Many people believe that those who have suffered a traumatic experience during life are often fated to haunt the site of the tragedy after death. If such is the case, it would be small wonder that ghost stories involving prisons are far from uncommon. This detailed story of a jail cell and a suicide's ghost appeared in the "San Francisco Call," April 13, 1897:
San Rafael, Cal., April 12.--Once again has the ghost of Argo made its appearance in Marin's County Jail. This time a woman, Annie Kehoe, saw it, and to escape from its evil influence dragged a bed from tbe haunted cell, where ghastly figures taunted her, into an adjoining cell, only to find that the apparition, with its uncanny scare and low moans, followed.
The woman told her story to Under Sheriff John Hannon to-day. It is the same as that told by other unfortunates who have been locked in the haunted cell and been compelled to spend a night with the ghostly visitor.
"I'll bet you a thousand dollars to a nickel that I saw a ghost, if my life is worth it," said she in reply to a taunt that she was only dreaming. "I was lying on my cot when I saw a man crouching on the floor right near the tanks. I was terribly frightened and the man was continually moaning. He was dressed in dark clothes and wore a large, black slouch hat with a big brim and seemed to have two coats on."
County Treasurer J. T. Fallon, who was under sheriff at the time the prisoner Argo killed himself in the cell which he is now said to haunt, was sent for and Annie Kehoe repeated the description of the ghost to him. He said that she described Argo minutely and that at the time Argo committed suicide in the cell he had on two coats and was dressed and looked as described by the woman.
Annie Kehoe was arrested last Thursday night for petty larceny, she having been charged with stealing a woman's wrap. Today she was before Justice Rodden of San Rafael and was acquitted. When she returned to the County Jail for her belongings she showed the Under Sheriff and Treasurer Fallon where the ghost crouched. Her bedding was on the floor in the adjoining cell, whither she had dragged it in her efforts to escape from the apparition. She said that she saw the ghost of a Chinaman, also. She described her thrilling experience vividly, and when she left the prison this afternoon she exclaimed:
"Thank God, I won't have to spend another night in that terrible place."
The ghost has been seen by other prisoners before. Murderer Kelly, who stabbed a fellow-convict at San Quentin prison and who was tried at San Rafael for the crime, spent a night in the haunted cell, and was found in the morning by the Sheriff's deputies in a frenzied state. He said a ghost had visited him, and that he would commit suicide if the Sheriff would not take him out of the cell rather than pass such another night as the one he had just gone through.
Argo, whose apparition is causing all the trouble, was arrested for some petty offense and confined in this cell. The next day his lifeless body was found on the floor, and since that time prisoners have repeatedly said that they have seen his ghost.
A Chinaman, who had never heard of the stories in regard to the cell and who was unable to read English, related the same tale as did Annie Kehoe. The mystery has never been explained, and tramps without number, who have beard of the ghostly visitor, have given San Rafael a wide berth for fear of being confined in the haunted cell.
"I cannot account for it," said Under Sheriff Hannon, "but it is a fact that the descriptions of the apparition tally in each instance."
[Note: "Argo," was one William F. Argo, who was arrested for burglary in November 1889. On December 9 of that year he hanged himself in his cell, using strips of torn bedsheets.]
|"San Francisco Call," April 14, 1897, via Newspapers.com|
A follow-up story appeared in the "Call" on May 7:
There are few who will now doubt the truth of the stories published about the ghost which haunts the County Jail in the basement of Marin County's Courthouse. Last night it made its appearance to a Chinaman named Wing Hi and almost scared the unfortunate fellow to death.I was unable to find any further details about Marin's haunted cell.
When seen today he told the same story that has come from the lips of other unfortunates who have been confined in the haunted chamber. At various times it has been said that the ghost of a Chinaman had been seen by prisoners, and it was this apparition that made its presence known to poor Wing Hi during the small hours of this morning.
At the Sheriff's office it was learned that in one of the tanks to the cell where the Mongolian was confined a Chinaman had committed suicide. Like Argo. whose ghost also haunts the prison, the Chinaman committed an act of self-destruction by making a noose of his long queue, placing it about his neck, attaching the other end to the opening in the top of the tank and lifting his feet from the ground, thus allowing himself to slowly strangle to death. Annie Kehoe, who saw the ghost of Argo last month, also said that a Chinaman's face made its appearance. Now comes Wing Hi, an ignorant Mongolian, arrested for being insane, and without being able to learn of the ghost's visits through the newspapers, nor having any method of knowing which is the haunted cell, tells the story as others have told it. He does not talk with any degree of intelligence, but he is able to tell of the terror which the apparition caused, and how he passed the night in fear and trembling lest the awful specter should pounce upon him and do him injury.
So who now will doubt but that ghosts walk the hard, cold floor in the haunted chamber of Marin County's jail.