Most people love Halloween. They dress up in costumes and go to parties, or dress their kids up in costumes, and take them trick-or-treating. They also love haunted houses – we don’t understand why because we deal with scary situations on a regular basis and we’d just as soon avoid those!

A couple of years ago, some of our detention deputies who were thinking outside the box – or in this case, the cell – came up with a great way to earn money for charity. They created the annual PCSO Haunted Jail Tour, benefiting the United Way of Central Florida.

Back when Polk County was about a fourth of the population it is today, the second floor of the Lawrence Crow Jr. administration building in Bartow was used to house all inmates arrested in the county. Of course, we have two jails now – one off of Georgia Street in Bartow, and one in Frostproof – capable of housing up to 2,800 inmates. We’ve been using that old jail on the second floor in Bartow to store documents. Not anymore!

During the last two weekends of October each year, we are delighted to present a new Haunted Jail Tour. Last year’s theme was “The Ghost of Calvin” – where our tour guides (volunteer agency members) took thrill-seekers on a tour of the haunted cells and told stories about the mythical Calvin, who died in the jail. This year’s tour is “Asylum” – which is guaranteed to frighten anyone who dares to enter.

We go all out – props, costumes, makeup, and spooky lighting. You really have to see it to believe it. Bring the family – for the little ones, we have a room set aside with crafts and games, so the older kids and adults can enjoy the haunted tour.

This year’s Haunted Jail tours will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 19th and 20th, and October 26th and 27th, for a $6.00 donation to the United Way. The address is 455 North Broadway in Bartow. We’ll be lurking for you!

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