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So many reasons to make a trip to the Missouri State Penitentiary this summer

May 10, 2011

Now is a great time to plan your tour of the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City.

This photo was taken from deep inside an MSP housing unit.

Why? Well, not only can you go on a two-hour historic tour of the prison that accepted its first inmate 100 years before Alcatraz, but you can also experience the prison at night on a twilight tour, or you can tap into the unusual side of MSP on a ghost hunt tour, ghost tour or a paranormal investigation.

Twilight history tours, $17 per person, include the same information as the regular history tour, but are given in the evening; from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Participants are provided a lantern in order to navigate the prison at night.

Twilight ghost tours tell visitors about the history of MSP and the strange and unusual occurrences that have taken place there. Guests are guided through several housing units and hear about some of the spirits that are said to still live at MSP. Tickets are $25 per person.

Those who want to do more than simply hear about ghost stories should partake in the ghost hunt tour. For $25, guests are given a brief history lesson of the facility and then have time to use “activity finding” devices in two of the housing units and the gas chamber.

Organized, licensed paranormal groups can spend the night in the prison and investigate the grounds of the Missouri State Penitentiary.  Paranormal investigations are $1,600 for a group of up to 16 people.

Besides the regularly scheduled MSP tours, a special event to commemorate the Missouri State Penitentiary’s 175th anniversary will take place June 10-12.  Watch The Shawshank Redemption in the lower yard, run a 5K under the shadows housing units, check out the artist booths and kids craft and game area and more!

The full (tentative) timeline can be found  by clicking here.

The Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau began offering tours of the decommissioned Missouri State Penitentiary in May of 2009.  Before it closed, MSP was the oldest continually operating penitentiary west of the Mississippi.  The prison was nearly 100 years old when Alcatraz began taking inmates. When MSP opened in 1836, the Battle of the Alamo was going on in Texas and Andrew Jackson was in his second term.

The Missouri State Pen housed infamous inmates such as heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, who learned to box during his time in the big house, notorious gangster ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd and James Earl Ray.  Tours also include the gas chamber where 40 men and women were executed, the buried cells, several housing units and the upper yard. In 1967 the Missouri State Penitentiary was infamously named the “bloodiest 47 acres in America” by Time magazine because of the incredibly high number of serious assaults on the grounds from 1963-1964.

For information about MSP tours and events, go to or call (866) 998-6998.

Submitted by Sarah (Stroesser) Alsager, communications manager for the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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