(Pottawattamie County Jail)

226 Pearl Street, council bluffs, ia

(712) 323-2509

Status: Former Jail, Museum

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All Photos courtesy of Carla B


This former jail was opened in 1885.

It was one of a few rotary jails – also called Squirrel Cage jails - opened in the Midwestern USA; only 18 were built – only 3 remain.

This design for maximum security prisons was designed to minimize contact between the guards and inmates. Cells were wedges in a circle that rotated allowing only one cell to be open at a time. However, this design did result in a number of prisoners losing limbs.

The front part of the jail contained offices, the kitchen and cells for women.

The jail was closed in 1969 and transferred over to the city parks board in 1971. In 1977 ownership was moved over to the Cook Country Historical Society who turned the former jail into a museum.


Paranormal Activity

There are 4 confirmed deaths on the property: 1) a prisoner by heart attack, 2) a prisoner who hung himself, 3) a prisoner who trying to carve his name into the jail ceiling and fell 3 stories, and 4) a guard who was killed when a gun misfired in riot training.

The history of the paranormal activity dates back to when the jail was still open. One jailer in the 1950’s moved from the 4th floor apartment to the 2nd floor because of phantom footsteps that were keeping him awake.

Visitors and investigators today still report those same footsteps.

The apparition of Otto Gufath – a former jailer – has been seen on the 4th floor. The apparition of little girl – described as looking mournful – in a grey dress. Apparitions of 2 ghost cats.

Other reported activity today includes: shadow figures; electrical disturbances; disembodied voices and captured EVP’s; unexplained sounds; objects moving on their own including doors opening and closing; light anomalies; touches, tugs and pulls by unseen entities; empathic feelings of intense sadness and feelings of being watched and not being alone.