Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail - Visit 2
Date:10th November, 2012 Type:Business
Location Title:Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail - Visit 2 City/State:Council Bluffs, IA
Investigation Times:08:00 PM - 02:30 AM Status:Analysis
Sunrise:07:06 AM Sunset:05:08 PM
High Temperature:77 °F Low Temperature:46 °F
Sky Condition:Rain Wind:S at 20 mph
Lunar Phase:Waning Crescent % disk visible:15%
Solar X-Rays:M Class Flare Geomagnetic Field:Quiet
From the Historical Society of Pottawattomie County: The Jail was built in 1885 and was in continuous use until 1969. It was acquired by the Council Bluffs Park Board in 1971 for preservation, and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 by the United States Government. The Historical Society led an effort in 1977 to save the jail, and today owns and operates the facility.
The design and size of the Historic Pottawattamie County Squirrel Cage Jail make it a one-of-a-kind structure. It was one of 18 revolving (“squirrel cage”, "human rotary", or "lazy Susan") jails built. It is the only three-story one ever built. Built at a cost of about $30,000, our unique jail has three floors of revolving pie-shaped cells inside a cage. The front part of the building had offices for the jailer, kitchen, trustee cells, and quarters for women.
The design was the invention of William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both of Indianapolis, Indiana. A patent issued to them on July 12, 1881, declared, "The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer." It was to provide "maximum security with minimum jailer attention." As one deputy put it, "If a jailer could count... and he had a trusty he could trust... he could control the jail."
The cell section remains much as it did in 1969 when it was closed by the county. The signatures and dates of many of its infamous prisoners remain scratched in the cell walls. It remains a well restored snapshot of an interesting era of our society. Today, only 3 revolving jails remain: a one-story structure in Gallatin, Missouri; a two-story jail in Crawfordsville, Indiana; and the unique three-story jail here. All three are preserved as museums.
The Squirrel Cage Jail provides students and adults the opportunity to experience first-hand a unique piece of cultural and architectural history and to gain an understanding of this building’s unique place in cultural and national history. Its one-of-a-kind structure is unlikely to be duplicated again.
Christina Anderson:First, I would like to thank Carla, with the Pottawatomie County Historical Society for hanging out all night, and for sharing so much knowledge about the location, as well as the various experiences people had. It was invaluable. This was my fourth visit to the Squirrel Cage, and certainly one of the most memorable. In our prior visit as a team, very little occurred, and what did happen was either easily debunked or not definitive. That was not the case this time around. During our walkthrough, it did seem quiet, and there wasn't much going on. However, I felt as though I was being watched on multiple occasions. As we were discussing infamous axe murderer Jake Bird, who was incarcerated here for a short period of time in the 1940's, we heard a loud bang come from the third floor cells. All people on the property were accounted for, and no source was found for the noise. As a matter of interest, the third floor is where Bird, along with other high-level prisoners, would have been held. Later in the night, as a thunderstorm rolled through, we all heard the very distinctive sound of a young girl singing. Again, there was no explanation as to why this would occur, as all naturally occurring phenomena that would be linked to a thunderstorm were ruled out. We did learn that during thunderstorms and sometimes just late at night, people have experienced hearing the same thing. In the same area that Becky reported seeing a figure on the landing, I had the distinct feeling that someone was watching us. In addition, when a guest investigator took a photo in the location, a humanlike figure appeared on the viewing screen. However, when he uploaded the photos later, the entire picture was black. I am still in the process of evidence review, but as soon as I have completed it, any EVPs will be posted. As always, I enjoyed the opportunity to investigate this location, and it is definitely someplace I would like to return to in the future.
Becky Ray:This was my second visit to the Squirrel Cage in Council Bluffs, and it was definitely a more interesting night than the last time!
While we were on the first floor in the "recreation" area I suddenly felt as if my left arm was next to something extremely hot. I checked the wall next to me and it was cold to the touch. Shortly after that I felt a pinch on my right arm. Not too long after the pinch on my arm, I felt as if someone was pulling the hair on the top of my head. I wasn't standing next to anything that could cause this.
While we were around the picnic table in this same area I walked down to the other side of the cells to see if I could find what was causing a strange sound. When I turned to walk back to the group I saw what appeared to be someone watching me from the landing above the men's shower. Several times during the night I got a very uneasy feeling from this area.
I'm still reviewing my photos and video and will post if I find something there.
Previous Investigations at this Location
No EVPS for this Investigation at this time
The exterior of the building that houses the rotary jail.
Taken from the "recreation" area looking up at the three stories of cells.
Another example of the news clippings on display in the museum.
The exterior of the building that houses the rotary jail.