A Trip To The Burlington County Prison MuseumHigh Street
Mt. Holly, NJ.
Wow! This is my 300th…YES…300th blog post. It hasn’t even been two years yet. In fact, the Facebook page will turn a big ONE in February. For this special post and since it is cold out, I’ve decided to write about an indoor activity to seek out in South Jersey. What better way to celebrate this paramount 300th post than to visit this historical landmark in Mt. Holly!
The city of Mount Holly is an old broad. She was founded in 1677 and was the first European settlement in Burlington County. The first jail was located in the basement of the old Burlington County courthouse that resides next door.
The Burlington County Prison opened in 1811 at its current site. There are many tales and folklores about this place. Including, tales of the prison being haunted. According to paranormal research “experts” it is reportedly the most haunted structure in America. Unfortunately, Yummygal would have to truly see it to believe it.
One apparent haunting is that of inmate Joel Clough. Clough is rumored to be the ghostly spirit that haunts the prison. The story goes that he was executed in the gallows of the prison yard (and the gallows are showcased today, but not the original.) Clough had reportedly killed a woman who left him for another man. He attempted to escape and he got away, but he was soon captured by the warden. Clough was then imprisoned what they termed the death cell, a maximum security cell on the top floor. Per accounts, Clough was often times chained to the floor completely naked, and left to wallow there as punishment for his violent crimes prior to his execution. He is said to appear to folks who visit the museum.
Another inmate known as the “Boston Strangler,” Albert DeSalvo did a two-day stint here at the prison in 1955 and is reported to haunt the facility. Another key fact about the prison is that two correctional officers were murdered on the premises by inmates who were imprisoned for just being drunk and disorderly. Both inmates got out of the conviction by pleading “insanity” and were spared execution.
The museum’s curator has also witnessed seeing shadows passing by the imposing gray stones of the prison. That is pretty freaking creepy, if you think about it.
A noted person featured in the museum tour is that of Ellis Howard Parker. I would have to say I never heard of him, however, after doing some research, he was a very famous man. He was known as the “Sherlock Holmes of America.” Parker was born in 1871 and by the time he was 20 years old, he was hired by the Burlington and Ocean County Pursuing Society to help catch thieves and other criminals. In 1898, he was hired full-time as the first Chief Detective of Burlington County.
In the duration of Parker’s 46 year-old illustrious career, he solved over 300 murders and over 1,000 other crimes. His work was recognized worldwide by Scotland Yard in England, The Suerte of France and a handful of other countries. He sent several murderers to the gallows (most-likely here) or the electric chair.
The funny fact is Ellis Howard Parker died in prison. He was serving a conviction, with his son in a Pennsylvania prison for his involvement in the Paul H. Wendell kidnapping case. Wendell (a former Trenton attorney) was a suspect in the Charles Lindbergh case.
Parker, his son and a few other accomplices kidnapped Wendell and reportedly forced him to confess that he was somehow involved in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. Wendell reportedly had contacts with the “underworld” or criminal affiliates. They thought Wendell knew the kidnapper or was somehow involved in the disappearance and murder of the Lindbergh baby.
Ellis was convicted for his conspiracy of kidnapping Wendell, but was in the process of obtaining a Presidential pardon by Franklin Roosevelt. Had Parker lived another week, he would’ve been back at his home in Mt. Holly. He died on February 4th, 1940 of a brain tumor. There is a room dedicated to Ellis H. Parker at the Burlington County Prison.
There are so many other features throughout the prison that are well-preserved. Some of these exhibits include; writings from inmates on the wall, the old prison kitchen, solitary confinement cells and many of the standard prison cells are original. The Burlington County Prison couldn’t keep up with overcrowding and closed its doors in 1966.
The museum is open Thursday-Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 12-4pm. The Burlington County Museum offers haunted tours around Halloween season and is a designated National Historic Landmark in the heart of Mt. Holly. It’s definitely a place worth visiting and an awesome addition to our robust South Jersey history.
Until our next adventure, my friends! -The Yummygal