Denton Jail & Wish Sheppard

The Denton Jail has quite a history of memorable criminals. The two famous lynchings of Jim Wilson and Marshall Price were enough to make it historical. One hanging however made it infamous and one of the most haunted prisons in Maryland.

Aloysius “Wish” Sheppard was 19 years old when he was arrested in 1915 for the rape of 14 year old Mildred Clark. Wish originally confessed to the crime but then changed his story saying he was scared of what the public would do to him. Wish’s mother told the sheriff that Wish and Mildred were friends and would hang out often. Unfortunately his previous criminal record for theft did not help with his case.

Wish was sentenced to the gallows for his crime. Claims of how Wish was before his execution tend to conflict with each other. Some claimed he was calm and quiet beforehand while the infamous story of Wish struggling and grabbing the wall while he was being taken out to be executed has been heard the most. It was then they claimed he left his infamous handprint on the prison wall.

On August 26 Wish was executed. Sheriff temple tried to keep it as a private execution but people took boats out onto the Choptank river to watch. Over a hundred people gathered to watch. One among those was a Baltimore reporter who turned his pictures into morbid postcards. There were 4 executioners originally slated to do the hanging but Sheriff Temple got very upset and was unable to pull the actual lever. Wish was the last legal execution in Caroline County. Afterwards his mother buried him in an unmarked grave.

It was not too long after Wish was executed that strange occurrences started happening at the Denton Jail. The biggest claim was that of his hand print. Sheriff Temple tried several times to paint over the print with no luck. His successor, Sheriff William Andrews, also tried painting over it with the same results. When Andrew’s son, Louis, became sheriff he even tried to put concrete over the print but it still reappeared. Louis also claimed a door that was across from the print would never stay locked and would not open when unlocked.

The Jail was eventually renovated. The original building was similar to a house to accompany the Sheriff and his family along with any prisoners. In the 1980s the building had additions added to the side and back of the building. A wall was built over, covering the hand print and door. During the renovation workers claimed they would find freshly painted rooms ruined and would blame Wish.

After the 1980s renovation, inmates started reporting of strange occurrences. Prisoners started reporting seeing Wish’s ghost or hearing footsteps in the prison. Inmates would have their belongings disappear from their cells only to find them outside the jail. One prisoner claimed he was attacked and had mysterious marks all over him. He seems to appear more on stormy nights and between 2 to 3 am. Eventually prisoners would insist on being locked up with each other out of fear of Wish appearing. Employees started reporting as seeing a figure on the security cameras and having issues with the elevator running by itself at night. Once a black figure was seen on camera in front of the elevator. He has also been seen walking through the halls. Lights have also been known to turn on and off by themselves. Once there was reports of lockers slamming shut.

In the late 1990s another renovation took place and the call center was relocated into the prison. After this move workers seemed to experience more activity than inmates. The control room seemed to have a majority of the activity. The control room is where guards control the locked halls and doors. It is also where the surveillance monitors are located and watched. Every hallway and room has alarms as well. No one can move around the jail without buzzing to the control room and have doors unlocked. Having a building heavily monitored makes the occurrences even more creepy. One guard claimed he was attacked by a strange black fog in the control room. A similar black mass was also seen on the monitors in an empty room. It grew until it completely covered the camera then vanished a second later. Officers claim to always hear footsteps on the control room stairs.

Other people have experienced odd occurrences other than inmates and officers. Townspeople would claim to see the attic light on and see someone moving around at night. The attic is used for storage and it is not accessible at night since the light has burned out. On the old front porch people have also claimed to hear voices on the side of the building but upon further investigation there would be no one there.

Several years ago there was a renovation of the kitchen where they walled up Wish’s cell. They tried to open the old cell door but it would not budge. They took pictures of the cell and wall before sealing it up once again. A brand new steamer was placed in front of the wall and it has never worked correctly. One worker claimed she asked Wish to stop messing with her and it seem to work normal afterwards.

In 2009 the prison was renamed The Andrew Building in honor of the Andrew’s family who has been officers and sheriffs for many decades. Captain Jacob Andrew is the 4th member of the Andrew’s family to be an officer at the prison. Andrew has even claimed to have his own run ins with Wish. He has heard filing cabinets being closed in an empty room. He also has seen Wish but when he went to follow him, Wish vanished.

Resources

Andrews, A. (2016). Jacob Andrew Carrying On Two Family Legacies. Caroline Times [Electronic Record] retrieved https://www.myeasternshoremd.com/times_record/spotlight/jacob-andrew-carrying-on-two-familylegacies/article_f85f26e6-fa8b-5025-bb05-74d4a9970c70.html.

Burgoyne, M. (2009). Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake. The History Press

Burgoyne, M. (2015). The Haunted Midshore: Spirits of Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot Counties. The History Press. Charleston SC

Martinelli, P. (2006). Haunted Delaware: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the First State. Stackpole Books.

Okonowicz, E.(2010). The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Stackpole Books. Mechanicsburg, PA.