Idaho Stories and Tips

Hauntings and Hangings at the Pensacola Jail (Pensacola Little Theater)

Window at the Pensacola Cultural Center Photo, Pensacola, Florida

Our last stop on our Red LIght Bars and Brothel Tour of Historic Pensacola was the Pensacola Little Theater. Built in the late-19th Century, this beautiful white building near the Palafox Pier began its history as the Pensacola Jail and from the late-19th to mid-20th Century, the jail housed some of Pensacola's most notorious criminals and miscreants and was the site of several hangings.

Our guide Jim guided us through one of the alleys going through downtown Pensacola near Jackson's Restaurant across from the Pensacola Little Theater. On this cool October night, the building glowed in a warm yellow light and looked peaceful and didn't look anything like the prison it once was.

Jim then went on and told us the story of the Jail's most notorious prisoners, Jose. Jose and his brother immigrated to Pensacola from Spain in the early-20th Century and while the brother was a law-abiding citizen working in the docks while brother Jose raised hell in the Red Light District and spent a lot of time as a guest of the City of Pensacola for theivery and other misdemeanors. After serving time for his last theft, Jose was released from the jail and went back to his wicked ways, and this didn't go well with his brother who confronted Jose about his lifestyle. Jose didn't like being told what to do by his brother and took and ax and did what Jim described as, "the Lizzie Borden Act minus the 40 whacks," and killed his brother with a couple of well-aimed blows to his head and body.

Jose was immediately arrested by the Pensacola Police and held in the jail awaiting trial at the nearby courthouse. After a trial, Jose was convicted of his brother's murder and sentenced to death by hanging in the Pensacola Jail. The sentence was carried out shortly afterwards, and Jim did a poor, but funny demonstration of the hanging with a piece of clothesline that he had in his jacket pocket.

Today, the old Jail houses the Pensacola Little Theater and puts on many plays and other events throughout the year, but the story goes that the ghost of the executed murderer Jose has been seen walking the catwalks of the theater and throughout the playhouse with a rope around his neck and curtains rustle on play nights. As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh In, "Veeery Eenteresting!"

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