Haunted SW Iowa jailhouse is subject of night tours, paranormal investigation
October 17th, 2011 by Ric Hanson
October is the busiest month of the year for a 19th century jailhouse in southwest Iowa which some believe is haunted. What’s known as the Squirrel Cage Jail was built in Council Bluffs in 1885. Karla Borgaila is the museum coordinator for the Pottawattamie County Historical Society. She says the jail’s a spooky place. “It got the name of the Squirrel Cage because inside this absolutely gorgeous brick building is a three-story cage that has pie-shaped cells for the men and it would rotate around,” Borgaila says. “It had a water motor for during the night and a hand crank for during the day.” Only 16 jails of this type were built in the U-S and three survive, but the facility in Council Bluffs is the only one that has three tiers of cells. She says it was a very unpopular place for prisoners.
“It even has a solitary confinement area down this long narrow hallway just barely bigger than the width of a gym locker,” Borgaila says. “There’s a standing area the size of a gym locker at the back they could put you in with a cage door for anywhere from one to ten days.” Members of the group Nevermore Paranormal have spent time in the jail and will share what they have documented about ghostly activity in the cages on Sunday at 2 P-M at the Western Trails Center, in Council Bluffs. Borgaila says there will also be evening tours of the jail on October 29th.
“From 6 to 8 P-M, we do spooky tours, evening tours throughout the jail and Nevermore Paranormal will be there,” she says. “The jail’s spooky enough during the day and once the sun goes down, it’s even a little bit creepier.” The Pottawattamie County Historical Society will also hold haunted lantern tours of its rail cars at the RailsWest Railroad Museum on October 28th. Younger kids can stop buy earlier that evening and go railcar-to-railcar trick-or-treating.