BARTOW – Over the years, there have been deaths at the Polk County Jail in Bartow – accidental, some inmates who have died of natural causes, some of the deaths have been suicides.
This past July, a 54-year-old Lakeland man died in his sleep in the jail. He had a history of congestive heart failure, county leaders noted.
In the decades that the jail has been in operation, who knows how many ghosts still haunt the walls of that correctional facility?
Tonight, and on several other days this month, there’s a chance for the non-crime-committing public to find out.
From 6-11 p.m, tonight, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office will host its annual Haunted Jail Tour, an opportunity this Halloween season to see what’s truly scary about the jail (outside of the obvious – how unpleasant incarceration is, so be sure to stay on good behavior at all times.)
The tours continue again on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 17 –18, and on Friday, Oct. 24, at the jail at 455 N. Broadway Ave. in downtown Bartow. Parking is available in the municipal lots, and attendees can enter from West Boulevard.
The eerie tours are being done for a good cause. There is a requested $5 donation to take the tour, and all proceeds will benefit the United Way of Central Florida, the nonprofit organization working to strengthen local communities in Florida.
This is also a family-friendly event. Starting at 6 p.m,, the jail will host a Kid Friendly Trick-Or-Treat bash, complete with face painting and a bounce house. It costs $3 to join the fun. Food and drinks will be available to purchase as well.
“If you thought the tour was good last year …. just wait and see what our ghosts have come up with this year,” the sheriff’s office noted in a news release.
The thirty-minute tours are in the county’s old historic jail.
It wouldn’t hurt to go a little early and check out Bartow’s historic downtown, which includes one other haunted hotspot. Bartow itself is a very historic city, founded in 1851 as Fort Blount, then renamed in honor of Francis S. Bartow, the first brigade commander to die in combat during the American Civil War.
The old Polk County Courthouse Museum is at 100 E. Main St. in Bartow, directly across from the new courthouse. It was built in 1883, and has been a museum since 1997. The courtrooms, now used for ceremonial events, have their own ghostly legends, including a Lady in White who haunts the building.
The basement, which can only be accessed by elevator, is also a special place, one where visitors and employees have heard agonizing screams – possibly from the victims of an explosion in the boiler room.
To learn more about the Haunted Jail Tours, call 863-534-6123.
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