Museum of Colorado Prisons

  • By: Gareth Popovic
  • Date: 20 January 2024
  • Time to read: 6 min.


The Museum of Colorado Prisons, a terrifying window into the past, is located in the center of Caon City, Colorado. Step within these haunting walls to discover a world of steel bars, echoing footsteps, and lost tales.


The history of the Museum of Colorado Prisons is a chilling journey through Colorado’s penal past. Originally known as the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, this institution has its roots in the 19th century when it was established as a prison to house the state’s most notorious criminals.

The facility that would become the Museum of Colorado Prisons first opened its doors and cells in 1935 under the name Colorado State Women’s Prison. The prison was converted into a specialty museum in 1982, and it is now a part of the Colorado Women’s Prison complex. The original Colorado State Penitentiary has been replaced by this structure.

The facility’s history is marked by tales of hardship, discipline, and the grim reality of life behind bars. In its early days, inmates were subjected to arduous labor, often quarrying stone from nearby hills to construct their own prison. The facility’s imposing stone walls, a testament to their labor, still stand as a somber reminder of the past.

In 1987, the prison was decommissioned and transformed into the Museum of Colorado Prisons. Its transition from a place of confinement to a repository of history allows visitors to glimpse into the lives of inmates, the harsh conditions they endured, and the specters of their past.

Originally Colorado State Penitentiary
Originally Colorado State Penitentiary – Credit fotospot

Haunting Legends and Supernatural Phenomena

Man In Red Shirt

One particularly unsettling incident remains etched in the museum’s lore. A staff member stepped outside and froze at the sight of a man dressed in a red shirt and tan pants. The figure’s presence was undeniable. Later, she approached a fellow employee who was staring up at a tree with a look of dread. Curiosity prompted her to ask what had captured his attention. His reply sent a chill down her spine—he recounted seeing a man in a red shirt and tan pants, perched high in the tree’s branches.

Both employees’ descriptions matched eerily, despite their separation in time and location. The man they saw appeared to defy explanation, as if straddling the thin boundary between the living and the spectral.

The story of the man in the red shirt and tan pants weaves itself into the Museum of Colorado Prisons, a constant reminder that not all tales can be neatly confined to the pages of history. This encounter, witnessed by more than one individual, imparts an unsettling truth: within these walls, the past’s echoes might manifest in forms that challenge our understanding of reality.

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Spirits Of Shortly & Walter

A terrifying rumor reverberates through the hallways of the Museum of Colorado Prisons. Prepare yourself for the eerie tale that rises from history’s shadows.

A sad historical artifact called a noose is visible among the museum’s exhibits. It’s believed that the ghost of an inmate by the name of Shortly who was hanged by that precise noose frequently wanders the halls. Customers say they can hear his ghostly voice, which serves as a chilling reminder of his presence long after death.

Another entity, a man named Walter, has also made his mark on the living. He’s been known to converse with museum guests, even sharing a chilling confession. A staff member once recounted how Walter revealed to her that he had ‘killed three kids.’ With a little investigation, it was unveiled that Walter, an inmate of the Territorial Prison, was sentenced to death in the gas chamber for the heinous murder of a six-year-old.

These tormented souls, trapped between the realms of the living and the departed, linger within the museum’s confines, their stories woven into its very walls. The whispers of Shortly and Walter serve as an eerie reminder that the past’s echoes can reverberate through time, bringing with them an unsettling presence that refuses to be forgotten.

Haunted Artifacts
Haunted Artifacts – Credit Jeff Shane

Haunted Cell 18

Within the Museum of Colorado Prisons, a legend unfolds, filled with eerie echoes that defy explanation. Reports of haunting footprints—muddy, bare, and inexplicable—linger in the memory of janitorial staff. But these spectral imprints are not the only eerie presence that lingers within. The museum’s history is stained with echoes of the past, reaching back decades.

