Squirrel Cage - Old Pottawattamie County Jail

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Built in 1885 and an innovation in jail cells for its time, this jail utilizes a “lazy susan” design, where the jail block is round and the cells form individual wedges like slices in a pie. With only one door leading in, the cells would be rotated by a hand crank to allow prisoners in and out of their cells. This jail is truly unique in that it is the only three story wheel jail ever built. Although the wheel mechanism no longer works, it is now a museum that you can visit to see the basic layout. It is alleged to be haunted by a former jailer, who remains on duty to this day.

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    Geographic Information

    226 Pearl St
    Council Bluffs, IA 51503
    United States

    Get Directions »
    41.257784, -95.85190499999999
    Pottawattamie County, Iowa
    Nearest Towns:
    Council Bluffs, IA (0.5 mi.)
    Carter Lake, IA (4.1 mi.)
    Omaha, NE (4.5 mi.)
    Crescent, IA (7.4 mi.)
    Weston, IA (8.1 mi.)
    Bellevue, NE (8.6 mi.)
    McClelland, IA (10.0 mi.)
    Offutt Air Force Base, NE (10.2 mi.)
    Ralston, NE (10.5 mi.)
    La Vista, NE (10.6 mi.)

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    1. I currently work at the Squirrel Cage Jail, so I am in there everyday.
      We just had our roof completely redone so it was a big change to the building, our place has been really active since then. A couple months ago my friend/co-worker and I were at the Jail closing up after an investigation (so about 4am) and I was walking down the stairs and in the window in front of me I could see a man behind me at the top of the stairs, and then in the window I saw to the right of me a little girl in a while dress and long blond hair. The second I turned to look at her – she was gone.A while back we stayed at over night at the jail as an “employee night”, we had actually slept in the cells. My co-worker or “bunk mate” for the night had a dream wear a creepy guy with a blacked out face was coming at him in the cell we were in. He woke up screaming. I didn’t even hear him, but everyone else did and came to his rescue xD
      I hear voices and strange noises all the time.
      One time I came in to cover for another co-worker and he told me when I walked in there that someone had just came in and was in the back area. I could hear him talking as he walked around and up the back steps to the upstairs, I could hear an older man talking clear as day the entire time. Although after 2 hours I got a little worried that he had gone past the 2nd floor (we are not aloud to let people past the second floor due to the lack of fire escapes on the 3rd and 4th floors) , I could still hear him but there’s not two hours worth of stuff to check out on the second floor. My co-workers and I looked all over the whole building and found no one. To this day I do believe we too admissions from a ghost.

    2. I first visited the Squirrel Cage a few years ago. On our tour the guide was telling us about the history of the jail. We could clearly hear footsteps behind us and I stopped the guide and asked if there was another tour following us. He replied no that we were the only ones in the building and we moved on, only to hear the footsteps behind us again. This time In stopped and asked whos behind us I can hear somebody walking along with us. He said nobody and I said Its haunted isn’t it? He replied, its an old building and some people think so. I have done 2 overnight stays at the squirrel cage. Both times have yielded amazing results. It is directly responsible for the formation of our paranormal group O.M.A.H.A. The first night was a general overnight put on by Fly By Night Paranormal. When we arrived we divided into teams and were given a tour of the jail. After that we were given free reigns to move about the jail. On overnights you have access to the 4th floor jailer apartment. Our group consisted of 6 members. 5 went inside the apartment and I sat on the landing at the top of the stairs. Has I sat on the top stair I heard whispering behind me in my right ear. The door handle turned and the door swung open. I slid to the side to move out of the way because I thought someone was coming out. I turned around and pointed my flashlight into the apartment to see one of our team members siting cross legged on the floor about 8 feet away. I asked Did you open the door? He replied-No, it opened by itself. A member of another team had his arm scratched on 4 and made a hasty retreat. We had this happen again[the door opening] and picked up an EVP saying they need to keep the door open. On our second overnight there were no incidence of the door opening by its self, but at about 2:30 am I sat on the landing again and saw what I can only describe as a emerald green light anomaly. It swayed back and forth about 9 feet straight out from the landing, shot behind me to the right. It was gone in a flash only to reappear in front of me again. I had a red laser pointer and pointed it at the green light. It seemed to interact with the laser but when the laser light hit it directly it expanded and was gone. I know how this sounds to non believers but that’s how it went down. There are pictures on our Facebook page[ Omaha metro area haunting analysts] Has a matter of fact we have lots of pictures and video from the jail. I am a member of the Pott County Historical Society and that gives me access to the jail during normal business hours which I take advantage of.

    3. I’ve only been on one tour of this place and it was pretty much streaming daylight, so no spooky encounters, though it was great for pictures. Since I live in Lincoln these, I might have to take another tour one of these days, though I don’t have access to overnight stays.

      Anyway, one particular note is that prisons like this one were the basis for the prison level in the game Silent Hill 4: The Room. The game version is much larger (Otherwise, you’d get through it in five minutes), and has the extra-creepy addition of a Panopticon cylindrical room in the middle where the warden would watch the prisoners that doesn’t exist here (Sometimes, when you would enter a prison cell in the game, the light from the warden’s room would flicker and you’d hear footsteps). It’s kind of a neat bit of trivia.

    4. Cynthia Gerodias  |  

      We investigated the Squirrel Cage on 6-4-16 and we did a flashlight experiment in the cell next to Thomas Rifle’s cell. We had the flashlight turn on 6 times. I also go some great EVP in the infirmary.

    5. I visited the squirrel cage jail for a flashlight history tour. It wasn’t billed as a paranormal hunt. I was shoved twice to the point that if someone hadn’t caught me I would have fallen flat on my face. This happened twice about 10 minutes apart on two completely different levels.

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