Still Not Free: Ghostly Prisoners at the Yuma Territorial Prison
At a glance:
- Actively haunted and easy to access prison from 1875
- Site of a deadly riot
- Famous prisoners and an infamous isolation cell
- Photos on left of this page
I’ve made countless trips across the California and Arizona desert, entering and leaving Los Angeles. On one of these trips, I ended up taking a very southern route that passed me through Yuma, Arizona. Even just briefly seeing the micro city from Interstate 8, I was immediately taken by its beauty. Trains traversed the Colorado River via aged bridges, huge sand dunes formed the horizon, surrounding the historic western town.
I thought to myself immediately, “I need to find a haunted location here and get back as soon as I can.” To my surprise, the work was done for me pretty quickly. Turning on an episode of “Ghost Adventures,” I could tell from the first establishing shot, “They’re in Yuma!” Sure enough, the episode was about the Yuma Territorial Prison (season 12, episode 8), a captivating, haunted structure that’s 36 years older than the state of Arizona itself.
Soon, I was making my own pilgrimage, heading south from Los Angeles and tip-toeing along the US/Mexico border to make my way to the wild west era prison.
The Yuma Territorial Prison (now operated by the State Park system of Arizona) is open year-round to visitors for a minimal fee (check out the operating hours prior to your visit here: http://www.yumaprison.org/hours-fees-parking.html).
The site is intimate. You are given a brochure at the visitor’s center and told to enjoy. And with that, you are off! The prison was surprisingly well attended considering 1) it’s Yuma and 2) it was a typical day, with temperatures reaching well into the triple digits. That said, there was still plenty of opportunities to explore the grounds alone as most visitors spent their time indoors. The main yard looks out over a canal and to the site of another place that merits future investigations – the location of a revolt of the Yuma/Quechan tribe that resulted in the destruction of two missions and the death of every European male, including the mission’s leader, Padre Graces, in 1781.
It’s hard not to think of the site of a failed Native American revolt that I investigated in Santa Barbara, which yielded the most drastic cold spot I’d ever personally observed: