Investigators: Ken DeCosta
Atmospheric Conditions: Temperature - 62 degrees
RISEUP arranged to conduct an investigation of 'Ye Olde Gaol' located in Barnstable, MA. through their
association with Cape and Islands Paranormal Research Group (CAIPRS). CAIPRS under the direction of founder
Derek Bartlett had recently taken it upon themselves to recondition the 'Oldest Wooden Jail in the U.S.' in order to
preserve its integrity as well as continue to offer the general public an opportunity to visit this historic landmark. In
meetings with the membership of the Coast Guard Heritage Museum - located adjacent to the jail in what was
previously the Trayser Museum - Bartlett pledged the assistance of himself and his group in order to ensure that
the doors to the jail remained open to the public for viewing. It was through our friendship with CAIPRS and their
generosity that we were able on this night to accompany Deb Ahern, CAIPRS Director of Ghosts and Hauntings and
CAIPRS Field Investigator Nancy Jenkins on an intensive investigation of the jail, which is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places (1971).
One of the more fascinating discoveries of our inspection of the jailhouse, which is a small, rather cramped 2-
story edifice, were carvings of schooner ships of a by-gone era done by the prisoners that were kept there (below).
These rather detailed etchings are still quite legible on various planks that served as cell walls.
The jail itself has had a long and colorful history with many plot twists and turns leading to its present state as a
landmark and tourist attraction. Somewhere between 1690 and 1700, the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony
Court by the order of Sherriff Basset instructed Barnstable County to erect a jail that would be used to house
detainees awaiting trial in Plymouth or to house whatever overflow of prisoners the magistrates might encounter.
The original jail was located in a different part of the town but was eventually relocated and attached to the
rear of a Victorian-era home sometime in the early 1700s. Barnstable was ordered in 1757 via court directive to
erect a new jail, but for whatever the reason this was never done and the existing jail was renovated and remained
in use until around 1820.
It was by a simple twist of fate in 1968 that the jail was not destroyed and lost to the ages. A woman named
Margrilla Holloway who lived on Old Jail Lane (that should have been a sure-fire tip-off) had an old barn on her
property and desired a new one built in its stead. Her initial intent was to tear the old one down, but she first
contacted Barnstable Country Chief Deputy Sheriff Louis Cataldo. Sheriff Cataldo had chronicled a considerable
volume of stories of old Cape Cod, related orally to him by those old enough to remember by-gone days. Knowing
of his background in local history, Miss Holloway invited Cataldo to her home where she wanted to show him
something unusual she had come across. There, inside the barn he was shown a plank board that had on it the
"W. Bartlett 13d October 1698 and 27d he was let out"
The end result was that indeed Miss Holloway got the building moved and her garage built. Frederick
Matthews, a retired engineer petitioned the town of Barnstable for $40,000 to restore it and met with success. It
was on March 1, 1972 that the building began its transfer to a new location next door to the Trayser Museum.
Three days later, vandals set fire to the building. Barnstable's volunteer fire department responded admirably
and were able to save most of the historic structure but a few areas suffered fire damage which can still be seen
today. The building you see today is a hybrid of parts of the old jail and modern reconstruction.
Some of the phenomena that has been witnessed and reported over the last couple of years includes a
shadowy figure that has been seen moving around the first floor of the jail. Ms. Ahern has seen this figure on more
than one occasion, the first of which was standing by the ladder that leads to the second story loft, on which two
small confinement cells are located.
Noted author and paranormal investigator Rosemary Ellen Guiley visited the jail as a guest of CAIPRS founder
Derek Bartlett armed with a 'Frank's Box', a spirit communication device based on scanning 'white noise' on AM
frequencies with some interesting results. Notably, the name "Derek" came through rather discernibly.
There have been sounds of footsteps and what can only be described as something being dragged across the
floor upstairs in the loft area. Voices have been heard by many when no one else is inside. Some unexplained
noises have forced some in the nightly tour groups to abandon the event and flee into the night.
