Searching for ghosts in the Old Joliet Prison

These paranormal investigators are exploring the Old Joliet Prison, searching for past lives while keeping its history alive. Here's the story of medium Colleen Nadas, in her own words: 

We're at Old Joliet Prison. This place is majestic and amazing, and full of life. There's something going on in every corner of this place. Pretty much every cop that sits out here every night, they have experiences. Pretty much every single tour somebody catches something. And we've had a lot of guards and prisoners come back and take the tour, and they had experiences while they were here, they saw things themselves.

Me, I'm a trained chef, photographer, artist, medium. I've been a medium my whole life. I saw things that most people didn't. I don't do that same kind of thing that you would see on TV, like you know, Cleo type thing, I'm not that kind of medium. I specifically talk to the dead.

When a spirit gets close to me, the feeling I get from them I call the "Fun House Feeling," it feels like the floor drops out from me, and that's how I know they're close and then I start to listen and tune in. I have had no training other than going to many places and just exercising what I know and what I feel.

Everybody wants to know the unknown. They all wanna see a ghost, or they wanna hear what we call an EVP, which is an electric voice phenomenon. Some people are really sensitive to things, and some people are not.

I'm rather comfortable here, it doesn't bother me in any way, shape or form. To me it's like a second home.

You can't change a person's mind and I'm not looking to change anybody's mind. I just show them what I do, and it's up to them. We let  people decide for themselves through the evidence we collect, through the evidence they collect - a lot of people are catching things on their own during a tour, and they'll bring it to us and be like, what is this?

A recorder paranormal investigators say can record "electric voice phenomena"

I was talking about a gentlemen who had been killed, and telling customers about for several tours, and then this guard came in that worked here during the time that i said this gentleman was killed and he confirmed it all. It was very interesting to say the least. I don't get a lot of validation, so when I get it I get very excited.

My family was spiritual, but not in the sense that I am. My father was very religious, but I followed my own path. I've always been interested in the paranormal and witch stuff and all that kind of thing, it's just something that I've always been involved with. Anybody that i've kind of stayed friends with, they have something to do with this field so they know that I do what i do.

My personality is not quiet and inward, but I keep the medium thing quiet and inward, because people really take advantage of it and they don't tend to believe it and poo-poo it, and I just don't want to deal with that. Not everybody believes. I believe, but that's me, and I certainly don't want to force that on anybody.

A doll paranormal investigators say is used to detect electromagnetism

Larry Arroyo, Chicago Hauntings

Growing up, I was always obsessed with the paranormal. Being Polish and Catholic, my grandparents used to always take me to the cemeteries. My grandpa would take me to Mount Auburn to put a payment down on his grave, because you know, they pre-planned.

This prison took in some of the biggest names, they processed John Wayne Gacy here, Richard Speck was held here for a term, and when they were given the life sentence, Leopold and Loeb would actually do time here also.

It's been sitting here for well over 10 years, but it is kind of a historical landmark, if you think about it. The prison itself was designed by William Boyington, who is a well-known architect in Chicago. He did the prison, he did the Chicago Water Tower pumping station over on the Mag Mile, and he did the gates of Rosehill Cemetery.

Chicago history, most of it is not good history. If you look at the Chicago flag, the Chicago flag is a mixture of good and bad; it's two triumphs and two tragedies, those are the stars. Any tragedy is going to lead to either a prison or a cemetery.

That's what I love about the ghost tours is the ghost tours is a fun leftover fact of the history. Because you can't have ghosts without history, because for a ghost to happen someone has to die and there has to be a story  behind it.

Overhead view of Old Joliet Prison


Colleen Nadas

I think everybody needs to have the knowledge, not necessarily the paranormal part of it, but the history of the place itself. This is a big part of Joliet history, it's been here since 1858. Everybody should get to see this, since it's just sitting here, and that's why I keep doing what I'm doing here, standing out here freezing my butt off every night.

The prison was walked away from in 2002. They literally left everything behind. They just closed it up to save money and left. Everyone that's been here, I kinda empathize with them, in many cases. I guess I do that. I think it's important that their stories are told, and that they're brought to light, given some life, so to speak. Kind of a pun there.

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