Saturday, December 06, 2008

On the Road Again....

I'm in the mood for a day trip, somewhere exciting and educational for the whole family, but I didn't want to go without you, so I'm taking you along to the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. What do you say? You want to come along?

Old Idaho State Penitentiary

The old territorial prison was built in 1870 and grew from a single cell house to a number of buildings surrounded by high sandstone walls. It was the actual convicts who quarried the stones from the nearby ridges to complete the construction.

Over its century of operation, the penitentiary received more than 13,000 convicts, of whom 215 were women.

Spurred in part by conditions that sparked a general riot in 1971 and an even more severe riot in 1973, the inmate population was moved to a modern penitentiary south of Boise and the Old Idaho Penitentiary was closed on December 3, 1973. After the Penitentiary closed in 1973, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We'll visit places such as the Rose Garden, Solitary Confinement, known as "Siberia," as well as Death Row and the Gallows.

The Rose Garden

In the prison's history, ten executions were carried out from 1878 through 1957. In the state of Idaho prior to 1901, all executions were carried out at the county level, sometimes open to the general public. The only exception to the rule was crimes committed on the federal level, which was to occur behind prison walls. In the case of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, only one man met this criterion.

Families would take their children for picnics on the foothills around the prison and find a spot where they could see the gallows which were where the rose garden now stands, to watch the public executions. (I'm not sure it's something I would personally be interested in watching OR taking my children to)

Solitary Confinement "Siberia"

The rowdier of prisoners were sent to "Siberia," the common name for solitary confinement.

Notorious Inmates

The most notorious inmate confined to the halls of the Idaho State Penitentiary was Raymond Allen Snowden, a man once dubbed "Idaho's Jack the Ripper."

Snowden was convicted of murder in 1956 and sentenced to death by hanging at Idaho State Penitentiary.

At 12:05 a.m. on October 18, 1957, Ray Snowden was brought to the gallows in the prison 5 House. Snowden would never get the chance for last words. At 12:06 a.m., the trap door was pulled, but the noose failed to break his neck. Raymond struggled at the end of the rope for fifteen minutes before finally suffocating.


There are few who can deny that an empty building can be creepy, especially if that building is an old prison. But there's more to that feeling if you're in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. True, there are feelings of dread in every corner, but the visitors and staff tell stories that let even non-believers in the supernatural know that something remains. To begin with, there is the oppressive feeling that follows people throughout the building. It grows strongest near the solitary confinement areas and the room where the executioner stood.

Another commonly-reported phenomenon is the sensation of being touched or pushed. Several paranormal investigative teams have had the experience, letting them know it was time to leave. Still others claim to have heard heavy footsteps on the floor above them and on the stairs leading up to the offices. A few have even claimed to have heard voices. There have also been reports of fast-moving shadows and full apparitions, though the identities have never been determined.

credit: ArielAmanda

Old Idaho State Penitentiary by ArielAmanda.

Empty now. by ArielAmanda.

Prison Laundry - Washers by Mr.Thomas.

Sally Port at the Old State Penitentiary by Mr.Thomas.

Now wasn't that fun? For me at least, I had a blast, I only wish I had personally gone when we lived in Idaho but I guess it will be something to do when we move back after hubby retires from the Air Force.

Until then, if any of you live nearby and want to go for a visit, be sure to take lots of photos and share them with us. The history of this old penitentiary is so interesting, I can't wait to read more about it. In the meantime, if you can, watch yesterday's new Ghost Adventures, they actually went to the Old Idaho State Penitentiary for a paranormal investigation.


  1. I think I would enjoy a visit there, but I sure wouldn't want to stay! Thanks for the tour.

  2. very interesting! Thanks for sharing the info

  3. Thanks for sharing. It was very interesting and the photos made you feel like you were there. I really like your blog.
    Roberta Anne

  4. very cool---I love when you do these tours!

  5. What a wonderful trip, Sandra! Thanks for sharing your passion for travel. I didn't even know that I wanted to know anything about some of these places you've taken us, but I'm alwasy happy I went. I also wanted to tell you that I came up with a new "home made" gift your husband (being military) might appreciate. If you're still looking for ideas, drop a line and I'm happy to share!

  6. Brianna and I like to go to museums and old towns. This would be a place we would enjoy. Thanks for taking us along.

  7. You post the neatest things, Sandra! Thanks for the tour. If we're ever in the area, we'll definitely be visiting!

  8. Thanks for the tour, it was really interesting!

  9. Great trip! You do such awesome 'virtual road trips'!!

  10. What an interesting tour- you would make a great tour guide in real life!

  11. Back for a second visit. There is something special for you on my blog. Please visit.
    Roberta Anne

  12. What in the world? Have you moved back to ID? I haven't been keeping up with you like i should (sniff)! Boise is my hometown, so it was fun to see these pictures. I don't have the time to sit down (with a snack, of course) and give this post a Long Read, so I'll be back. Did you take the photos? They're amazing!

  13. My husband was in the USAF and we were stationed in Mtn. Home. We have wanted to go back and visit for years...but haven't made it yet. Loved the tour!


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