Eastern State Penitentiary is the #1 Most Haunted location in Philadelphia
Ghost Hunts USA have exclusive access to this most haunted prison, and you will be ghost hunting with the Ghost Hunts USA team, your time will be spent in the most active areas.
The very haunted Eastern State Penitentiary is one extremely harrowing location, it has been featured on many paranormal programs and from the evidence gathered and unexplained experiences of guests and investigators - it is no wonder why it has the dark reputation that it does.
Although the intentions of prison reformers in the early 1800's was to issue an environment that led to penitent rehabilitation, isolation can do strange things to a person. Even when prisoners were allowed the few hours of the day to exercise their legs they were forced to wear sacks over their heads (eye holes were not added until the early 1900's). Full-bodied apparitions have been seen wandering aimlessly and sightlessly still adorning the sack over their heads.
Other dark presences said to still be lurking the hallways are those of the more notorious inmates that served time in the prison. From Alphonse "Scarface" Capone to William "Blackie" Zupkoski, the former residents make up a melee of murders, mobsters and bank robbers. Would you want to run into one of these guys in the dark?!?
In the 1920's and 1930's, one of the hardest Wardens came through Eastern State Penitentiary. With his cruel reign prisoners were introduced to forms of torture like the ice cold water baths, being strapped immobile to chairs for days on end and forced starvation. The imprint of the treatment of inmates has left a negative energy that lures in guests and investigators - are you going to be next to suffer?
Objects moving, cell doors slamming, prisoners roaming, disembodied moaning - Eastern State Penitentiary will leave you shaken to the core. Are you prepared for what's waiting for you in the dark?
In the aftermath of the American Revolution all public institutions were radically revolutionized with the rational and humanistic principles of the Enlightenment. Second only to the ideals of American democracy was the institution of prison design and reform. Most eighteenth century prisons were simply large holding pens. Groups of adults and children, men and women, and petty thieves and murderers, sorted out their own affairs behind locked doors. Physical punishment and mutilation were common, and abuse of the prisoners by the guards and overseers was assumed.
In 1787, a group of well-known and powerful Philadelphians convened in the home of Benjamin Franklin. The members of The Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons expressed growing concern with the conditions in American and European prisons. Dr. Benjamin Rush spoke on the Society's goal, to see the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania set the international standard in prison design. He proposed a radical idea: to build a true penitentiary, a prison designed to create genuine regret and penitence in the criminal's heart. Thirty years of campaigning on their part led to the revolutionary new building on farmland outside of Philadelphia.
Eastern State Penitentiary broke sharply with the prisons of its day, abandoning corporal punishment and ill treatment. This massive new structure, opened in 1829, became the most expensive American building of its day and soon the most famous prison in the world. The Penitentiary would not simply punish, but move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change. The method was a Quaker-inspired system of isolation from other prisoners, with labor. The early system was strict. To prevent distraction, knowledge of the building, and even mild interaction with guards, inmates were hooded whenever they were outside their cells. But the proponents of the system believed strongly that the criminals, exposed, in silence, to thoughts of their behavior and the ugliness of their crimes, would become genuinely penitent. Thus the new word, penitentiary.
Eastern's seven earliest cellblocks may represent the first modern building in the United States. Seven cellblocks radiate from a central surveillance rotunda. Each prisoner had his or her own private cell, centrally heated, with running water, a flush toilet, and a skylight. Adjacent to the cell was a private outdoor exercise yard contained by a ten-foot wall. This was in an age when the White House, with its new occupant Andrew Jackson, had no running water and was heated with coal-burning stoves.
In the vaulted, skylit cell, the prisoner had only the light from heaven, the word of God (the Bible) and honest work (shoemaking, weaving, and the like) to lead to penitence. Critics of the system eventually prevailed and the Pennsylvania System was abandoned in 1913.
Mirrors provide continued surveillance into the new cellblocks from the Rotunda. But the cells did not include exercise yards. Inmates were issued hoods with--for the first time--eye holes. They would exercise together, in silence and anonymity. The system of solitary confinement at Eastern State did not so much collapse as erode away over the decades. By 1929, when the Penitentiary administration produced a silent movie to boast of their modern improvements, the cells were used for two or three men who were allowed to work together in the weaving shops, bakeries and workshops.
Still more cellblocks were constructed. Reinforced concrete replaced stone. The new cells were small, square, and lit by ordinary windows, but the halls had the catwalks and skylights typical of the early Eastern cellblocks. The cellblocks were invisible from the Rotunda. Subterranean and windowless cells, with neither light nor plumbing, brought a return to solitary confinement at Eastern. This time the isolation was not for redemption, but punishment. The cells were nicknamed “Klondike.”
The last major addition was made to Eastern State Penitentiary’s complex of buildings in 1956: Cellblock Fifteen, or Death Row. This modern prison block marked the final abandonment of any aspect of the Eastern’s original architectural vocabulary. The fully-electronic confinement system inside separated the inmates from the guards at virtually all times. Within the Penitentiary’s perimeter wall, built with the belief that all people are capable of redemption, prisoners awaited execution.
Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in Eastern’s cells. When gangster Al Capone found himself in front of a judge for the first time in 1929, he was sentenced to one year in prison. He spent most of that sentence in relative comfort at Eastern State, where he was allowed to furnish his cell with antiques, rugs, and oil paintings. Bank robber Willie Sutton joined eleven other men in a doomed 1945 tunnel escape.
By the 1960's, the aged prison was in need of costly repairs. The Commonwealth closed the facility in 1971, 142 years after it admitted Charles Williams, Prisoner Number One. The City of Philadelphia purchased the site in 1980, intending to reuse or develop it. In 1988, with the prison site threatened with inappropriate reuse proposals, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to halt redevelopment.
Self-guided tour starts from 10am until 5pm (you can attend anytime between this time for for the self guided audio tour).
Guests will need to vacate the prison by 5pm and return by 7:45pm.
Event ghost hunt starts at 7:45pm (prompt) and finishes at 12:30am.
Guests are strongly advised to bring extra warm clothing with them.
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