The Grinch has returned to his lair at the historic Anderson County Jail in Palestine just in time for the holidays.
The Grinch’s Lair is a fun, festive, family-friendly party, offered annually by Jeremy Janz and Sonia Martinez.
“The Texas Jailhouse crew is delighted to share the magic this holiday season four our eighth Grinch’s Lair,” Martinez said. “We love our guests and want them to walk away with memories they will never forget.”
Inspired from the "How The Grinch stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss character, the great green one entertains crowds with jokes and funny gags, while giving tours of his jail house lair, throughout the holiday season.
Though the theme of the visit has changed from time to time over the years, some elements never change.
Visitors are greeted by the Who's Who of Whoville in the festive lobby, before climbing up to Mount Crumpit, by way of stairs, to visit the Grinch in his lair. From there, the mean, green one and his dog, Max, will give you an exclusive tour of his “Grinchy crib.”
“Each year, we try to come up with some new storyline or concept for the Grinch and I think this one is the best one yet,” said Martinez.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, masks are required and tours will be done in groups of 12 or less. Those wanting to ensure they don’t have to wait in line can go online and book a time-slot.
The Grinch's Lair will open for visitors from noon to 6 p.m., each Friday, Saturday and Sunday; Nov. 20 through Dec. 20.
Admission is $10 per person, children two and under get in free.
The Grinch and his crew made the old jail his holiday home in 2013.
Inspired by their volunteer work at Santa's Magical Workshop the previous year, Jeremy and Sonia wanted to sponsor a Christmas-themed event.
“How to make a creepy old building feel holly jolly was going to be a challenge,” Sonia said. “Then it hit me like a thunderbolt...the Grinch gets locked up in jail for stealing the gifts. I told Jeremy, ‘You will be the Grinch!’ And I told my son, Ian, ‘You will be Max The Dog!’ He asked, ‘Well then, who are you?’ My reply, ‘Of course, I'll be a Who!’”
Friends and family donated old Christmas decorations and their time.
In 17 days, the couple opened the Grinch's Lair.
The first year, 3,000 people came to this pop-up event.
“A lot of hard work and creativity go into making this a magical holiday experience for our guests,” Jeremy said. “Transforming the jail into something else is challenging. We’ve always seen the potential but really feel as if we achieved it with this idea. Reactions from families have been priceless.”
The Grinch’s Lair has been a great holiday draw for the community in the past seven years.
“Who” doesn’t love the Grinch,” said Mary Raum. “We certainly have found that this local attraction, set up to compliment the Texas State Railroad’s Polar Express Train Ride, will see many guests this season, even in this struggling environment. Guests have called weekly to make sure that as they plan their trip to Palestine, this is an item on their agenda. We know it has been hard for our businesses and residents to make certain decisions about hosting events and activities and furthermore, participating in them, so it is refreshing to see this attraction make accommodations to make everyone feel safe and help to continue traditions made in Palestine for seven years running.”
The Grinch’s Lair is hosted in the historic Anderson County Jail, also known as the Texas Jail House, built in 1931, replacing an aging jail that was built in the 1800s at the same location.
In fact, the first structure built on the property was a log cabin. It was then the home of The Starr Advisor newspaper and a market/saloon.
The first jail built on this piece of property was finished in 1879. The original footers are beneath the current building. The current jail building was built in Art Deco-style in 1931, replacing the 1879 jail. The facility was utilized until 1988, when the current jail was constructed on Lacy Street. The building was later renovated and served as a juvenile detention center until 1996. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The facility was purchased by Jeremy Janz and his wife, Sonia Martinez, in 2013.
In the Fall of 2013, after months of cleaning and painting, replacing the water main tap, getting inspections, permits, and strange looks, we moved into an old jail. We converted previous office space into bedrooms and were grateful for the huge kitchen.
That Christmas, the couple opened the Grinch’s Lair for the first time.
The Grinch's Lair is just one of the many events that the jail has played host to over the years.
It has been the scene for "Locked In Fear,” “Freak Show” and a “Zombie Quarantine” for Halloween. The Texas Jail House is also open at various intervals throughout the year for Ghost Tours, Cemetery Walks, and Historic Jail Tours. The jail keeps a steady booking of paranormal investigators, but Jeremy and Sonia didn’t need paranormal investigators to tell them their building was haunted. Josh Moody and his production team for the movie "Four My Brothers" were in Palestine filming at the old jail and various locations throughout the summer.
Martinez said the couple will continue to find ways to use and market the jail, but for now The Grinch’s Lair is considered a holiday staple.
The historic Anderson County Jail is located at 704 Avenue A in Palestine.
For more information log onto www.texasjailhouse.com or call 903-724-0164