Built in 1858 and in operation until 2002, the Joliet Prison is still open for haunted tours. The architect that designed Chicago’s Water Tower also designed the gothic prison built with the same limestone. The prison in Joliet replaced the first state penitentiary in Alton which was horrendous as far as inmate conditions and though Joliet Prison was supposed to improve, by 1878, over 1,200 people were housed there. The Prison still offered terrible accommodations. Statesville was opened in 1926 in Cresthill, but many gruesome disasters happened at the Joilet Prison.
According to Chicago Magazine, Joliet is among the oldest prison complexes in Illinois. Most famous for its appearance in The Blues Brothers movie, the penitentiary has hosted such notorious criminals as John Wayne Gacy, Richard Speck, and Adolf Luetgert, the original “sausage king” of 19th-century Chicago, who famously dissolved his slain wife in lye at his meatpacking warehouse.
In 1924, Leopold and Loeb were given a life sentence known for kidnaping and murdering Robert Franks. Baby Face Nelson was held there and in 1975, the Almighty Black Stone Nation and other Chicago street gangs took over a cell block and held officers hostage. Other horrible events happened at the Prison that included the warden’s wife being set on fire as well as other violent crimes throughout its history.
Joliet Hauntings offers video’s displaying contact with spirits that include voices as well as being touched. They were the first to investigate in 2018. Award winning author and ghost hunter, Ursula Bielski and the Joliet Paranormal Crew offer an amazing book that details the authorized investigations of hauntings at the Prison just launched this summer. Ursula is founder of Chicago Hauntings and has been writing and researching the spirit world for decades here in Chicago. She is a renowned expert on Chicago’s supernatural folklore. She has written thirteen books as well as a guest on many television shows describing her experience with the paranormal world.
Tours are available at Joliet Prison but because of the state mandates due to Covid, tours are mainly outdoors. All tickets must be pre-purchased at jolietmuseum.org. You can also get involved at the historic site as a volunteer, donate or share artifacts from the Prison.