Since the late 1990s, there's been a much-whispered rumor that a handgun was smuggled into Pontiac Correctional Center, a myth told behind the walls of the maximum-security prison.
That changed last Thursday when, checking out yet another tip about the rumored handgun, prison workers cut through a concrete wall and found it, covered in mortar, dirt and debris, Department of Corrections spokesman Tom Shaer said Monday.
Prison officials believe the gun was smuggled into the central Illinois prison by someone visiting in 1996, and tips from former inmates and others have led to numerous searches, Shaer said.
"Whenever they would hear a whisper, they would put a lot of time and effort into running it down," he said. "It's like the Loch Ness Monster. It's like a legend."
The gun wasn't loaded and no ammunition was found, he said. It was tucked into a spot that couldn't have been reached by hand, he said.
The prison nonetheless went on lockdown after the gun was found, Shaer said, but has returned to normal security.
Searches, metal detectors and other safeguards would make it far more difficult to get a gun into the prison now, he said.