Ready for a real escape? You won’t find one in the Old Haunted Jail in Bartow … at least not the 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th. What you will find is inmates on the loose, some live, some not-so-much, but it’s all in fun and for a good cause.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Department’s annual United Way fund-raiser will scare the pants off you if you’re old enough, but a watered down version with goodie giveaways will be available for younger visitors to the old Polk County Jail at 455 Broadway in Bartow.
Put on by some 20 volunteers from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the scary stuff this year has an escape theme, with degrees of fright available depending on your age, says organizer Deputy Stacy Bishop.
To accommodate a younger crowd, Bishop says, the Haunted Jail will be open to younger trick or treaters from 6-8 p.m., and will be only “a little scary.”
But from 8 to 11 p.m., the stops are off and the inmates are on the loose, she says.
“And that will boost the fear-factor,” she adds.
“We decided to go with an escape theme this year to try something different,” she explains, “But it will all be fun.”
Bishop says the tours will begin with single inmates in cells doing creepy things, people in isolation are always creepier and, towards the end of the tour, inmates may just run amok. It will all culminate in the dreaded death chamber where the electric chair sits … waiting for victims …
The Haunted Jail’s new theme this year is the brainchild of Bishop, Bonnie Wingate, Ashley Bates and Melinda Campbell, who have been working on it since February or March.
“We really could have used more time, but we’re pleased with what we’re going to present,” Bishop said. “It’ll be fun for all ages.”
The Haunted Jail’s requested $5 per person donation will all go to the United Way, Bishop said. “None of it goes to the Sheriff’s Department and none of it costs the department anything.”
Sponsoring the activities is Aaron Rents of Bartow, she said.
“They are helping pay for some of it,” she added.
Because entry into the Haunted Jail is limited to about 10 people per tour, the SO is offering hot dogs and hamburgers for sale to those who are waiting their turn to be “scared silly,” she said.
In addition to raising money for the United Way, Bishop said the Haunted Jail is “our way of providing a safe place for young kids to go trick or treating and a place for the whole family to have some fun. And, maybe get just a little scared … ”
Additional information can be obtained by contacting Bishop at 863-534-6123, ext. 6160 or the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.