Lincoln Heights Jail: A brief history of LA’s haunted jail.


The historic Lincoln Heights jail was opened in 1931 on the site of the old East Side Police station and jail. The new, Art Deco -style building was intended to house just over 600 prisoners. By the early 1950’s, however, the overcrowded jail held as many as 2800 inmates, which prompted an expansion of the facility in 1951. In December of that same year, the Lincoln Heights Jail became part of a scandal that erupted stemming from the brutal beatings of seven civilians by LAPD officers. The incident, which came to be known as “Bloody Christmas,” produced the first-ever grand jury indictments of serving LAPD officers as well as the first criminal convictions for use of excessive force in LAPD history.

The so-called Bloody Christmas incident was the inspiration for the James Ellroy novel, “L.A. Confidential,” and the Lincoln Heights Jail was used as one of the filming locations for the 1997 film based on the book.


Over the years, the site housed many notorious and notable criminals including murderer William Edward Hickman in the late 1920s and gangster Al Capone, who spent a night at the Lincoln Heights jail for tax evasion. Novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler spent time in the jail’s drunk tank. Lincoln Heights Jail also had a section for female prisoners on its second floor, and academy-award winning actress Lucile Watson was once held there after a night of drunken shenanigans.

Lincoln Heights jail closed in the 1960’s. However, due to its proximity to Hollywood, the building has remained in use as a popular filming location. Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” utilized the basement of the jail as a location for its boiler-room scenes.


In addition to serving as a filming location, the building has been home to a Bilingual arts center and a gym. Tragically, in 1994, the site was the scene of an mysterious death when the founder of the gym was found dead in the elevator shaft.

The former jail has long been rumored to be haunted. Various film and TV crew members as well as building staff and visitors have reported experiencing unexplained or paranormal activity.


Have you paid a visit to the Lincoln Heights Jail? Feel free to share your stories or any information in the comments section.


2 thoughts on “Lincoln Heights Jail: A brief history of LA’s haunted jail.

  1. I spent 10 days in Lincoln Heights jail in 1961. I was arrested with my best friend for shoplifting. It was like a dormitory setting, with beds strung along next to each other. It was actually an experience I’ve never forgotten, and in some ways, was really nice. I met people I would never have met otherwise, and learned things I would never have learned otherwise. Sounds weird I know, but it was a very memorable experience and I’m glad it happened.


  2. I was in the building yesterday (6-23-20) to do some environmental air sampling. I started on the 5th (top) floor and worked my way down. I placed my bag of sample media near the freight elevator on the 2nd floor. I heard the bag of sample media fall from about 20 yards away. When I got there the bag was dumped. Usually when a bag falls the stuff is in or just around the bag. This was dumped and spread out. This was my first experience of this type.


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