FREMONT, Ohio (WJW) — About an hour west of Cleveland in the town of Fremont is an actual dungeon that was used to house prisoners in the early 1800s. Unbelievably, it is right under the Sandusky County Courthouse, and it is open for tours now.
“If you were a prisoner down here, you would have basically been given bread and water,” explained David Thornbury, the marketing director for the Sandusky County Visitors Bureau. “The only exception to that would have been if you had a family member that wanted to bring in one meal a day, they would allow that.”
The first jails that law enforcement used were basically log cabins. And quite often, prisoners would simply dig their way out. To eliminate that possibility, dungeons were built.
“The cells down here are solid limestone on all four walls as well as the floor and ceilings,” Thornbury said. “They were truly unescapable.”
The dungeon was opened in 1842 and conditions, as you might imagine, were deplorable. The only light would have been from a candle or lantern.
“If conditions weren’t bad enough down here in the dungeon, if you really messed up, and they had to put you in a place where you weren’t going to be a harm to yourself and others, they would put you in the solitary confinement cell,” Thornbury said.
Many suffered, went out of their minds and even died in the dungeon. Because of that, there are those who believe the dungeon is haunted.
“We have many accounts of things happening where we hear disembodied voices, we have things that show up on camera,” Thornbury said. “There are just too many things that have happened that can’t be explained.”
Your visit to the dungeon is only one part of the tour. On the third floor of the courthouse is a museum where old records are on display as well as gallows actually used for public hangings.
“If you were sentenced to hang in Sandusky County you would have been led up to the gallows, the noose would have been placed around your neck, the executioner would have pulled this lever, dropping out these bottom doors, dropping you to your death,” Thornbury said. “The dungeon and historic jails are available for tours. We do those throughout the year on different dates.
Find tour information at Sandusky county.org/ jail.