Old Franklin County Jail returns as perfect setting for haunted house
The Franklin County Historical Society has used the history of its home as an advantage by turning the former 1800s prison into a “spooktacular” fundraising event.
Halloween at the Haunted Jail will be hosted by the non-profit organization at its headquarters located at 175 E. King St. in Chambersburg, Pa., on Friday, Oct. 25, and Saturday, Oct. 26, as well as Friday, Nov. 1, and Saturday, Nov. 2, from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Neil Rensch, president of the Franklin County Historical Society, described Halloween at the Haunted Jail as a “much-enjoyed event” back in the late 1970s and 1980s for younger people in the Franklin County area, was resurrected last year.
“As a fundraiser for the Franklin County Historical Society, the event has always happened at the Old Jail. It goes as far back as the late 1970s,” Rensch explained.
The building, where the haunt will take place is now known as the Franklin County Historical Society Museum and Genealogy Library. Formally known as the Franklin County Jail, the building was built in 1818 and operated as a prison until December of 1970.
Rensch said the unique venue attracts many people from the Tri-State area.
“Last year we had over 2,000 people attend the event even with three of the days having rained,” Rensch said.
“We actually cater to the young people of Franklin County, Cumberland County, Adams County and even as far away as York and Lancaster counties. We have had people come from Hagerstown and Frederick, Md. This event gives the younger people someplace to go to have good clean fun.”
To be able to create and host this popular, large event, Rensch said it takes a whole community to come together. This year alone, there are close to 60 people involved in making the haunt happen.
“We started the planning back in June and then recruited for groups to come in and design a theme for a particular area within the Old Jail. The response had been outstanding. The scary themes have been designed and created by local groups and companies. Many local and even other counties have donated funding for material for the event. This has been a complete community effort,” Rensch said.
New for this year, there will be more hauntings in the yard and the haunt will go up to the third floor of the building. Rensch said that people planning to attend should be aware that there are many steps involved.
“However, if you can’t (handle stairs) you can still come and get a scary experience and see what you can,” Rensch said.
Guests will enter at their own risk and will also encounter uneven floors, low lighting, smoke and strobe lights. There will also be loud sounds and music.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 8 and under. No children under 12 will be permitted without an adult.
Rensch said this is the main fundraiser for the non-profit organization that depends on it just to keep the 152-year-old building operating.
“We do everything we can to preserve this building for future generations,” Rensch said.
“We use the funds to pay our utility bills, insurance, heat, A/C, pay for restoration of artifacts, provide scholarships to schools, educate children on local history, assist genealogy researchers, maintain a gift shop, provide tours to the general public and a multitude of other services.”