A Brief History: The Public Gaol is located at 461 East Nicholson Street Colonial Williamsburg Virginia. Soon after Williamsburg was made the colony’s new capital, Virginia’s general assembly ordered a brick prison to be built. The building’s construction was authorized by an act of August 1701 under contractor Henry Cary. Deriving from an Old French word, gaol is pronounced “jail”. The gaol was home to many debtors, runaway slaves, the mentally ill, spies, military prisoners, deserters, and traitors. Some of the more famous prisoners included 15 henchmen of the pirate Blackbeard and Henry “Hair Buyer” Hamilton, the Lieutenant Governor of British Detroit. Typhus, or “gaol fever” often broke out throughout the jail. The Gaol became a county facility in 1780 and served until 1910. Now the Public Gaol is part of Colonial Williamsburg Historic tours.
Haunted History: The Gaol housed quite a number of female prisoners and the ghosts of two women are rumored to still occupy the upstairs quarters. The women’s conversations and thumping are heard in the rooms. One interesting experience comes from a man named Michael Pfeifer, a Historic Site Interpreter. While he was walking through the parlor of the Gaol, the sound of a coin hitting the floor happened behind him, when he turned around, sure enough a penny was laying on the ground. For several minutes this went on, every time he bent down to pick up a penny, another one would fall.