My first stop on this year’s Chillicothe Ghost Walk was the Ross County Archives which was originally the county jail. It sits next to the Ross County Courthouse in downtown Chillicothe.
It was built in 1878 to serve as the jail and the Sheriff’s residence as was common practice back in the day. The jail held sixteen cells for men, one for women and one for the mentally ill. The building was used as the county jail until 1989. There are filing cabinets and boxes everywhere you look.
The tour here was great. It began outside with a guide who told us about the property and about events that took place on this site and what downtown Chillicothe looked like in the nineteenth century. We then proceeded into the basement where we went inside what they called the dungeon – a windowless cell with a tremendously heavy door.
Here we heard about Perry Bowsher, the jail’s first prisoner. He was executed by public hanging in 1878 after a lifetime of crime that culminated in the double murder of an elderly couple. He killed them both, made himself a sandwich and then set the house on fire before fleeing.
The public gathered to see him hanged. Then they put him in a casket which they propped up for everyone to walk past and view his corpse for a number of days. Afterwards they cut off his head to autopsy his brain and determine if he was mentally ill.
They have a picture of his skull along with other images and stories from the day to help illustrate.
It was all quite macabre.
It was also sad. He was young- in his early twenties- and had been in trouble for his entire life. He had actually escaped from the Ridges, the Insane Asylum in Athens. In modern times he likely would have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had a chance at a non-violent life. Those people he killed and others he hurt may not have suffered or been lost.
After we learned about Mr. Bowsher, we went through the first and second floors to tour what was once the sheriff’s home and the second story jail space. I didn’t see a ghost here or experience anything weird but it was a terrific peek into a world I had not seen before.
It occurred to me that my introverted self would not do well in jail so I better keep walking the straight and narrow!
Click here to read about my visit at the Masonic Temple during this event.