By Alex Jones
EERIE photos of the UK’s ‘most haunted’ prison where serial killer Fred West was locked up capture the facility’s dark history.
Chilling images of the 200-year-old HM Prison Gloucester show the cold, impersonal cells where prisoners would serve their sentences or await their fate; shadowy corridors where the footsteps of former inmates can be heard late at night; and ancient graffiti etched into bricks by an unhappy convict.
The controversial prison, which shut down in 2013 after years of complaints of inhumane conditions and overcrowding, was built in 1791 on the site of a castle dating back to the 13th century. Over the years, 123 people were hanged on the site between 1792 and 1939. Many of them were then buried there in unmarked graves.
More recently, the facility has held notorious killer Fred West who murdered 12 people between 1967 and 1987. He was held there on remand before he committed his most atrocious crimes. The prison also held Irish radicals, murderers, and countless miscreants. Aside from the executions, many more inmates have died at the hands of their contemporaries, by suicide, or due to natural causes.
According to some, certain prisoners have never left.
“A number of paranormal groups have visited HMP Gloucester and many of them deem it one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, certainly the most haunted prison,” said Andy Stevens, the sceptical but open-minded events director who holds numerous events in the defunct incarceration facility.
“Although I’ve never had anything happen directly to me – not here anyway – I’ve heard a lot of paranormal activity going on here. People who have nothing to gain from making it up and I’ve reason to doubt what they’ve told me.
“Plenty of people have heard footsteps from areas of the prison that nobody could feasibly be in. We have tapes of someone very audibly saying ‘Come on then!’ whilst there was no human near the microphone. Doors slam. Somebody was bodily lifted off their feet and tripped over. Lots of stuff.
“There was one guard who used to do tours around the prison. He was a no-nonsense sort who didn’t believe in anything approximating ghosts. He was by himself locking up one night when spotted someone up on the gantry. Annoyed that somebody hadn’t left after the prison was closed, he went up and saw them run into a cell. Naturally, by the time he went to check there was nobody in there. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation but he can’t think of one.
“One person even claims they were possessed once. He started threatening to ‘slit everyone’s throats’ before he collapsed in the foetal position and started crying. He was just a guest. He’s vowed never to return.”
Other ghostly reports suggest balls of light – markers of the ethereal – appear throughout the prison, as well as cold spots, full body apparitions, and whispering from empty cells.
“There’s one cell on A Wing near to where the gallows used to be housed,” added Andy, who is running Zombie Nights at the prison over the Halloween season.
“The cell had a bad reputation but every hard nut who came into the prison laughed it off and said they’d take the cell – the one where people used to spend their last night on Earth. It was a rare thing that convicts would come out the morning after and not immediately request another room.
“It’s an unusual place. It wasn’t so long ago somebody was taking a tour and idly kicked a stone across the courtyard floor. Upon close inspection it turned out to be a jawbone. It doesn’t look like they took much care burying dead inmates.”
For Gloucester Paranormal Investigation Services ghost hunters Ed Francis and Paul Cowmeadow, the ancient prison has been a hotbed of supernatural activity.
“Paul has been told to ‘f*** off’ whilst in one of the cells,” explained Ed.
“When he went back and told the spirit that he knew he was there, we have audio of someone saying ‘prove it’.
“It’s a beautiful place the prison, a real jewel in the crown of Gloucester’s history, and we’ve made contact with so many people there. The trick is to treat them with respect and courtesy, like they’re a human being. After all, that’s exactly what they are.
“We’ve had footsteps on demand, caught a ‘stickman’ on camera, and had shadow figures standing next to us in the early hours of the morning. We tend to have most of the activity after six or seven am as that was when prison life started, so that makes sense.
“One of the strangest things happened to us recently. We were on an investigation and just finishing off for the night at the prison. We thanked the spirits for letting us stay and asked them to make one more noise before we left. A couple of minutes later, the whole alarm system was ringing.
“We called the caretaker who came in. He was really confused because the alarms hadn’t even been set. It span us all out a bit.”
For urban explorer The Elusive, who took these extraordinary pictures, visiting the facility was a daunting affair.
“It was cold, with the temperature even lower because of the thick stones walls,” explained The Elusive, who takes photos of abandoned buildings across the UK.
“The lights buzzed there was a damp smell throughout most the corridors. You could go inside the dark disgusting cells and shut the door listening to the footsteps echoing around the prison and imagining how dire it must have been to be incarcerated there.
“The architecture also fascinated me especially in the A Wing where ornate snake supports help hold up the ceiling. The graffiti was also something that was interesting to see a wall covered going back many years.
“When see my photos they are shocked at the state and conditions of this place, many people have said they would hate to spend the night there and that it looks very creepy and cold.”