Abandoned Prisons Around The World – Creepiest Old Jails To See 2024

From Cells To Sightseeing: 7 Abandoned Prisons Open To Tourists Around The World
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Embark on an extraordinary journey to the world’s most intriguing abandoned prisons, where history whispers through crumbling walls and silent cells. From remote island solitary confinement rooms to decaying structures hidden within urban sprawls, these haunting relics offer more than just a glimpse into bygone eras; they immerse intrepid travellers in the tangible echoes of history.

Once filled with the cacophony of clanging doors and whispered secrets, these prisons now stand in stark silence, offering a profound experience beyond the typical tourist trail. They are eerie time capsules, preserving the essence of life on the margins of society, where every cell tells a story of survival, and every hallway echoes with tales of redemption or tragedy.

Visitors to these destinations walk through the same doorways as infamous and forgotten inmates, contemplating the fine line between justice and punishment. So, pack your sense of adventure and prepare for a journey that not only takes you to the corners of the earth but also to the depths of the human experience.

7 abandoned prisons around the world open for visitors

Cellular Jail, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

abandoned prisons
Image Credit: Vishal Vasu/Shutterstock

Located in Port Blair, the Cellular Jail, famously known as Kaala Pani, stands as a sombre reminder of India’s colonial past. Constructed by the British in 1906, this sprawling three-floor building served as a remote prison where freedom fighters, political prisoners, and convicts were exiled far from the mainland.

A significant earthquake in 1941 inflicted damage on the structure, necessitating the removal of four of its original seven wings. In recognition of its historical significance, the Cellular Jail was designated a National Memorial on February 11, 1979, by the Prime Minister of India.

Today, the Cellular Jail welcomes tourists, offering guided tours that provide insight into its past. The highlight for many is the evocative sound-and-light show held in the evenings, narrated in both English and Hindi, vividly portraying the hardships endured by the inmates.

Location: Atlanta Point, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 744104

More tour details here.

Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay, USA

Alcatraz
Image Credit: f11photo/Shutterstock

Alcatraz, situated on an isolated island amidst the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay, is renowned as America’s most legendary prison. Originally a military fortress, it served as a federal penitentiary from 1934 through 1963, housing infamous figures such as Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz”.

In 1962, inmates John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris tested the prison’s security by ingeniously leaving dummy heads in their beds, escaping their cells, and vanishing from the island on a raft crafted from raincoats, leaving their whereabouts a lingering mystery. This daring escape inspired the 1979 film Escape from Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood.

Alcatraz ceased operations as a prison in 1963 and, a decade later, opened its gates to the public as a fascinating site for exploration. Now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it invites visitors to explore its rich history through tours available both during the day and at night.

Location: Alcatraz Island, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Fort Mason, B201, San Francisco, California

More tour details here.

Robben Island, South Africa

abandoned prisons
Image Credit: Moheen Reeyad, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikipedia

Off the shores of Cape Town lies Robben Island, a site recognised by UNESCO for its diverse history, including roles as a hospital for lepers, a military outpost, and notably, a high-security penitentiary for political detainees during the apartheid era. Nelson Mandela, who later became the nation’s first black president, was imprisoned here for 18 years. Following its closure in the 1990s, the prison was transformed into a museum in 1997.

The island’s layered past is shown by remnants such as quarries dating back to the 17th century, the resting place of Hadije Kramat from 1755, a collection of 19th-century administrative structures that include a chapel, the remnants of a church from the leper colony — the sole survivor of that era, abandoned World War II fortifications near the harbour, and the maximum security prison.

Location: Table Bay, Western Cape province, South Africa

More tour details here.

Château d’If, France

Château d’If
Image Credit: ale_es0/Shutterstock

In 1481, with no direct descendants to inherit, the House of Anjou transferred control of Marseille and Provence to the French monarch, leading King François I in 1516 to initiate the construction of the Château d’If. Situated off Marseille’s coast, this 16th-century fortress, later repurposed as a prison, gained widespread recognition through Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo published in 1844.

Renowned for its role as a detention centre for German PoWs during the First World War, the facility was decommissioned as a prison by the end of the 19th century. It subsequently transformed into a museum that now conducts self-guided and guided tours for history enthusiasts. A snack bar also serves proper meals for anyone hungry during the tour. Although it was designated a Historic Monument in 1926 and equipped with a jetty, accessing the fortress can still pose challenges during inclement weather.

Location: Marseille, France

More tour details here.

Bodmin Jail, England

abandoned prisons
Image Credit: JANUSZ KONARSKI/Shutterstock

Renowned as one of England’s most haunted spots, this prison was founded in 1779 during King George III’s rule to spearhead penal reform. By the early 1820s, severe overcrowding forced a division of prisoners into over 20 categories based on their accommodation and labour requirements.

Between 1856 and 1861, during the Victorian era, a new, more modern prison was constructed on the site, featuring 220 cells, separate wings for males and females, a chapel, and a debtor’s prison. The facility for women was shuttered in 1911, and the last male inmate left in July 1916, leading to the jail’s closure in 1927. Bodmin Jail is steeped in a grim narrative, having been the site of 55 executions, including those of eight women, for crimes considered among the most heinous.

