Monday, October 25, 2004

Missouri State Penitentiary Tour

The line to get into the Missouri State Penitentiary for the tour of the decomissioned prison

We are getting closer

And closer

The line continues to grow behind us

Inside the Missouri State Penitentiary. This was suppose to be the armory where they kept guns and some keys locked up. (I didn't have the best documentation, so I may be wrong on some of these)

Sign Out. I take it that this is where the officers would sign out at the end of thier shift.

This was housing unit 3A/3B built in 1914.

Although hard to see, this was simply the bathroom in a cell with basically a plywood enclosure around it allowing the staff to have privacy when using the restroom.

Of course in their cell, the inmates did not have such privacy. The sink and stool were simply one unit. Many cells had bunkbeds. Two to a small cell.

There were cells on both sides of the building with the backs of the cells against each other (there may actually be an area for plumbing behind the cells). I would imagine this is a safer design as the inmates are more limited on what they can see than in Housing Unit 4 where the inmates can see what is going on in the cells across from them and in the area in between. Although I would imagine the design of Housing Unit 4 requires fewer men to keep an eye on things as they can see both sides from the middle.

All of the black rods coming out from the walls on the left are simply rods with teeth that are hooked up to a crank to open and close the windows.

Looks worse than some filling stations. :-)

The view from the inside out.

Passing cell by cell it was interesting to see how some were painted differently. Maybe they were inspired by Martha Stewart.

The walks were numbered. One was not to use the mop sinks during line movement.

Just a view up above in between A and B.

The panel for closing the prison and shower cell doors.

The courtyard outside the Chapel

I would guess there were a lot that didn't want to be there. I think Out of Bounds is a bit more serious here, than say football.

A maintenance building, built in 1956. As one can see by the sign, Phil M. Donnelly was the Governor, James D. Carter the Director, E.V. Nash the Warden, and W.G. Reed the Superintendent of Construction at the time.

Unit 3 above the Basketball courts

I am guessing the walls next to the basketball court were used for handball.

The line to view the Gas Chamber wrapping around by the softball/baseball diamond.

The Missour Gas Chamber, built by inmates in 1937.

It was the site of 40 executions.

As the line was long we did not wait to view inside, but did get a glimpse of the chamber through the back windows. The glare on the glass was to bad for a picture.

One of the guard towers. Some had some cloudy looking old plexiglass.

Chain link and razor wire all around the compound.

One could see the river from inside.

The wall between inmates and freedom.

Another basketball court with weight machines at each end.

A good view of the railroad tracks over the wall.

A tower on the back side. The flood lights kept the place lit up at night. The old raised chair once used by officers sits abandoned and abused.

Even a building in a prison compound can look picturesque with fall leaves from vines.

A bit of the plumbing. Locked behind bars. One might wonder where it leads, especially after seeing movies such as "The Rock".

A staff restroom in part of the factory area.

A list on a pole in one of the old buildings.

A view to some of the other factory buildings.

An area that appears to of housed a spiral staircase at one point.

Looking out to one of the towers.

Hmm, A Warning maybe.

One of the factories down from Housing Unit 2.


Looking through one of the windows it was apparent this had not been used to house prisoners for some time.

A view into the factory where they use to make license plates. Built in 1936.

It is my understanding this is what was called "The Hole". Simply dirt and concrete. Not where you wanted to be. As if one wanted to be here at all.

The outside of Housing Unit 4.

Inside Housing Unit 4. Much like the prisons you see in the movies with cells facing each other on opposing sides.

The catwalks allowed on to get from one side to the other.

Looking into cell 28.

Separate beds instead of bunks as viewed in Housing Unit 3.

One of the original cell doors in Housing Unit 4. The rest were replaced with the stereotypical cell door. The old doors were just 5'1" high.

They don't have cell phones like many a teenager today.

The mess hall.

More basketball.

