with strap hinges and the floors of the cells were wooden. Some of the cells were bigger than the others in order to hold multiple debtors who were not considered to be dangerous. They even had the freedom to work around the prison. They did cleaning chores or were employed at the basement workshop where they learned to make baskets, brooms, or shingles.
One of the rooms at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: http://marylandghosttrackers.com/burlington-county-prison.html)
It is a three-story masonry structure and the top most floor contains the cells for the most dangerous prisoners. Because of that, these cells, which were referred to as dungeons, had wall-mounted shackles that could still be seen today. The top floor was chosen to house these dangerous criminals to prevent escape through digging and to minimize their communication with fellow criminals. These cells also had very high and very small windows.
Prisoners also did some graffiti all over the Burlington County Prison. These graffiti are preserved through photos to this day and are on display all over the building.
A preserved graffiti at the Burlington Country Prison. (Link: https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/burlington-county-prison-museum/)
Another graffiti at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/burlington-county-prison-museum/)
Women were also imprisoned at the Burlington County Prison. Most of them were imprisoned due to adultery or prostitution. Accordingly, at least two women gave birth there.
The prison was supposed to house only 40 inmates. However, there was a time when it contained more than 100 prisoners. Due to this, a bigger prison was constructed and which remains to be in use now.
There was also a time when four inmates escaped from the Burlington County Prison. This took place in 1875 when they punched a hole through the ceiling. A fifth inmate was too large to get out of the hole so he sounded the alarm. It is unclear how many of them were caught but it was clear that some were never caught.
Another notable event included two prisoners. In 1920, just as they started their 90-day sentences for drunk and disorderly conduct, they beat two correctional officers. Both the officers died. The men were later found to be insane so they were transferred to an asylum.
By 1965, it stopped operating as a prison. In 1986, it was designed as a National Historic Landmark. Now, it operates as a museum.
The Ghosts Of Burlington County Prison
Many paranormal investigators and programs have attested to the allegations that the Burlington County Prison is haunted. Some of these programs are the Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters and Weird NJ.
Although the prison aimed to reform its prisoners, it still saw a number of public hangings. The last hangings were those of Rufus Johnson and George Small. These two were convicted of killing Florence Allinson. The instructor was an English woman and was working at a refuge for homeless children. The murder was solved in just days but the hanging took place two months after the crime.
Undated drawings of Rufus Johnson and George Small. (Link: https://www.flickriver.com/photos/itinerant_wanderer/4450253869/)
It was also where many notorious inmates like Albert De-Salvo was imprisoned. Accordingly, De-Salvo was known as “The Boston Strangler.” It is believed that his spirit lingers here and he remains as violent as when he was as living. Many visitors claimed that when they visited the dungeons, they felt like they were being choked and experts believed it was due to De-Salvo.
Albert De-Salvo surrounded by police and other authorities. (Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/us/dna-evidence-identified-in-boston-strangler-case.html)
Another active spirit belongs to Joel Clough. The 29-year-old proposes to his then-girlfriend but she said no. Clough did not take that too well so he planned her murder. Many EVPs have captured the voice of a spirit saying that he is Joel. He was hanged in 1850. Since then, some prisoners and guards have heard his moaning and his chain rattling. Others have also seen his own apparition while sitting on his former cell.
An undated illustration of Joel Clough. (Link: https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.trials/tsjc0001&div=1&src=home)
One visitor shared on a blog that Clough was buried in the yard where a large tree grows now. The visitor shared, “I visited on July 26th, the anniversary of Clough’s execution. I set my tape recorder under the large tree, at the far corner of the prison yard, hoping to get some EVP activity, at Joel’s reported burial site. After four minutes sitting in silence and reading, there was a loud click. The machine had turned off by itself. I examined the recorder, which had never done this before, and started it again. Three minutes later, it turned off again. Despite checking batteries, which were fresh, and loading a new tape, I encountered the same problem three more times, at intervals of 2-4 minutes. It started to drizzle, so I gave it up and went inside. Consequently, in all the time since that event, I have never had any further trouble with the machine.”
There were also paranormal activities witnessed by workers who renovated the Burlington County Prison. Accordingly, during the work, some workers heard loud noises and screams in the building. Other workers could not find their tools and later found them on another floor or another location a few hours later. The workers then called the South Jersey Ghost Research team because they were already too scared. One of the members of the team saw an apparition in the shower area and found a foot print in the dust in the same area. Also, while they were at the maximum security cell, they saw a stretcher move on its own.
A photo of the halls at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/802555596074162514/?nic_v1=1aqwkN8moQ7Q8b0rSoRIP3RgQda4EHY3b0sjvP0AIqnATtJfts9Mc3Srl9GluopuVb)
Other paranormal activities include cell doors slamming without anyone actually slamming them, disembodied voices usually coming from the top floor, shadow figures disappearing into walls, and many more.
Burlington Country Prison today. (Link: https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/burlington-county-prison-museum/)
Ghost Hunting At Burlington County Prison
When you will be visiting the Burlington County Prison, you will be able to access most of the haunted areas. There will also be a psychic medium vigil if you are lucky enough to have a psychic present. Visitors can also use equipment like trigger objects, EMF Readers, and more. You will notice that there are whitewashed sculptures of the inmates to give you a more realistic feel of the former prisoners who are believed to still live in the area despite their deaths.
White washed sculpture at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://weirdnj.com/stories/garden-state-ghosts/burlington-prison/)
Another white washed sculpture at the Burlington County Prison. (Link: https://bestofnj.com/features/travel/jersey-history-burlington-county-prison/)
It is open from Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. It is usually closed on holidays and after Thanksgiving.