Sandusky County Blogs

Hauntings & History Investigated at Old Jail & Dungeon

Publication Date : 10/02/2018 23:42:20

Author : Mandy Burris

Several times a year Sandusky County Historic Jail and Dungeon hosts an event that is different from anything else that our county has to offer. We invite a ghost hunting group known as ORBS (Ohio Researchers of Banded Spirits) to come into our facilities and host a live ghost hunt for the paying curious public. As odd as this event may sound to some of us, people come from all over to attend it, and they rarely leave disappointed.


Friday, September 28, 2018 at 8:00 pm was the most recent event, and there was a good crowd in attendance. People really do come from all over to attend this event, we had a couple of people who drove a good two hours to be here, and  one man drove all the way from Windsor, Canada! Several attendees even brought their own ghost hunting equipment with them.

group    Group Talk

The ORBS group has been in existence for 10 years. They have traveled all over the United States and Canada in search of evidence of the paranormal. Members come from all walks of life and their ages range from 21 to their mid-fifties. Each member has a day job during the week, and their weekends are mostly spent hunting down evidence. (The group is home to a mail man, a nurse, a sanitary engineer, a produce manager, and the list goes on.) There is an offshoot of the ORBS group called ORBS International, which is based out of Canada. The man who drove from Windsor is actually leader of the international group!


I had an opportunity to search for evidence with three of the ORBS members and a small group of amateurs from around the area. (Two of ORBS newest members were in my group along with the Lead Investigator.) Our first stop was the gallows exhibit which is in the attic along with the bell tower. We were allowed to look around the exhibit and take photos with cameras and phones for a minute or two, before all electronics (excluding their equipment) had to be turned off.


Once we were all seated on the horizontal beams that are part of the bell tower, the lights were turned off. Immediately, we heard very clear, loud, footsteps where no physical person was standing. It was then that the hunt for more evidence began. There were multiple instruments placed in different locations. There was a flashlight, a temperature gauge that also measured movement, and several devices that helped with communication.


Things started out slow, even though we heard a multitude of unexplainable footsteps and creaks. Most of the sounds came from the gallows themselves, but some sounds came from the area of the new witness stand exhibit. The atmosphere was calm, that is, until we chose to play Jack Radford’s favorite song. Jack Radford’s hanging was the last hanging in Sandusky County and it is his gallows that the county chose to keep and store, which we now have on display. He requested that a fellow prisoner play his favorite song, “Cumberland Gap”, the night before his hanging.

The song acted as an incredible trigger object. The whole atmosphere changed, at least, for those of us sitting closest to the gallows. The creaking and footsteps became louder and the darkness behind us seemed so heavy that it pushed against our bodies. It was strange and incredible. When the song ended a second time of questions came, and this time there was a great amount of interaction. Both of the instruments on the gallows itself were blinking brightly and beeping as evidence of interaction. (Any questions that are asked are able to be answered by either yes or no, so that it’s easy to know what is being answered.) The most interesting “answers” came from questions regarding the facts of his case that led to his imprisonment.

The second location we investigated was the dungeon. There is a north and south wing to the dungeon, and when you step from the courthouse basement up into the 1840s original basement, you literally step back in time. (Not much has changed in the dungeon, since it was used as our county jail.) We have the only dungeon left in the United States, and it is incredible to see. (It’s definitely worth a trip to come to Fremont for a tour.) There were two murderers that were housed in the dungeons in 1842, both were sentenced to hang, but only one made it to the gallows. The other man killed himself the night before his sentence was to be carried out. These are the two men that are said to still reside in the dungeon.

Dungeon 1    Dungeon 2

Dungeon 3    

The investigation was interesting in the dungeon. The tools were the same, but the reaction to the tools was totally different in this location. The flashlight was placed on a chair, and was twisted to off position, but one touch could easily turn the light on. The chair was not being touched by anyone we could see, when the light began turning on and off in order to answer questions. The group then brought out the dowsing rods (or spirit rods) which are also used to answer yes or no questions. The person holding the rods would give instructions (cross them for yes, turn them out for no) and ask a question. The rods would then move if something felt like communicating.

dousing rods 1

At break time, all groups reunited in the Commissioner’s office, where we were able to talk to one another about our experiences. Most interesting was talking to the ORBS investigators themselves. The newest members confidently said that our location is the most dependable and active location they’ve experienced, which I think is pretty incredible. The ORBS team even after years of experience and investigating, still gets very excited when evidence and experiences are collected.

After break we all went to our last investigation locations for the rest of our time. My group went to the 1890s jail cells in the back of the Commissioner’s building. (The Commissioner’s office itself was originally the Sheriff’s home.) The cells are said to be home of a young man who killed himself, after his court hearing didn’t go well. The ORBS team had a new piece of equipment set up in the jail cells area. They used the XBOX Kinect to map and see who was in the cells. The first volunteer to interact with the resident was a very quiet teenage girl. You could clearly see her x-rayed body on the display screen and a stick figure within the image. Almost immediately a second figure showed up in one of the jail cells, and seemed to be dancing or hanging from the ceiling.

kinect 1    kinect 2

The second figure seemed to interact with several people and liked to hold hands with the person talking to it. It also seemed to go in and out of two different cells. I watched all the people in our group interact or try to interact with the second figure. It would show up and then leave. It didn’t seem to like the men in the group at all, because it didn’t show up for them at all. I took the last turn, and it was kind of strange to stand and talk to no one. The figure did show up and did look like it held my hand (on the screen). The only physical evidence I had of that encounter was that my hand felt very cold when the second figure “held” it. Another session with the dousing rods followed, and then it was time to call it a night, and eat some Depot pizza.


Everyone seemed to have a good time, and seemed to walk away with something different from the experience. We all seemed to enjoy the event, and each person experienced something different. A couple of men in our group chose to spend a good chunk of time in the solitary confinement cell in the dungeon, and some took a more active part in the questions and used the investigative tools.

solitary    dousing rods 2

The Dungeon Descent events begin at 8:00 pm and run until 1:00 am. The main group (usually up to 30 people total) split into three small groups, for a more intimate experience. The last Dungeon Descent of 2018 takes place on Friday, October 12, 2018. This date is the 135th anniversary of Handsome Jack Radford’s hanging!!! It is sure to be an incredible experience for all who attend.


You must preregister for the Dungeon Descent experience. Tickets are $25.00 per person. You can register by calling the Sandusky County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 419-332-4470 or by visiting their website:

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