The Eastern State Penitentiary is probably one of my weird interests that just happens to be a two hour drive from where I grew up.
You've probably seen it on Ghost Hunters, MTV's Fear, or Most Haunted Live. It's also been referenced in the movies Twelve Monkeys
and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
The Eastern State Penitentiary is considered one of America's most historic former prisons, open from 1829-1971. It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is currently a U.S. National Historic Landmark
Designed by John Haviland, Eastern State opened on October 25 and is considered to be the world's first true penitentiary. Its revolutionary system of incarceration, dubbed the "Pennsylvania System" or Separate system,
originated and encouraged solitary confinement as a form of rehabilitation.
The original design of the cells were separated by a metal door and a wooden door to filter out noise. The halls were designed to have the feel of a church. The cells were made of concrete with a single glass skylight, representing the "Eye of God," hinting the prisoners that God was always watching them. Outside the cell, there was an individual area for exercise, enclosed by high walls so prisoners couldn't communicate. Each exercise time for each prisoner was synchronized so no two prisoners would be out at the same time. When prisoners left the cell, a guard would accompany them and wrap them in a hood.
It was widely believed (then and now) to have caused significant mental illness among its prisoners due to its solitary confinement. The system quickly collapsed due to overcrowding problems. By 1913, Eastern State officially abandoned the solitary system and operated as a congregate prison until it closed in 1970 (Eastern State was briefly used to house city inmates in 1971 after a riot at Holmesburg Prison).
The prison was one of the largest public-works projects of the early republic, and was a tourist destination in the 19th century. Notable inmates included Willie Sutton and Al Capone.
Above is Al Capone's cell. The warden and guards at ESP gave special consideration to Mr. Capone during his stay, permitting him to hang artwork, tables and lamps, a velvet duvet, comfortable chair, and an expensive radio (Capone enjoyed listening to waltzes after dinner).
The Penitentiary was intended not simply to punish, but to move the criminal toward spiritual reflection and change. 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.
The prison was closed and abandoned in 1971.
Today the Eastern State Penitentiary operates as a museum and historic site, open year-round. Guided tours are offered during the winter, and during the warmer months, self-guided tours are also available. In addition, it holds many special events throughout the year. In October, it offers the "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house.
The facility has been kept in "preserved ruin," meaning no significant attempts have been made at renovations or upkeep.
Learn more about Eastern State here.What are your thoughts on Eastern State Penitentiary? What are your thoughts on the treatment the people received? Would you want to visit it? Do you think it is haunted?