Warden Wayne K. Patterson‘s book, ‘Keeper of the Keys,‘ recounts a time when the echoes of the unexplainable plagued even the living. Inmates, unsettled and fearful, complained about a woman’s mournful cries echoing through the night, originating from cell 18 within the women’s prison section. The chilling twist? Cell 18 was empty when the complaints arose, devoid of any human presence.

These unsettling occurrences, witnessed by both staff and inmates, are part of the tapestry that weaves the museum’s enigmatic aura. The muddy footprints, the cries in the night, and the whispers of the past are reminders that the boundaries between the living and the spectral are blurred here. Each imprint, each echo, bears witness to the unexplainable forces that refuse to fade, leaving an indelible mark on the fabric of this chilling legend.

Popular Culture and Media Coverage

Recognized for its mysterious history and eerie ambiance, the Museum of Colorado Prisons has become a focal point in TV shows and documentaries exploring the supernatural. Notably, it starred in the series “Unveiling the Unknown: Haunting Tales from Behind Bars,” where experts delved into its ghostly stories and unsettling encounters.

In the literary realm, the Museum of Colorado Prisons has made its mark in books like “Keeper of the Keys: A Warden’s Notebook” by Wayne K. Patterson and “Ghosthunting Colorado” by Kailyn Lamb. These books reveal the spectral narratives surrounding the museum, offering captivating insights into its haunted history.

Today, the Museum of Colorado Prisons stands as a must-visit for history buffs and those intrigued by the supernatural. Its portrayal in media adds to its allure, making it a destination to experience its enigmatic atmosphere and chilling past firsthand. This historic landmark embodies intrigue and the uncanny, inviting all who seek an immersive encounter with its eerie and captivating ambiance.**


The weight of the museum’s melancholy past clings to your mind as you leave like a lingering ghost. We are reminded of the eerie past that lurks within these walls by the frightening tales of inmates’ lives, the clang of iron bars, and the whispers of misery that seem to echo through time. The line between past and present becomes hazy as you go back into the light, leaving you with the uncomfortable impression that the stories of the prisoners are not only part of the past but are permanently woven into this unsettling and evocative location.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Where is the Museum of Colorado Prisons located?
A. The Museum of Colorado Prisons is located in Cañon City, Colorado, offering a chilling glimpse into the past of the state’s penitentiary system.

Q. What are the eerie legends associated with the Museum of Colorado Prisons?
A. Among the eerie tales, visitors recount encounters with the spectral figure of an inmate named Shortly, who speaks from beyond the grave. Another unsettling entity named Walter, once an inmate sentenced to death, has been known to communicate with guests and share disturbing confessions.

Q. Are there reports of paranormal occurrences within the museum?
A. Yes, janitorial staff have reported mysterious muddy footprints and shoe impressions that seem to appear out of nowhere, adding to the eerie atmosphere.

Q. Is the Museum of Colorado Prisons haunted?
A. While there’s no official confirmation, the museum is known for its unsettling legends and reports of unexplainable phenomena, leaving some to speculate about a lingering presence.

Q. What’s the story behind the woman’s cries in cell 18?
A. According to accounts, when the women’s prison was still active, inmates and staff complained about hearing a woman’s cries throughout the night from cell 18. The eerie twist is that the cell was unoccupied during these instances.

Q. Have any staff members experienced encounters with the supernatural?
A. Yes, staff members have reported encounters with entities like Shortly and Walter, as well as unsettling phenomena like footprints and cries, adding to the eerie aura of the museum.

Q. Are there any documented investigations or studies regarding the paranormal at the museum?
A. While official investigations might not be available, the museum’s reputation has attracted interest from paranormal enthusiasts and visitors who are drawn to the unsettling stories that linger within its walls.

Q. Can visitors experience the eerie legends firsthand at the Museum of Colorado Prisons?
A. While there’s no guarantee of encountering the supernatural, the legends and reports contribute to the museum’s unique atmosphere, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in a history that is shrouded in mystery and the unexplainable.

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