Penitentiary: a place to become penitent. And nothing fits the bill like Philadelphia's famed Eastern State Penitentiary. Between 1829 and 1970, this was a notorious prison. Its abandoned and decaying structure now provides one of the weirdest tours . . . and it is haunted to boot.
Thousands of men and even women were imprisoned in these castle-like walls. Although no executions were performed here, there was a Death Row, and also "the Hole", subterranean cells intended for solitary confinement, where the worst were placed, sometimes even for years.
Famous inmates include Al "Scarface" Capone (he spent his very first prison sentence here) and Willie Sutton, the bank robber who, when asked why he robbed banks, replied succinctly, "Because that's where the money is." Works for me.
What about the hauntings. Several "ghost" programs such as Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters haev done investigations here and concluded that it was, indeed, a haunted spot. During the September, October, and November, they have night tours called "Terror Behind the Walls." I do not claim to be a medium, but I can tell you that the place is heavy with the feeling of anger - the spirits here are malevolent and frankly, I am not sure I could stand to test their patience, nor would I think it prudent. Yes, I believe in "ghosts", call them what you will, and the Communion of Saints does not always turn out to be a happy homecoming.
Eastern State Penitentiary is a "must see" when visiting the City of Brotherly Love. Sure, I have already done the usual - The Franklin Institute, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the statue of "Rocky" - but this has to be seen, along with the Mutter Museum for some pure weirdness.
Click on photos for larger images.
Al Capone's cell - for some reason, he was allowed to bring in furniture and even use the warden's telephone to conduct business, privileges granted to no one else.
This was home to the average prisoner. Time has caused decay but the roots in the back attest to the dank and damp walls of first story cells.
This was the Catholic chapel. I could not enter but in the background on the wall is a religious fresco painted by a Catholic prisoner. They are also restoring the synagogue that was here.
An abandoned corridor - the prison was designed to resemble the spokes of a wheel, all emanating from a central hall.
The TV set was part of an artist's installation in one section, showing a looped video showing clips of prisons from various movies. It was here that the anger I felt seemed strongest, as if the spirits of prisoners felt taunted by these images.