Touring the Old Jail in Jim Thorpe, PA and learning about the Molly Maguire hangings

I’m sure that millions of other Americans like me wish that we could go back to a simpler time in history in which our country wasn’t going to be run by an orange traffic cone. So let’s throw it back to October, 2016. We were young, naive and full of spookiness in honor of Halloween. Taking weekend trips to allegedly haunted sites scared me, not this country’s future.

One of the weekend trips I took was to the Old Jail in Jim Thorpe, PA. Jim Thorpe, PA was renamed after the Native American football star who died in 1953. The town became populated due to a nearby coal mine. Irish immigrants were often conned into working at coal mines under deplorable conditions for low wages. Irish immigrants were discriminated against in the US. (Seems as though history is repeating itself, except with a different group of people). Many companies would not hire Irish people. Coal mines seemed to be the only places they could find work.

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The Old Jail, Jim Thorpe, PA

Irish immigrants rarely could save any of their money because what they were getting paid was not real US currency. The money could be used in company stores in which basic necessities were marked up ridiculously. Along with the fake currency they were paid, they could only live in certain housing. Most landlords wouldn’t rent to Irish people. The coal companies knew this, so they made shoddy housing and told the coal miners that they would be provided housing. However, the Irish weren’t told that they would be paying for this house for the rest of their lives, unable to escape debt and having the debt passed onto their children.

Many were upset about being taken advantage of. These Irish activists rose up and voiced their dissension. An underground assembly of unhappy Irish workers both in Ireland and in Pennsylvania came to be known as the Molly Maguires. Suddenly, many of  coal mine owners were murdered and fingers were pointed at the Molly Maguires. The execution of these 20 men in northeastern Pennsylvania between 1877 and 1879 has led to rumors of their hauntings.

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Some were executed in Jim Thorpe and held in the Old Jail. At the Old Jail is Alex Campbell’s handprint remains. Alex Campbell claimed his innocence up until his execution.  He vowed that his handprint will be forever stained on the wall of his cell to show his innocence. Jail workers supposedly tried to wash the handprint away with whatever means were available to them, but it never disappeared.

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Guards used to watch prisoners from this one-window.

Touring the Old Jail was a chilling experience, even if you don’t believe in its haunted status. The basement in which some prisoners were kept in solitary confinement looked like the underworld. Knowing such atrocities and injustices happened within the confines of those walls was enough to get under a skeptic’s skin.

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While the jail was still operational, workers complained of seeing figures and hearing strange noises. After the jail was turned into a museum, workers shared similar stories of cell doors suddenly slamming. In general, the tour of the Old Jail was worth it. Even if you don’t buy into ghosts, it is important to learn the history of discrimination the US is not the proudest of.

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The basement of the Old Jail.
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