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Old Idaho Penitentiary

Old West justice takes a lighthearted turn at the Old Idaho Penitentiary.

  • Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise, image
    Photo caption
    The 1872 prison today hosts Halloween fun.
  • exterior view of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, image
    Photo caption
    The "Old Pen" was a functioning prison for 101 years.


More than 40 years have passed since the last inmates served time at the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. But inside the historic prison today, you’ll feel their presence as you look at the graffiti on the walls, step into one of the tiny solitary confinement cells, or visit the gallows. “It’s a glimpse of justice in the Old West,” says manager Amber Beierle.

Despite the penitentiary’s fierce past, a visit there can be a lot of fun — especially during the spooky season. You can get your mug shot taken wearing stripes or check out one of the onsite exhibits, including photographs of prison tattoos from around the world and a vast collection of weapons ranging from Bronze Age spearheads to Vietnam War-era rifles.

The Frightened Felons Halloween event—October 31 for adults and November 1 for families this year—features actors portraying characters from the slammer, plus a scavenger hunt and a zombie-filled dance to the song “Thriller.” On other fall weekends, the prison offers guided tours throughout the afternoon. AAA discount on general admission. (208) 334-2844,

Photography courtesy of ISHS/Clay Almquist

This article was first published in September 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.