201 N. 1st St.
Canon City, CO 81212
When the first prison in the Colorado territory was built in 1868 as the Territorial Prison in Canon City, there was no city in the vicinity. Rather, Canon City grew up around the prison which later became known as the Colorado State Penitentiary (Museum of Colorado Prisons, 2008; Newman, 2008).
On display at the Colorado Prison Museum is the gas chamber that was used for executions starting in 1933. From 1871 until 1933, hangings were the method of execution used by the Colorado Prison System. According to Newman (2008), since 1871, 45 prisoners died by hanging, 32 died in the gas chamber, and 1 by lethal injection.
The Museum of Colorado Prisons is housed in the old women’s facility (Newman, 2008). The story of the first female prisoner is included on the Museum of Colorado Prisons’ website. Dr. Mary Solander was the first woman incarcerated for performing an abortion on a woman that went awry and resulted in the death of a Mrs. Baunn (Museum of Colorado Prisons, 2008).
One notably dark event that was associated with the Colorado Prison occurred on October 9, 1929 when inmates Danny Daniels and Jimmie Pardue took several guards hostage in one of the worst prison riots recorded in history. Daniels and Pardue captured eleven guards in the dining room after lunch and then took the guards to cellhouse 1. Daniels had some weapons hidden in cell 18 of cellhouse 1. Most of the prisoners were returning from lunch and therefore not in their cells during the time when Daniels and Pardue were taking guards hostage. Some of these prisoners set Cellhouse 1 and Cellhouse 2 on fire, burning them to the ground. Daniels threatened to shoot one of the guards every half hour if Warden Crawford did not let Daniels and his friends go free. The guards refused to meet Daniel’s command, believing that Daniel’s would not follow through with his threat and so Daniels shot most of the guards one by one (until he ran out ammunition). The warden finally attacked Cellhouse 3, where Daniels was located, using teargas. Daniels then killed four other inmates and then shot himself (Moulton, 2006; Anderson, 2002).
It is interesting to note that several other prison riots occurred in the 1920′s in Ohio, New York, and Kansas. These riots preceded the greatest economic depression in the history of the United States in the 1930′s (Anderson, 2002).
Cold spots and the smell of tobacco have been reported in the room where female convicts once did laundry. There has also been activity reported in cell #19, including the presence of orbs and disembodied coughing sounds (Shadowlord, n.d.)
Anderson, D. (2002). 1929 Riot. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from http://www.ccpl.lib.co.us/History_Old/Prisons/1929Riot.html
Newman, V. R. (2008). Images of America: Prisons of Canon City. Chicago:Arcadia Publishing
Moulton, C. (2006). Roadside History of Colorado. Missoula, MT:Mountain Press Publishing Company:
Museum of Colorado Prisons (2005-2008). Museum of Colorado Prisons. Retrieved November 4, 2008 from http://www.prisonmuseum.org/
Shadowlord (n.d.) Shadowlands Haunted Places Index. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from http://theshadowlands.net/places/colorado.htm