Florida city’s Old Jail subject of new episode of Travel Channel show ’Kindred Spirits’
A door slamming afterhours. The shadowy image of a historical figure. An inexplicable shove from behind.
Dave Chatterton, general manager of Old Town Trolley Tours, is the first to admit hauntings — rumored, or otherwise — aren’t bad for business.
The Old Jail is just one of the properties run by Historic Tours of America in St. Augustine, but with eight hangings and stories of other atrocities that took place in the building, it’s certainly one of the most visited.
The Old Jail, which housed some of the city’s most violent criminals from 1891 to 1953, is the subject of an episode of The Travel Channel’s “Kindred Spirits” airing at 9 tonight.
The show investigates paranormal activity at sites across the country where there have been reported encounters with spiritual beings or energy.
And those whisperings are what brought the team behind “Kindred Spirits” to the Victorian-style building at 167 San Marco Ave. in the first place.
“We’d hear from people who’d gone on visits during the day, tours at night, and they’d say, ’You have to go here. I had this crazy experience. ...’” Amy Bruni, co-host and executive producer of “Kindred Spirits,” told The Record in a phone interview Thursday.
The Old Jail episode was filmed over four days in June, and the crew set up equipment like EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recorders and cameras after tours ended each night. They also had psychic Chip Coffey attempt to make contact with any otherworldly entities contained within the jail’s walls.
While Bruni would not reveal exactly what was discovered, the Travel Channel’s description of the episode says the team “channels an extremely dark vision from beyond the grave.”
The jail served the city of St. Augustine until 1953 and carried out capital punishment on a set of gallows on the property where the public was invited to watch the executions.
The property virtually never sat vacant as right after it was closed for municipal use, it was purchased by a private owner and transformed into a local attraction.
Stephen Mitchell, the Old Jail’s museum and productions manager, helped the show’s crew coordinate the filming and served as their designated tour guide.
Mitchell, who has worked at the property for more than a decade, recalled one time when he was walking up the staircase to the second-floor cells when he felt a hard shove to his back that caused him to stumble backwards.
There was no one around him.
Chatterton is not surprised by the mystique surrounding the Old Jail. With the number of inmates the building held through the years, Chatterton said, “The conditions are certainly ripe for stories.”
Old Town Trolleys Tours offers a tour called “Ghosts & Gravestones,” the only ghost tour in St. Augustine providing nighttime access to the Old Jail.
Chatterton said he and his staff regularly receive emails from visitors describing strange experiences they’ve had there — some with photos, like the one that captured the unexplained image of a constable in period clothing. That one shook Chatterton.
“There’s a lot of sadness, unsettled spirits, in that building,” said Bruni, “and I think people will be surprised at what we learned about what went on there.”
This story originally published to staugustine.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.