RICK HALE reveals how Victoria Road Prison in Douglas was one of Isle of Man’s scariest hauntings
The history of crime and punishment in the United Kingdom is stained by cruelty and torture.
Prisons that were found to be unfit for human habitation were shut down and prisoners sent to other houses of correction that were not any better.
On the windswept shores and rugged terrain of the Isle of Man, in the city of Douglas once stood Victoria Road Prison.
The prison was razed to the ground in 2014, and although it’s gone, the ghosts of its tortured past might still remain.
Horrific imprisonment on the Isle of Man
Long before Victoria Road Prison was built, Manx prisoners served out their sentences in Castle Rushen, an ancient fortification built for a line of ancient Norse-Gaelic monarchs.
The prisoner population of the castle had a wide variety of criminals. Everything from bloodthirsty cutthroats awaiting their date with the hangman, to the poor and destitute who couldn’t pay their bills.
Due to this diversity of prisoners, fights and riots resulting in brutal deaths were commonplace.
By the 1880s, the castle was unfit for even the worst criminal to reside in.
The days of Rushen being used as a prison came to an end in 1885 after it was subjected to intense scrutiny by the Chairman of Prison Commissioners.
The vile living conditions, prisoners living in their own filth, convinced him a new prison was desperately needed.
Victoria Road Prison built on Isle of Man
After six long years of construction, Victoria Road Prison was ready to receive prisoners in 1891.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the prison was considered to be a model of a well run prison.
Gone were the days of riots, mouldy food and rat infested cells. Unfortunately, the reputation the prison enjoyed would one day come to an end.
In 1989, Victoria Road was expanded and began taking in younger prisoners, some as young as 17.
Despite the new expansion, overcrowding once again became a problem and human rights violations were reported daily.
Realizing serious problems were on the horizon, Victoria Road Prison was closed in 2008. And the Prisoners were sent to a larger, more secure prison in Jurby.
After much debate on what to do with the old prison, the city of Douglas decided to demolish it. It’s 117 year history came to an end.
The Haunting Of Victoria Road Prison
With its history of abysmal living conditions and death, it should really come as no surprise the old prison was reportedly haunted.
Shadowy apparitions and frightening unexplained noises were frequently experienced by guards and prisoners.
Two cells appeared to be the focus of intense paranormal activity. Two cells so terrifying, even hardened criminals would beg to be released. Oftentimes, in tears.
According to guards and former prisoners, unexplained noises would keep prisoners awake at night.
It wasn’t uncommon for the occupant of Cell 4 to furiously ring their bell in the dead of night.
When the guards arrived, they found the prisoner cowering in fear either in a corner or under their cot.
The prisoner reported hearing loud knocks and anguished moans issuing from the ceiling of the cell.
According to a former guard, a prisoner succumbed to feelings of hopelessness and killed himself in Cell 4.
Occupants of cell 4 were so terrified, they requested Bibles in the hope the holy book would give them some kind of protection.
Condemned Man’s Cell
In 1973, James Richard Lunney shocked the isle when he beat to death an employee of the Golden Egg in Douglas.
Initially, Lunney, was sentenced to death and was sent to Victoria Road Prison to live out his final days in cell 13, condemned man’s cell.
Lunney’s life was spared when the government outlawed the death penalty and his sentence was commuted to life.
Lunney may not haunt the cell, but something dark did.
A black apparition in the form of a man was seen in cell 13, even after the prison was closed.
When the frightening spectre appeared, it was said to emit a feeling of dread and hopelessness.
With all the reports of encountering the dead at the prison, one guard who experienced was quoted as saying:”They say the dead won’t harm you, it’s only the living that harm you. That’s what I tried to remember when I worked there.”
The ghosts of Victoria Road Prison may not be able to harm you, but prisoner and guard knew they could scare the hell out of you.
Old Victoria Road Prison may be gone, but it’s memory has left an indelible mark on the Manx.
People often question what happens to ghosts when a building is torn down.
I guess the occupants that live on the grounds of the old prison might just know.