BARTOW — For decades, people who committed crimes spent time in the old Polk County jail in Bartow. Some even passed away there.
And today, questions linger about whether a ghost or two has stayed behind in that old jail building … waiting to see who comes to visit.
That includes one inmate by the name of Calvin, who committed suicide in that jail … but did he ever really leave?
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is bringing back its popular 2017 Haunted Jail Tour, and the theme this year is “The Ghost of Calvin.”
Noting that the spooky event was “back by popular demand,” Carrie Horstman, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff, said the tour will benefit The United Way of Central Florida.
This is 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 will be held on the final two weekends in October. Volunteers for the sheriff’s office will be leading guests through “The Ghost of Calvin” tours from 6-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21, and Friday and Saturday, Oct. 27-28 at the PCSO old jail at 455 N. Broadway Avenue in Bartow, directly across the street from the Bartow Police Department.
There is a requested $6 donation to attend the tour, with all proceeds from this event benefiting the United Way. Food and drinks will be on sale there every night, and visitors will be taken through several areas, as volunteers tell them eerie stories about the “ghost of Calvin” – an inmate who committed suicide in the old jail and whose ghost still haunts the historic building.
This is definitely a family-friendly event.
“For the little ones who are too young to go through the haunted jail, there will be a separate room with treats and games,” Horstman noted. “Bring the whole family for a night of fun. If you thought the tour was good last year …. just wait and see what we have come up with this year.”
Horstman said the sheriff’s office wanted to offer a special thanks to Ronn and Sharon Williams, and Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, Inc., for “donating a truckload of props, and Dr. Paul Bearer II, who filmed several videos with Sheriff (Grady) Judd about the tour.”
Those videos will be played on the premises during the Haunted Jail Tours, and they will also be posted on the PCSO Facebook page in the next few weeks.
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.
For more information about the jail tours, call Sergeant Victor Diaz at 407-870-3489.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..