Old Pen Tours are a popular Rawlins activity.
During its more than 80-year history as a corrections facility, approximately 13,500 inmates called the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins “home.”
Wyoming’s Frontier Prison, often referred to as the “Old Pen,” housed 11 women from when it opened in 1901 until 1909, at which point it became a facility primarily for men.
One of these women was Annie Bruce, who killed her father with a poisoned plum pie.
Another notable resident was William Carlisle. A serial train robber, Carlisle was also known as the “Gentleman Bandit” because he never shot anyone and only robbed men, apologizing to women and children for disturbing them. Carlisle escaped from the prison in 1919, only to be caught a month later.
The prison contains three cell-blocks and, when it opened, was equipped with 104 cells but had no running water or electricity.
A Block, the oldest part of the prison, has a particularly grim history. An inmate was lynched in this area in 1912.
Offenders met their deaths in other ways. The prison houses gallows and a gas chamber, the latter of which was installed in 1936. These facilities were contained in what was called the Death House.
Five inmates were executed in the gas chamber and nine others were hanged. A total of 200 died within the prison walls due to execution, suicide, inmate violence and natural causes.
Between 15,000 and 17,000 people visit the prison each year. They offer guided prison tours and there is also a walking path that will take you up to the old prison cemetery. Also on site is the Wyoming Peace Officers' Museum & the Old Pen Gift Shop. The price of admission is just $10 for adults with discounts for children & seniors. They also offer group tours for groups of 10 or more - reservations are required for large group tours.
A local favorite is the haunted Halloween night tours. Call the Old Pen at 307-324-4422 for the tour schedule or visit them online at: http://www.wyomingfrontierprison.org