Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interesting facts about the Missouri State Penitentiary

Our tour guide had many stories to tell about people who spent time in the institution during the years it was open, from 1836 to 2004.  Pretty Boy Floyd spent time there after he was apprehended for robbing a bank.  

Sonny Liston once called this cell home.  

The man in this picture, "Firebug" Johnson, kept trying to set fire to the prison.  As a last resort, they put him in the dungeon. 

Yes, a real dungeon.  "Firebug" spent years there.  

Kate Richards O'Hare, a socialist, made the mistake of giving an anti-war speech in 1917; it was against the law to undermine war efforts, so she was sentenced to five years in the Missouri State Prison.  She published two books while she was incarcerated, and finally had her sentence commuted by President Coolidge.  She went on to become the assistant prison director of a California prison.  

James Earl Ray escaped from the prison at Jefferson City in a bread truck, and a  year later shot and killed Martin Luther King.  

The couple who kidnapped and killed Bobby Greenlease in 1953 died side by side in the gas chamber at this prison.  
I heard so many interesting stories yesterday, my mind can't hold them all.  Seriously, if you have the chance, take this tour.  You have to buy the tickets ahead of time on the website, because the group size has to be limited.  We took the two-hour tour; there is also a four-hour tour, but I was afraid it would be more walking than I wanted to do; besides, it cost a lot more money.  Now I almost wish I had gone ahead and spent the money, because I could have listened to the stories all day long.  

 This building opened for business in 1836, the first prison west of the Mississippi.  If only those walls could talk!


darev2005 said...

I've been meaning to get down there and take the tour. Always wondered what working in a "real" prison was like. Not this summer camp I work at.


Sounds like those walls did talk. Interesting stories about the bad guys calling that prison home. Bet the people working there back in the day could elaborate even more about the criminals. Perfect Halloween Tour. Glad you had so much fun. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Donna, You always find the most interesting places to visit. Now I want to go here and the old castle you wrote about too! Karen

Michaele said...

Really interesting. I, for some reason, like to hear the stories too. I read the one about Bobby Greenlease that you linked to. They were sure quick with their executions back then. Now it takes years it seems.

Lindie said...

When my daughter was a student at MU in Columbia, she was a volunteer at the local hospital. Some of the patients were prisoners. A blind boy in his 20s became attached to her and kept having help writing letters to her planning their future. She finally told him her father, a FBi agent, did not want any more letters from him. (He wasn't) Good hearted people get into trouble!