One of the most interesting and allegedly haunted places in America is the Eastern State Penitentiary located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An estimated 75,000 inmates served time here from 1829-1971. Known as the country’s first official penitentiary, Eastern State’s wagon wheel design quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons all over the world.
The basic principles behind the prison turned into more of a social experiment inspired by a meeting at Ben Franklin’s home. Quakers thought isolation would make rule breakers know God and remorse, but instead it made inmates in the maximum security prison go insane. They thought that complete isolation would make you feel quicker remorse and condition you to change your ways indefinitely. One of the ways that this was carried out was having each inmate in their own solitary confinement cell with two doors. The first was a grid metal door slammed shut, and then a wooden door closed in front of it to keep inmates from communicating. Eastern State Penitentiary took it even further making sure all inmates wore full face masks when they went out in the yard. Zero communication, immeasurable distress.
Solarity cells had skylights to let in “God’s light” a toilet, running water, heat and a Bible. It wasn’t until 1913, that Pennsylvania abandoned the solitary confinement system, recognizing its failed methods. Eastern state adapted and altered the prison cells to accommodate more inmates per cell. With such a drastic change, prison guards updated their corrections methods.
The Eastern State Penitentiary was part of a movement that was considered to be highly controversial at the time. Its purpose and intent was to modify the behaviors of the individuals that served as inmates through solitary confinement and various types of labor. While it is considered to be the first official penitentiary located throughout the world, this haunted prison was not the only penitentiary of the time.
Eastern State has a few famous inmates during it’s almost 190 years in operation. Chicago’s most famous mob boss, Al Capone, served eight months for carrying a deadly weapon in a concealed manner. Because of his money, he was placed on the “Park Avenue Block” allowing him to furnish his cell in whatever he wanted like rugs, lamps, plants, and two skylights.
William “Slick Willie” Sutton was serving an 11 year sentence as a famous bank robber when he unsuccessfully tried to escape by digging a tunnel with his fellow inmates in the 1940s. They spent a year digging a tunnel 15 feet down and exactly 100 feet long, but by the time they reached the end, they were being pulled out of the mud by officials who took them right back behind the gate.
Experience the claims of paranormal activity in person like the guys did on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures at your own risk. If you’re truly interested in the paranormal, you can get more details about touring the prison on Eastern State’s site.
Anyone out there consider yourself brave enough to enter the prison knowing its dark history? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.
Throw on our Antique Archaeology “Sweet Pickin’” dark heather grey t-shirt on your next walk about town!