Today, the revamped Bodmin Jail attraction invites visitors to explore its chilling history through award-winning guided tours, ghost-hunting experiences, and the option for self-guided visits, shedding light on the infamous figures who faced their demise within its daunting confines.

Location: Berrycoombe Rd, Bodmin PL31 2NR, UK

More tour details here.

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Old Adelaide Gaol, Australia

Old Adelaide Gaol
Image Credit: Sharon Wills/Shutterstock

The Old Adelaide Gaol, a historic landmark in Adelaide, is known for its grim legacy. Operating from 1842 to 1988, it housed about 300,000 inmates and witnessed 45 executions, with those executed buried right in the prison yard. The gaol’s bell, a daily routine marker, also signalled ongoing executions.

Until 1969, when the Adelaide Women’s Prison was inaugurated, Adelaide Gaol contained male and female prisoners, including infamous ones like Saucy Sarah and Elizabeth Woolcock. The facility was marked for closure in the early 1980s and officially decommissioned on February 4, 1988.

Today, the Old Adelaide Gaol is reputed to be among Australia’s most haunted locations, purportedly frequented by the ghosts of former occupants, including inmates like Frederick Carr and notable figures like Ben Ellis, the executioner, and Governor William Baker Ashton, adding a spectral allure to its historical significance.

Location: 18 Gaol Rd, Adelaide SA 5000, Australia

More tour details here.

Sinop Fortress Prison, Turkey

abandoned prisons
Image Credit: boreas.tr/Shutterstock

Nestled within a historic fortress, Sinop Fortress Prison stands as one of Turkey’s oldest decommissioned prisons. The fortress’s origins trace back to the 7th Century BC, with the state prison itself opening its doors in 1887.

Designed in a U-shape, the building consisted of 28 chambers and 11 lookout towers. It was repurposed as a jail by the Ottoman Empire in 1887 and later served the Turkish Republic through the 20th Century, housing several of Turkey’s esteemed literary figures and intellectuals, such as novelists Sabahattin Ali and Hüseyin Hilmi.

The prison was decommissioned in 1997, with its last inmates being transferred to a newly constructed prison in Sinop. Shortly thereafter, in 1999, this historical site was transformed into a museum, offering a window into its storied past as a place of confinement.

Location: Kaleyazısı Cumhuriyet Caddesi Sinop Merkez 18, 57000 Sinop Merkez/Sinop, Türkiye


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(Feature image credit: f11photo/Shutterstock)

Related: Did You Know About These Popular Abandoned Hotels?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Why are some prisons considered creepy?
Some prisons gain a creepy reputation due to their grim pasts, including harsh conditions, infamous inmates, and paranormal sightings. Places like Alcatraz in the US or Old Adelaide Gaol in Australia intrigue visitors with their storied histories of escape attempts, famous prisoners, and ghostly legends, blending historical fascination with a touch of the supernatural.

–  What are some examples of famous abandoned and creepy prisons?
Renowned for their eerie allure, the abandoned prisons of Alcatraz in the USA, Bodwin jail in England, and India’s Cellular jail in Port Blair captivate visitors with their chilling histories and ghostly tales.

– Are abandoned prisons open to the public?
Several abandoned prisons have been repurposed into museums and historic sites, opening their doors to visitors eager to delve into their rich, often chilling histories, offering a unique experience.

– Are abandoned prisons haunted?
Abandoned prisons like Bodwin jail in England, Alcatraz Prison in the US, and Cellular Jail in India are infamous for their ghostly legends, with numerous reports of mysterious sounds and sightings, captivating those fascinated by the paranormal.

– Can you explore abandoned prisons on your own?
While some abandoned prisons offer guided tours, unauthorised exploration is generally prohibited due to safety concerns and preservation efforts. Always check regulations and seek permission before planning a visit.

– Are there any guided tours to abandoned prisons?
Yes, many abandoned prisons, such as Alcatraz in the USA and the Old Adelaide Gaol in Australia, offer guided tours. These tours provide fascinating insights into the prisons’ histories, infamous inmates, and rumoured ghost stories, ensuring a safe and informative visit.

– What precautions should I take when visiting abandoned prisons?
When touring abandoned prisons, ensure you have sturdy footwear for rough terrain, carry a flashlight for poorly lit areas, adhere strictly to guided paths, show respect for the site’s historical significance, and always stay with your tour group for safety.

– Are abandoned prisons used in movies or TV shows?
Abandoned prisons serve as compelling backdrops for films and television, offering settings rich with narratives. For example, the 1979 classic Escape from Alcatraz was largely filmed on location at Alcatraz Island’s prison. Similarly, the historic Cellular Jail found a spotlight in the Netflix series Kaala Paani, and Kilmainham Gaol in Ireland appeared in The Italian Job.

– Can I take photographs inside abandoned prisons?
Photography is generally permitted in abandoned prisons for personal use during guided tours, but visitors should verify policies in advance, as certain areas might restrict photography to preserve the location’s condition or for safety reasons.




Written By

Ruchit Rastogi

Ruchit Rastogi

A journalism graduate, Ruchit has worked with Republic TV as a news writer before venturing into the world of travel with Flynote, covering both local and international stories. Off the clock, Ruchit can be spotted cafe hopping, indulging in his love for reading, cooking, or planning his next solo adventure. A wandering hermit at heart, his days are ..Read More

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