Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary is a former state prison, located on Fairmount Avenue between 21st and 22nd Streets in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 5 blocks north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Opened in 1829, this prison was promoted as revolutionary in design, since it encouraged solitary confinement as its main form of punishment. Cells were made of concrete, with a single skylight representing the "Eye of God"; two doors (one of metal, the other of wood), and prisoners needed to stoop to enter or leave, thus preventing attacks upon a guard. One of the penitentiary's most famous inmates was the gangster, Al Capone.

The State Penitentiary for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lithograph by P.S: Duval and Co., 1855.

The prison was closed and abandoned in 1971. The City of Philadelphia purchased the property with the intention of redeveloping it. The site had several proposals, including a mall, and a luxury apartment complex surrounded by the old prison walls, as the surrounding area was then full of crime. In 1988, the Eastern State Penitentiary Task Force successfully petitioned Mayor Wilson Goode to halt redevelopment; Eastern State opened to the public for historic tours in 1994.

Due to Eastern State's ominous appearance, gloomy atmosphere and long history, it is a popular location for television shows and movies involving hauntings. Ghost Hunters and MTV's Fear both explored the supernatural at Eastern State, while Terry Gilliam's film, Twelve Monkeys, used it as a setting for a mental hospital. On June 1, 2007, Most Haunted Live! conducted and broadcast a paranormal investigation live (for the first time in the United States) from Eastern State Penitentiary for an unprecedented seven continuous hours hoping to come in contact with supernatural beings.

On August 2, 2008, my group, The Paranormal Researchers of Lancaster PA, gathered together at the prison and took the self-guided tour. Splitting up into smaller groups, equipped with cameras, recorders and thermoscanners, we attempted to gather evidence of the paranormal. Upon first entering cellblock 1, I experienced an extreme feeling of cold; the goosebumps on my arms were so severe, the skin actually looked like it was bubbling. There was also a deep feeling of sadness emanating from one of the cells, and I was not the only member to sense this.

Other personal experiences, of my own, was someone tugging on my shoulder bag, and being pushed down the stairway of cellblock 7 (death row). Exhibited in many of the cells are Ghost Cats; when the prison closed in 1971, a colony of cats lived inside. When restoration began, the cats were captured and neutered, thus causing the cats to eventually die off. Artist Linda Brenner sculpted 39 cat sculptures, which surround the property. While on the tour, many of the areas were hot and humid, but in one area I started commenting upon how I have cats, and dogs, and how much I love them; how they are like my own children. Suddenly, a soothing breeze surrounded me, cooling me off; it was gone as quickly as it came. Stepping out of that particular area, I noticed the heat and humidity was still predominant in that cellblock.

Photographic Evidence

The above photos are of one of the towers, facing the front of the prison and to the left, taken within seconds of each other. There are two orbs of clear quality, the details of the concrete blocks quite visible through the orbs.

Enlargement of the top orb from above photo.

After taking the tour, I highly recommend The Urban Saloon which is directly across the street from the prison. Our group sampled the appetizers, soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches and desserts; and everyone was very pleased with the quality, quantity, pricing and wait staff. The seating and atmosphere are perfect for a relaxing meal, and discussion of what was just experienced at the prison. A four star "Saloon" to fit every budget, so don't miss out.