Bodmin Gaol has recently become one of the top visitor attractions in Cornwall after a multi-million pound investment saw part of the prison being redeveloped into a hotel. The museum revamped too, with new interactive displays and a 4D immersive experience. But all of this high-tech wizardry doesn’t distract from the dark atmosphere of this notorious historic site, said to be one of the most haunted places in Cornwall, the gaol remains a popular haunt (pardon the pun) of paranormal investigators and ghost watchers.
Originally built on the edges of Bodmin Moor in 1779 Bodmin Gaol was for many years the main prison in Cornwall. Today the museum explores the conditions that the prisoners lived in and their daily lives, you can walk through some of the original cells and read about their diet and the forms of punishments meted out.
There is also chilling information about some of individuals that came to be held there. Infamous names include Sarah Polgrean, hung for poisoning her husband with arsenic, Matthew Weeks, executed for strangling Charlotte Dymond on Bodmin Moor and the Lightfoot brothers, who were both hung for the murder of Neville Norway.
Executions at Bodmin Gaol
There were more than 50 executions at Bodmin before the gaol finally closed in 1927, initially these were public hangings and attracted huge crowds. The Lightfoot brothers execution alone is said to have brought around 20,000 people to Bodmin, numbers were so vast that special trains had to be laid on to carry the crowds. The hangings were moved inside the walls in the 1860s and the last execution in Cornwall took place in 1909. Today the gaol is home to the only working hanging pit in the UK.
Criminals and ghosts
After its closure the empty building soon gained a foreboding reputation and despite falling into ruin after it was used to store precious documents such as the original Doomsday Book during the bombings of World War II, it was always something of an attraction for dark tourism. A theme it continues today – the display of some of the criminal’s death masks is fairly disturbing! Many say that “a sense of grievance lingers in the cells” and visitors have reported have reported hearing the groans of inmates and the rattle of keys and chains from dark corners as well as feeling fearful or uncomfortable within its austere, granite walls.
The prison has featured in TV programmes such as Most Haunted and today there are regular Ghost Walks and Paranormal Events available for those feeling brave enough to risk as visit after dark!
Regular hours – 9.30 – 4pm daily