Eastern State Penitentiary

I figured it was about time to write about a paranormally active prison. And the Eastern State Penitentiary is the one to start on as it is one of my favorites!

Eastern State Penitentiary is one of the most haunted prisons to this day as it holds the residual energy of its cruel past. And there’s far more behind its bars than old beds and rusted pipes as this shell is still alive due to paranormal activity – read on to learn about it and its history.

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Eastern State Penitentiary was in operation from October 15, 1829 and ran until 1971. It is considered to be the world’s first ‘true’ penitentiary. A man named John Haviland was responsible for the design of the prison as its original construction was deemed as impractical. At first, the inmates’ cells were not accessible through a long hallway but rather by entering through a little exercise yard that was attached to the back of the prison. The only connection with the cell blocks were through a hole in the cells for meals to be passed through to the inmates. After that aspect was (like I previously stated) impractical and in the midst of remodeling, cells were remade to allow prisoners to move through metal doors that were covered by heavy wooden doors for noise cancellation and the halls were designed to feel like a church.

Let’s get to some facts about the prison:

  • Pep, the “Cat-murdering dog” (Yes…an actual dog) was sentenced to life here in 1924 for killing the governor’s wife’s beloved cat, though this reason is up for debate as another reason could of been that he donated the dog to the prison to increase inmate morale as a newspaper reported. The dog received an inmate number and had mugshots…Just goes to show how messed up a prison can get.
  • Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton were a couple of notorious criminals that were imprisoned here.
  • In 1945, an escape involving twelve inmates (including Willie Sutton) was carried out in which over the span of a year, dug an unnoticed ninety-seven foot tunnel under the prison. Fifteen years earlier, during renovations, thirty more incomplete tunnels from inmates were found.
  • After closing in 1971, the fellow inmates were transferred to Graterford Prison, about thirty miles from Eastern State. Proposals on what to do with the building included a mall and/or turning it into apartments.
  • During its time of being of abandoned, a ‘forest’ grew in the cell blocks and within the outside walls. It also became a home for many stray cats.
  • Cells 14 and 15 came into existence due to overcrowding and were designed and built by prisoners. Cell block 15 served as isolation for the worst and misbehaved prisoners as they wouldn’t have any contact with any of the guards. This form of punishment coincided with the ‘individual treatment system’ and was thought to be the most effective form of punishment at the time.
  • Prisoners would exercise in an individual area that was enclosed by high walls to prevent communication. Prisoners in this area were able to garden and even keep pets there. When leaving their cells, a guard would cover each prisoner’s head with a hood as to not get recognized.
  • Another known form of punishment for inmates was the action that they were given baths then hung out on a wall in winter until ice and frost would form on their skin. This is just one of the many harsh and grueling ways inmates were tortured within the walls of Eastern State.

Numerous paranormal investigation teams are said to visit the penitentiary a year – up to 60! These teams include Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Paranormal Challenge, and Most Haunted Live as well as MTV’s Fear and Fox’s World’s Scariest Places and TLC’s America’s Ghost Hunters.

It’s no surprise at the number of visitations, given the prison has had paranormal occurrences as far back as the 1940s with inmates and officers reporting eerie feelings and mysterious visions. A list of areas with paranormal activity are as follows:

  • Cell block 4: people have visions of ghostly faces
  • Cell block 6: shadow figures are spotted
  • Cell block 12: echoing voices and laughter
  • Tower: In one of the towers resides the silhouette of a man spotted by many
  • Other activity include whispers, footsteps, and wailing withing Eastern State.

Those employed at the prison do not believe or state that it is haunted, but given all of the reports and experiences and frequent visits from paranormal research teams, there are in fact believers among those that visit. Have you or anyone you know visited the Eastern State Penitentiary? If so, feel free to share any experiences in the comments below and thank you for reading! Follow Get in the Spirit to keep up to date with our latest posts every Monday and Thursday.


Photo in the Public Domain

Gallery Photo 1 and 2 by Thesab

Gallery Photo 3 by Bruce C. Cooper

Gallery Photo 4 by Mike Graham

Disclaimer: The information above is a combination of prior knowledge and research. No works were plagiarized, only referenced as a source of information. While anyone is welcome to comment, I attempt to make this a positive and friendly community where we can share our experiences. Any derogatory or negative comment(s) will be deleted. As always, reader discretion is advised.

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