The dull gray, sandstone walls of the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary” loom large in the distance serving as a not so silent sentinel over the otherwise breathtaking vistas of Boise.
Within the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary’s” prisoner forged walls lurk the spiritual remnants of over 13,000 inmates, including those of George Hamilton and Douglas Van Vlack. Both of the men, for different reasons, chose to commit suicide by plunging to their deaths head first onto concrete surfaces.
Today, visitors to this somber relic of early crime and punishment can engage in a variety of tours and special events including ghost hunts.
History of the Old Idaho State Penitentiary
The “Old Idaho State Penitentiary” was built in 1870 before Idaho had achieved statehood. It saw its’ first prisoner in 1872 under the rule of Warden Joseph Pinkham and saw its’ last one leave in 1973.
It did not take long for the staff at the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary” to start carrying out death sentences.
The first execution by hanging occurred in 1878 and the staff continued carrying out deaths as such until the execution of Raymond Snowden in 1957. Afterward death sentences were carried out through lethal injection.
In all there were 30 death row inmates housed at the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary.” Even though the prison housed women as well as men, no woman was ever executed there.
Things to Know Before You Go
The “Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site” can still be today, what its’ solitary confinement cells were years ago; cold and dark. This is because there is no heat in the prison and the lighting can be poor in spots.
Therefore, visitors are encouraged to bring along a flashlight and dress according to the weather. Sensible shoes are also a good idea because there is a fair amount of walking involved with the tours.
For those that want to make a full day or more of their visit in Boise, the following other attractions are located within a short walking distance of the penitentiary; the “Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology”, “Idaho Botanical Gardens”, “Quarry View Park”, and both the “Quarry” and “Table Rock” hiking trails.
There are also public restrooms, a picnic area, vending machines and hiking trails on the penitentiary premises.
Paranormal researchers, historians, criminal justice fans and the mildly curious alike, can also access and order copies of the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary” inmate files online for a small fee.
The state’s historical society has cataloged a good 18,000 detailed inmate files that even include mug shots, so there is plenty of information to choose from.
Frightened Felon Halloween Event 2010
Each year the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site” hosts a Halloween event. This year there will be two events; a family friendly event on October 29th and another adult centered event for those ages 13 and older.
Both events will run from 7:00 pm until 11:00 pm and include a scavenger hunt, games, tour of prison grounds and exhibits, prison themed costume contest (no masks please), and mug shots.
The “Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site” annual Halloween event tends to be quite popular and thus sells out quickly.
Those interested in attending can save a little money and ensure their place at the event by purchasing $12.00 advance tickets by calling 208-334-2844. Tickets will also be sold at the door on the evenings of the events for $15.00 until maximum capacity is reached.
Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site November Night Tours
Visitors who are brave enough to traverse the penitentiary buildings and grounds at night will enjoy the November night tours.
In 2010 the November night tours will be offered on November 5th and 12th from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. The last tour of the evening will begin at 9:15 pm.
Admission to the 2010 November night tour is $10.00 per person. Advance reservations are recommended.
Old Idaho State Penitentiary Ghost Tour
On November 19th, 2010 from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm the penitentiary staff will be conducting an in-depth ghost tour.
Though admission to this special event is $50.00 per person, with the amount of paranormal activity that has been reported there, the tour promises to be well worth the price tag.
Those interested in more information and ticket purchases should contact the penitentiary staff by calling 208-334-2844.
Paranormal prisoner sighting and special events are not the only reasons to visit the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site.”
There are also several exhibits that are special enough on their own like the “J.C. Earl Exhibit” which contains the largest Luristan Bronze exhibit in the United States and the “Transportation Exhibit” which contains one of the famous “Merci Box Cars” and several other unique vehicles.
Those would be visitors can find out more about the “Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historical Site’s” exhibits and tours on the facility’s website.
Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historical Site
2445 Old Penitentiary Road
Boise, Idaho 83712