Members of CAIPRS as well as many visitors who come to partake in the "Haunted Overnights" held there,
claim to have been physically touched by unseen hands. Objects have been moved by no visible means of
transport. Ms. Ahern reports on various occasions having been spoken to, held back, pushed, touched and felt the
physical presence of someone stepping directly in front of her.
The wooded area in nearby Jailhouse Lane is also believed in local legends to be haunted by the ghosts of
former tenants of the jail. Probably the most notable prisoners held there were 6 buccaneers from the pirate ship
Whydah in 1717.
IR stationary cameras were set up in three locations and monitored from outside the jail. The front room -
where the jailer's station would be located (below). Note the ladder to the second floor in the background of the
doorway. This is where the apparition of a man has been seen and invisible forces have touched more than one
visitor to the jail.
The loft on the second level where the solitary cells are located.
The back room where the main cells were situated
Because of the relatively small size of the building, investigators took turns in shifts with the remaining
members situated outside on the video monitors and remote microphones which can capture EVPs in real-time.
The first session involved primarily EVP work as there was little to no concern about electricity giving cause to
any false positives. EMF meters would be monitored merely in the event any anomalous fluctuations might occur.
The session was conducted in the back of the jail where the main cells were located. Questions concerning the
former occupants, the shadowy figure often seen there and even the past wardens and their wives (who at various
times would actually live at the jail) were asked by Ken DeCosta, Shayna Drinkuth and Ryan Lantini with Deb Ahern
and Nancy Jenkins of CAIPRS also present.
There is a hole in the jail wall between the front room and the back where meals were dispensed to prisoners
and a shadow has been known to pass by and block out the light between the two rooms. Particular attention was
paid to this spot as well as was the ladder leading to the second floor, at the bottom of which the apparition of a
man has been seen. These were deemed 'hot spots' that warranted deeper concentration. Nothing unusual was
observed, felt or heard and subsequent review of the audio recording revealed nothing anomalous.
The second session concentrated on the same spots, but two investigators, Dave DeCosta and Dave Grady
were placed up in the loft and closed off inside the solitary cells. EVP work was coordinated between the two floors
to eliminate contamination. There were knocks heard from one of the solitary cells, but was quickly dismissed as
quite natural in nature, possibly a chair being moved by an investigator down below. This session, as the first,
resulted in nothing out-of-the-ordinary at the time of the vigil as well as the resulting recording reviews.
The final session involved using alcohol as a trigger object. A bottle of rum was produced and shots poured for
any spirits willing to partake of one. The shot glasses were monitored for any sign of movement or disturbance of
the liquid. A simultaneous EVP session was conducted at the same time. Unfortunately, the glass and its contents
One piece of audio evidence that peaked our interest was captured during this final session. A faint whisper
was heard during questioning. Our consensus seems to support the name "Nancy" being spoken. While this
certainly raises eyebrows, particularly considering the presence of someone with that name, it is very weak and not
distinguishable enough to make a claim with any real certainty.
Our investigation of the Old Jail was one we had looked forward to for quite some time and through the
hospitality of Derek Bartlett and the CAIPRS staff, it became a reality.
The reports of paranormal activity at the jail continue to the present day with CAIPRS staff as well as visitors
to the jail relating many accounts of hearing voices, being touched or feeling a presence inside during their visits.
People still walk out in the middle of tours after feeling a certain discomfort or, in more extreme cases,
experiencing the sensation of being touched by an unseen entity.
While our investigation could not add more data to the mounting evidence of activity at the jail, the sheer
volume of claims and the credibility of those reporting them strongly suggests that indeed something bizarre is
going on at one of America's most unique testaments to an era gone by - 'Ye Olde Gaol' in Barnstable, MA. As such,
RISEUP looks forward to someday returning to this historic edifice and continuing its search for tangible proof of