Ghosts of the Old Ottawa County Jail
W hat makes a great paranormal moment? When a complete nonbeliever runs into a ghost…or perhaps two. In the summer of 2007, Ottawa County tore down it’s old jail and courthouse that was in the center of their busy and touristy downtown to make room for a beautiful new courthouse, minus the jail, that looks much like the original courthouse of the 19th century. The former jail and courthouse were cold, bleak buildings put up in the 1960’s, when everyone seemed to lose site of what made a building beautiful. But the old, outdated buildings still contained just the right amount of atmosphere for two ghosts that haunted the hallways.
My friend, (we’ll call him Matt as he wishes to remain anonymous), didn’t believe in anything ghostly but enjoyed talking to me about paranormal my endeavors. He was open minded but didn’t have one spark of ghostly faith in him. When something startling happened to him on the job, he couldn’t resist telling me what had happened to him.
Matt’s first and unexpected strange experience at the jail occurred while checking the cells on his first day on the job. It wasn’t a maximum security jail and the inmates were away on work duty so he was all alone at that moment. Or so he thought. Matt was walking along the catwalk in the jail when a feeling came over him he couldn’t explain. The catwalk had doors that had to be opened and locked every time he went through them and at that moment, Matt couldn’t move through them fast enough. His hands shook as he tried to unlock each door he had to go through. He couldn’t move fast enough and the fear made him stumble as he unlocked and locked each area. As soon as he was out of the catwalk, a feeling of relief washed over him. He didn’t know why he had felt that way or what had come over him and he decided not to mention the experience to anyone being his first day.
The second experience happened in the least likely of places: the bathroom. Matt was in a single person restroom when he suddenly got pushed from behind while standing at the toilet. Thinking one of his co-workers were playing a game with him, he turned around ready to launch some choice swear words, only to find no one there. It was just him standing in the bathroom but the push had felt real enough. After that, Matt knew something strange was going on and he finally asked the other guys he worked with what was going on.
He explained the two occurrences to his co-workers who then told him about the two ghosts that haunted the jail: Hallway Herbie and the guard ghost. Hallway Herbie was the ghost of an inmate who had hung himself in the jail a long time ago, or so they thought. Whenever he was around, people got bad feelings, which might be the reason why Matt couldn’t get out of the catwalk fast enough. He also might have been the ghost who pushed him in the bathroom. It was also brought up that the area Matt had his first terrifying encounter in, was the area where they used to keep the “loony” and unstable inmates when that was the only jail in the area long ago.
The second ghost who wandered the hallways was a guard. Inmates would report seeing him and be confused when a second, “living” guard would come through to check on the inmates again after the ghost. One co-worker told how he was convinced his partner was standing behind him so he started to turn around and saw a man standing there in a brown uniform. When he fully turned around, no one was standing there anymore.
The jail is long gone, but if you know a thing or two about ghosts, they don’t always disappear with the former buildings they were haunting. Are the two ghosts still wandering the halls of the new courthouse? Perhaps….
If you had worked at the previous Ottawa County jail and had an experience, I double-dog dare you to share your tale! I know many law officials are hesitant to share these kinds of stories but you can remain fully anonymous. Write or comment below.