A haunting experience: Ghosthunters reopen Scott jail as museum

  • The historic Scott County Jail in Huntsville, built in 1904, was reopened Saturday, Oct. 4, as a tourist attraction. - G. Chambers Williams III

  • Paranormal investigators Kristy Sumner, left, and Miranda Young are the co-operators of the museum on the site of the historic Scott County Jail in Huntsville, which opened to visitors on Saturday. - G. Chambers Williams III

There’s a somewhat spooky new tourist attraction open in nearby Huntsville.

Two professional paranormal investigators have leased the historic Scott County Jail from the city of Huntsville, and have turned it into a museum and a venue for tourists and ghosthunters.

Built in 1904, the three-story stone building on Court Street was last used as a jail in 2008, and had been closed to everyone since then.

But in 2017, Huntsville got an historical-facilities grant to do some restoration work on the building, using it to paint the interior, update the windows, and fix the air-conditioning/heating system, said Miranda Young, a Scott County native who joined with fellow paranormal investigator Kristy Sumner to open the facility to visitors.

“We’re all about history,” Young said on Saturday (Sept. 4), the opening day for the tourist attraction. “I approached the mayor and aldermen about the jail, and wanted to make it accessible to the community as a museum and for community events.

“I reached out to Kristy, and we decided to do this together.”

Sumner, who lives in Ocala, Fla., said she will be moving to Huntsville to be a partner in the venture.

“The jail was built in 1904, and the third floor was added in 1922,” Sumner said. “There are lots of stories associated with the jail, and there is even a woman in the community who was born there. She was the daughter of one of the jailers, and was born in the jailers’ living quarters on the first floor.”

The building had been vacant since the renovation, and “people had been asking on Facebook if they could go inside,” Young said. “That’s one reason we’re doing this – to give the community access to the building.”

The exterior walls are made of 5-by-4-by-3-foot blocks of local sandstone.

After Scott County closed the jail, the city got it from the county so it could be preserved, Young said.

Young and Sumner have created a self-guided audio tour for visitors, and have set up a gift shop in the former jailers’ quarters. There is also a booking room on the ground floor, which is now the museum’s office. That area also served as the sheriff’s office for many years.

The second floor includes the trusties’ quarters and the jail’s kitchen. On the third floor are nine cells – eight for men and one for women. Besides interior stairs, there is a small elevator to reach the higher floors.

Young said the jail will sponsor public “ghost hunts,” and will be made available for community events and private paranormal investigations, as there are supposed to be ghosts of past residents haunting the premises.

The staff will also conduct history and ghost walks in the downtown area, ending at the jail, during October, Young said.

The museum will be open for visitors Thursdays through Mondays, but will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tentative hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission prices are $10 for adults, $5 for children 5-12, and $7 for senior citizens and members of the military, Young said.

The museum has a Facebook page and a website (historicscottcojail.com).