The history of Crumlin Road Gaol (also known as HMP Belfast and “the Crum”) stretches back as far as 1845. This prison was built to accommodate up to 550 prisoners, and during its long and infamous history, some 25,000 people were interred here. These included Éamon de Valera, Martin McGuinness, Michael Stone, and Bobby Sands.
Its earliest inmates included men, women, and children. An execution chamber was added in 1901 and seventeen prisoners were hanged in the period between its opening and its demise in 1961.
The prison closed in 1996 and the building remained abandoned for decades until work began to restore it in 2010 as a museum and themed attraction. Concerts and even weddings have since taken place inside the former prison walls.
With a building whose walls have absorbed years of intense anger, torment, sorrow, and death, it should come as no surprise that the Crumlin Road Gaol is haunted. Indeed, they celebrate this each Halloween with lavish and visceral scare attractions and live paranormal investigations.
Alleged phenomena at the former gaol include disembodied voices, footsteps, objects moving of their own accord, and doors slamming.
On Halloween night in 2016, a paranormal investigation took place at the jail. During the investigation, the group witnessed a heavy steel door closing of its own accord and strange noises were detected using digital recording equipment. At one point, the tour guides spoke of two ghostly children who were believed to haunt the prison – a boy and a girl. The girl’s name was revealed to be Isabelle and she seemed very keen to let her presence be known. When one visitor returned home and reviewed the photographs she had taken during the event, she was astonished to see the figure of a young girl standing in a doorway of one of the cells.
In 2019, it was reported in the Irish Mirror that a visitor had captured the outline of a man in uniform standing in the doorway of a cell in the deserted B-Wing. This would tie in with stories that a phantom prison warden still does his rounds here. A padded cell is also located in the B-Wing and some visitors have reported seeing a dark entity, while others have reported feeling uneasy or have been touched or shoved while in there.
The figure of a man has been spotted walking through C-Wing – home to the “Condemned Man’s Cell”. This cell was larger and more comfortable than other cells, but it hid a secret from those souls that stayed there. Not only did the room have an en suite bathroom, but the execution chamber and the hangman’s noose were also en-suite.
Beneath ground level, a tunnel connects the old gaol to the Courthouse across the Crumlin road. In its day, this concealed passage would have been used to transfer prisoners to and from their trials. Multiple sightings of a grey figure have been reported in the tunnel over the years, including by former staff of the gaol.
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