Twin Hells

Twin Hells
Catalog # SKU1080
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name John N. Reynolds


Twin Hells

A Thrilling Narrative of Life in the
Kansas and Missouri Penitentiaries

John N. Reynolds

A rare look back in history at the culture and atrocities of American prisons. With the scenes of the U.S. Guantanemo Prison and the U.S. Prison/Concentration Camp Abu Ghraib shown on today's news, one can see that a century of modern thought has not permeated the American prison system. Inhumanity reigns, with only a sprinkling of human compassion raising its head through individual thinkers, in America.

The following pages treat of hell--A Kansas hell and a Missouri hell. Those who desire to peruse works that tell about Heaven only, are urged to drop this book and run. I was an inmate of the Kansas penitentiary for sixteen months, and make mention of what came under my own observation in connection with what I experienced.


Guilty! This word, so replete with sadness and sorrow, fell on my ear on that blackest of all black Fridays, October 14, 1887.

Penitentiary lightning struck me in the city of Leavenworth, Kansas. I was tried in the United States District Court; hence, a United States prisoner.

The officer in charge conducted me to cell number one. Click went the lock. The door was pulled open, and in his usual style, he said, "Get in." I stepped in. Slam went the door. Click went the lock, and I was in a felon's cell! These rooms are about four feet wide, seven feet long, and seven feet high. In many of the cells two men are confined. These rooms are entirely too small for the accommodation of two prisoners. A new cell house is being built, which, when completed, will afford sufficient additional room so that each prisoner can have a cell. In these small rooms there are two bunks or beds when two convicts occupy the same cell. The bed-rack is made of iron or wood slats, and the bed-tick is filled with corn-husks; the pillow is also filled with the latter material, and when packed down becomes as hard as a board. When the beds are not in use they are fastened to the side of the wall with a small chain. When down and in use they take up nearly the entire space of the cell, so that it is impossible for the two occupants to pass each other in walking to and fro.

The other furniture consists of a small tin bucket, holding about two quarts of water, and a wash-basin. A short-handled broom is also found in one corner of the cell, with which the convict brushes it out every morning. The walls are of stone, decorated with a small looking-glass and a towel. Each cell contains one chair and a Holy Bible. There is no rich Brussels carpet on the floor, although prisoners are allowed one if they furnish it themselves. No costly upholstered furniture adorns these safe retreats! Nothing in that line is to be discovered except one cane-bottomed chair for the accommodation of two prisoners, so that when one sits on the chair the other stands, or occupies a seat on the stone floor. There is not room for two chairs, or the State would furnish another chair. These rooms are built of stone. The door is of one-half inch iron bars, crossing each other at right angles, leaving small spaces about two by six inches; through these spaces come the air , light and heat for the health and comfort of the inmates. When I entered my cell on that eventful morning I found it occupied by a prisoner. He was also a new arrival; he had preceded me about an hour. When I entered he arose and gave me his chair, taking a seat on the floor in the opposite corner. After I had been locked in, before going away the officer said, "Now I don't want you fellows to get to talking, for that is not permitted in this institution. "We sat in silence, surveying each other; in a few moments my companion, seeing something in my personal appearance that caused him to lose his self control, laughed.

That he might give full vent to his laughing propensities, and not make too much noise, he drew from his pocket his quarter section of a flour bag and put it into his mouth. He soon became as red in the face as a lobster. I was curious, of course, to know what it was that pleased him so much. Rising from my chair, going to the door and looking through the openings I could see no officer near, so I asked my companion, in a whisper, what it was that pleased him so. It was with difficulty and after several trials before he could succeed in telling me what it was that caused him to be so convulsed. I told him to take his time, cool off gradually, as I had eighteen months, and could wait patiently. At last, being able to control his feelings sufficiently to tell me, in the midst of his outbursts of laughter, he said, "You look just like one of them zebras in Barnum's Circus!" When my attention was called to the matter, sure enough, I did look rather striped, and I, amused at his suggestion, laughed also. Soon an officer came gliding around in front of the cell, when our laughing ceased. My companion was a young fellow from Doniphan County. He got drunk and tried to rob an associate, still drunker, of a twenty dollar gold piece. He was arrested, tried and convicted of robbery, receiving a sentence of one year. Directly an officer came, took him out of my cell and conducted him to another department. All alone, I sat in my little parlor for nearly an hour, thinking over the past. My reverie was at length broken by the turning of my door lock. A fresh arrival was told to "git in."

This prisoner had the appearance of just having been lassoed on the wild western prairies. He resembled a cow-boy. His whiskers were long and sandy. His hair, of the same color, fell upon his shoulders. As soon as the officer had gone away and everything had become quiet, I asked this fellow his name. "Horserider," was his reply, from which I inferred that he was a horse-thief. "How long a term have you?" was my next question. "Seven years," was his reply. I comforted him by saying it would be some time before he rode another horse.

Softcover, 5 x 8, 220+ pages (Illustrated)


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