In the late 1800s, the promise of an easy fortune lured people to the gold mines of Cripple Creek. In just ten years, the population grew from 15 to more than 50,000 and like every gold rush town, had more than its fair share of miscreants and troublemakers. Fortunately, there was also a brave group of men sworn to keep the outlaws in line.
Today you can learn the stories first-hand at The Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum, also called the Cripple Creek Jail Museum.
Housed in a red-brick building that served as the Teller County Jail for nearly 90 years, the Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum provides a taste of the shadier side of life in the World’s Greatest Gold Camp and a glimpse into the lives of the lawmen charged with keeping the peace.
This historic Cripple Creek museum and Old West jail opened in 2007 and lets you relive the outlaw days of the Wild West and features:
- The original, steel two-story jail cell block
- Police logs, copies of early city ordinances, and relics from the 1890s
- Artwork depicting real newspaper stories of crimes both big and small
- Free family photo ops in prisoner uniforms
- Friendly staff to share more stories about Cripple Creek’s history.
The Teller County Jail was used as a working jail from 1901 to 1991, until it was closed in 1992 by the ACLU for being inhumane. Besides holding local burglars, robbers, prostitutes, highwaymen, and other minor criminals, in its original incarnation, this jail was also used to hold more serious offenders, including Robert Curry (aka Bob Lee), a member of the “Wild Bunch” gang who was captured after lawmen found him hiding in town.
Touring The Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum
After chatting with the friendly woman at the front desk, getting a mini tour of the building, and grabbing some “booking photos,” we opened the heavy barred security door to enter a large, bleak, cold room with the two-story, steel block of 14 jail cells sitting in the middle of the floor.
We walked all the way around it, ventured into some of the tiny 6.5 foot by 9.0 foot cells that held six men each, and then up the stairs to the second level to walk on the catwalk around and through the upper cells. Throughout this room there are historical photographs, museum displays, and old newspaper clippings and stories.
It may have been the weather and the dark, cloudy skies, but seriously, the entire jail room felt creepy and stepping into some of those cells, make the hairs on my neck stand up! If you believe that sort of thing, some people even say the Old Teller County Jail is haunted.
We then exited the main jail room and headed up a wooden staircase to the second floor. Here we found the female jailer’s bedroom and the additional steel cells where female and juvenile inmates were held, along with any children of the female inmates.
We had a lot of fun visiting this small but awesome museum and highly recommend you make time to walk through the jail cells if you visit Cripple Creek. Inside you’ll find drawings and etchings from actual inmates and it’s cool and creepy all at the same time!
Know Before You Go
- Cripple Creek Jail Museum, also called the Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum, is located at 136 West Bennett Avenue, Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813 in Teller County.
- The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and is located within the Cripple Creek Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
- It is located within walking distance of all the major casinos in town (and there are a lot).
- There is an informal tour that lasts right around 5-10 minutes and then you are free to explore the museum on your own. Wandering through the museum will take you 60-90 minutes.
- Unlike other museums, the Cripple Creek Jail Museum encourages you to touch and get inside the jail cells! You can even grab a costume for fun photo ops.
- Be sure to say hi to one of Cripple Creek’s famous donkeys in the parking lot too!