I’d heard that you could stay overnight at Karaosta Prison in Liepaja and it sounded like it could be an interesting alternative to a hostel. Plus it’s described as more extreme than Alcatraz, and haunted to boot. How could I possibly resist?
You can’t turn up until 9pm at the earliest, and so I got on the last bus from Liepaja town to Karaosta, which is about five kilometres north of the city. I had no idea where to get off; the driver spoke no English and couldn’t understand where I wanted to go, so I was looking intently out of the window in the hopes that there would be some kind of sign. Thankfully, this turned out to be unnecessary as a local woman asked me where I was going, and she told me she would be getting off at the same stop. That solved that problem. I walked through the scrub on some abandoned land to get from the bus stop to the prison; it was shorter than going around the corner on the road.
I arrived at the prison, and everything seemed shut; I couldn’t figure out how to get into the place. I knocked on the door with no success; I walked all around looking for another door and found one which was padlocked. No luck there. I went to the Visitor’s Centre entrance, played some Tetris and then knocked again, a little louder. This time I got a response and was let into the cold and dark building. A blond girl showed me my empty cell – super luxurious with four walls and a floor – and then asked me to help her get my bed.
My bed was a wooden pallet that sat about three inches above the floor. On top of this was a mattress that was about as soft as the wooden pallet but one hell of a lot heavier. I also got a pile with a pillow, sheet and a blanket. It looked like a lot of things, but ‘comfortable’ was not one of them.
So I dutifully made up my bed and checked out my surroundings. The cell wasn’t terribly exciting. Dark green walls, a small barred window quite high up, a large heavy prison door. Still, I must admit, it was nice having a room – or cell – of my own for a night after weeks and weeks in dorms. Even if I did have to go to jail to enjoy my privacy.
I was reading my book, quite happy and peaceful on my rock hard prison bed, when a tsunami decided to smash through the prison. At least, that’s what it sounded like. Turns out it was just someone flushing the toilet – the plumbing could use some attention. Disappointingly, that was as creepy as it got – all the nonsense about the prison being haunted seemed to come to nothing. No ghostly visitations, no ethereal presences floating down the hallway, no conversations whispered from beyond the grave. I even had a bit of a lonesome explore around the prison in the dark, and still nothing. I think it’s safe to say that Karaosta Prison, regardless of its history, is seriously lacking in tormented spirits trapped forever in its dark halls.
Having slept disturbingly well, I decided to take the official tour in the morning [not telling them about my sneaking around the night before] to see what more I could find out about the place. Karaosta Prison was a naval and military prison, never a ‘normal’ prison full of the usual nasty criminals. It was the place where disobedient soldiers were sent for discipline and re-education.
Under the Soviets particularly I doubt it was an overly cheerful place. Whether the fact that the prison was for the military only, not civilians, should make it immediately scarier I don’t know – I only know that I felt a little let down by my experience there, both in the lack of hauntings and overall creepiness and the sterility of the tour. I’m glad I did it – the novelty of spending the night in prison was worth it – but a few ghosts would have been appreciated.