The truck tunnel. The location where trucks were searched on the way in and the way out. This is where James Earl Ray passed as he hid in a bread box to make his escape. Unlike trash, etc.. that was poked with metal rods to make sure no one was hidden in them, the bread boxes were not searched up to that point. Read more about life at the MSP and James Earl Ray's escape in this article.

The original entrance to the Missouri State Penitentiary.


racheal2312 said...

it was good i like the pic. i went to the penitentiary to i was just like you said .My grandma works there are a gard and she went with us. she told us just like you said i went into the gas chamber and ther where these seats that had little holes and a bucket under the the seat they put the gas in and around the back there sat the people that wanted to see him/her die

bonj said...

Thanks. I bet she has some stories and was able to give a lot more insight into the place as you toured. Cool.

ANUBIS said...


bonj said...

I would think that would be a bit stressful. I would be curious to know how much the prisoners knew about the move.

Bob said...

I was inmate number 73702, and got out 50 years ago. Your pictures brought back memories. I actually got a private tour October 2005. it is not a place you want to be. Knifings were were common, and one could get killed while, minding his own business.

Anonymous said...

Good pic's. My father was the longest tenured Warden of MSP and while the pictures can almost tell a story, no one could possibly imagine what it was like inside that old penitentiary. Look for my book soon to be published about Warden Wyrick and the old penitentiary. It includes hundreds of never before seen pictures from the old place. C. Ann Wyrick

bonj said...


When you say that you got out 50 years ago, I hope you mean you were released. :-)

One doesn't have to see much to know it is a place they would not want to be. I would say being stuck on the inside would give one an even greater appreciation of the outside world.

bonj said...

C. Ann,

Thanks. That is interesting. What is the title of your book and who is the publisher?

Anonymous said...

The pictures leave a queasy feeling in my stomach. I worked there for a while under Warden Donald Wyrick. I believe his son was working there, too, and possibly still works for DOC. The book would be very interesting, I'll look for it.

Anonymous said...

To All Interested:

The book about Warden Donald "D.W." Wyrick has now been published. It is titled, "Man of the Big House, Missouri State Penitentiary, A Warden's Warden."

Please enjoy reading about the 'finest' Warden in the United States and his career with the Missouri Department of Corrections, specifically, Missouri State Penitentiary.

C. Ann Wyrick

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the pictures. I used to work at MSP and it sure does bring back memories looking at these pictures. I worked all over the prison so I know all of what you are showing here. It was not a nice place to be, but it was great knowing I worked in such a historical place.
Sabrina R.

brock said...

i was an inmate at msp. my doc #535335. i have seen people cut someones throat and sit and eat and watch them bleed to death. it is true when they say this is the bloodiest 48 acres, leave all your hopes and dreams behind this door. it was like being in hell for youngsters like myself. to survive ask the elders ,they are the wiser ones.thank you for the tour. lot of memories unfolded in me....

Anonymous said...

The smell is something almost more than the pictures....I was there back in the late 90's for ministry purposes and still have never forgotten the smell! thanks for the pics -Kirsten

Anonymous said...

#39709 D.W. as I knew him was one of the most corrupted persons I ever met in my life and i spent and he hated his daughter for her choose in life I knew Boggie Luton Hallford and all the rest of them and will bet to this day they killed a few people themselves

Anonymous said...

carol how are you doing? Hope you tell the truth in your book bobby b

Anonymous said...

corrupt coming from an inmate. funny, dad was never in prison.

Anonymous said...

I went there for dental work from CMCC when I was an inmate, must be close to 25 yrs ago.

Bob said...

I was there in 1979, my number was 36230. I was wondering if they had started the numbering system over at some point, because the comment above from "Bob" said his number was 73702 and he got out 50 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Renumbering at MSP--starting inmate numbers over at 000000--was done in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Anonymous said...

I lived it too, Hell On The River! #157070 was in H Hall in 1986. What bothered me the most was the screams of young kids at night ( Need I Say More) They would put young kids with a petty 3 yr sentence in with someone that had been there for 20 yrs! The System didn't give a SHIT!!!